What do the pages of a good suspense/thriller novel and the pages of your ecommerce website have in common?
They can both tell you a nail-biting story about a character’s journey as they move along a path filled with unexpected twists and turns, with the hope of achieving a goal at the end.
While a novel reveals a character’s journey one page at a time, an ecommerce website’s pages can reveal your customer’s experience holistically using Google Analytics (GA). Granted, analytics aren’t nearly as intuitive to read, but once you’re able to, you can affect the outcome of the story for the main character (your customer).
It’s up to you to use that information wisely and come up with tests and solutions to save your customers from distress, or worse, leaving your website forever. Dun-dun-duuuun!
Let’s go through the Google Analytics tools that will help unravel the mystery of your customers’ interactions with your website pages -- so you can make optimizations and avoid drama, delays and dead ends using location, device and behavioral data reports in Google Analytics.
1. Uncover the Darkest Corners of Your Website
Have you ever clicked on an ad for a pair of jeans and landed on the brand’s homepage instead of the specific product or category page instead? What about clicking on a product description link -- only to discover there are no details for that item?
These experiences can be major downers for your customers. Worse yet, they might abandon your site and find what they’re looking for somewhere else.
The Users Flow report in GA can help you identify the pages from which people most frequently drop-off on their path to conversion. This data gives you an opportunity to save future visitors from the same misfortunes -- so you can convert them and keep them coming back for more.
Identifying Problem Pages
To find this report in GA, login and select Reporting Tab, then Audience, then Users Flow. This report will help you visualize the volume of traffic (via pageviews) to your site coming from specific dimensions and segments that are important to you (e.g. an ad campaign, country, or mobile browser).
Image via OrbitMedia
You can also evaluate how many pages your customers viewed and which are the most common page paths to a specific goal like checking out. Likewise, you can look at the pages that get the most pageviews (and possibly eliminate or fix problems with pages that don’t get any traffic) and which pages are the most common points where people exit your site.
For example, people may be dropping off on the add to cart page because they don’t know how much shipping will cost. Or, they may be hesitant to checkout because they don’t know if your site is secure over a mobile connection.
Finding a Resolution
You’ll have to formulate some hypotheses, using feedback loops you’ve built to get your customer’s input, about what’s going wrong on a particular page and do some A/B testing to see if certain fixes drive more conversions. If there is no difference, it’s probably not the cause and you’ll need to do a few additional tests until you figure out and fix the issue.
By identifying and testing problem pages, some of our clients have had success with adding a shipping calculator or a little “lock” image to add to cart or checkout pages to make customers trust their sites more.
Now, let’s find out what else might be frustrating your customers and apply these tests to other harrowing situations.
2. Get Inside Your Customers’ Heads
Now that you know and understand the pages that are a major source of drama for your customers, you can drill down into more detail (e.g. what content they engage with the most) using the Behavior Flow report.
To find this report in GA, visit the Reporting Tab > Behavior > Behavior Flow. Here, you can track specific events like watching a product video, connections like a where they came from before your site and what pages someone visited before going to checkout, or exits (similar to the section above but you can drill down into more detail).
Editor’s Note: Find out how to set up events in Google Analytics here.
Image via MarketingLand
For example, you might want to look at the amount of time people spend reading product reviews or watching demo videos before going to checkout. As Google explains, you’ll need to set-up category names (e.g. “Videos”), actions (e.g. “Play” or “Pause”), values (e.g. “Video Load Times”) and more that you’ll want to track specifically.
Once you’ve collected that data, you’ll then be able to understand if customers are influenced by specific videos before making a purchase, how far into the video they frequently go, and how fast the videos load for people who make it to checkout.
For example, if load times are slow for some people, and they don’t check out, you might want to find out if there is a common denominator driving that deterrent. Maybe they are all using mobile browsers, and your site needs to be optimized? Or, maybe your need to optimize specific pages on your site to load faster?
Avoiding Product Category Calamities
Another important consideration is whether specific product categories (e.g. casual vs. workwear) get more traffic on your site and why? Maybe people are having trouble navigating to the workwear section. Or perhaps the bounce rate is super high in that section based on people coming in via search, and you’ll need to troubleshoot different problems with that page.
To set this report up, you need to create “content groupings” which will then show up in your Behavior Flow report -- enabling you to drill down to specific pages (e.g. Jeans or T-shirts) and understand what the flow of traffic looks like (similar to the first report we went through).
Here’s a video that explains how it works:
3. Identify Local Opportunities & Red Herrings
Now that you’ve set-up and investigated the Users and Behavior Flow reports as described above, you can use the Audience Report to cross-reference that information with demographic, geographic and behavior-based information (e.g. new vs. returning customers, or more engaged customers) to see what kinds of visitors are coming from where. See the screenshot below for all of the sub-sections you can evaluate.
Image via Social Media Examiner
The information you discover here can help you identify new opportunities where you can tailor special promotions or customer experiences based on data.
For example, let’s say your ecommerce company is based in the U.S., and you’re planning on setting up pop-up shops nationally. But by using the Audience report in GA, you suddenly notice most of your website visitors are from Canada -- and these users tend to spend more per purchase. You would likely change your strategy and set the shops up in Canada instead -- choosing cities from which you’re getting the most site visitors and sales.
To identify this information, you’d navigate to the Audience report, then select Audience report > Geo > Location > Country and then city if needed.
Image via WebAnalyticsWorld.Net
You may also see from your Audience report that although you have a lot of visitors from France, those visitors don’t convert as well as those from the UK -- more traffic doesn’t always equal more sales. That information might lead you to spend more of your Google AdWords budget on UK visitors instead.
To identify this information, you’d navigate to the same place as above but stay in the country view.
Now let’s look at a growing cause for concern for many customers and how to identify which ones you should flag as potential brand killers.
4. Save Mobile Customers from Screaming Bloody Murder
Shopify recently announced that our merchants’ sales on mobile devices just surpassed desktop purchases for the very first time this year. That’s why it’s critical that mobile user experiences are optimized for present and future success.
This concept is not only true for ensuring you increase mobile conversion, but studies have shown that customers who have had a poor mobile experience on your site are more likely to either ditch your brand completely or tell their friends about their bad encounter.
The Device Path and Cross-Device reports in GA provide an overview of overall visitors to your site based on the devices they’re using and their experiences.
If you’ve ever tried to buy something from an ecommerce site that wasn’t optimized for mobile (or for your specific device), then you already understand the sheer agony that potential customers may face if your site deters them from a smooth purchase process.
Through the Device Path report, you can drill down to see a specific device users’ page flow through your site to see which devices are used before converting. You may notice a drop-off in key pages by device.
If your mobile user pages aren’t converting as well as desktop users, you may want to optimize your pages for mobile usage. Shopify Plus offers customizable themes that come already optimized.
But the data you uncover may not always be an optimization issue. For example, your store might be selling Apple iOS specific products, so there will naturally be less Android client activity on your site.
Another issue to consider if whether your customers do more of their research on mobile devices but prefer to purchase on a desktop computer. The Cross-Device Path can help you see if that is the case. It will help you understand how mobile accessed page might still be influencing purchases and which areas of your site (e.g. product content pages) are the most critical for testing to ensure success.
Image via Google Analytics
To track this information, go to Audience report > Cross Device > Device Paths. As is explained in this Google Analytics supporting document, you can “discover the ways user move between devices as they engage with your content and progress towards conversion.” You’ll also need to segment customers by User ID to see which type of customer might user multiple devices on their way to conversion, whereas others only use one device.
Depending on which customer segment is more important to you, you may want to try optimizing specific pieces of content along that conversion path for mobile viewership as a result.
The story of your users’ experiences on your site is never-ending. So, you shouldn’t stop reading GA data and testing different solutions to increase sales and customer satisfaction. Keep in mind that you can always cross-reference reports to draw a better conclusion.
Also, the more parameters and reports you set-up in GA, the better off you’ll be to uncover their biggest beefs with your site and dial down the drama for current and future customers -- so you can all live happily ever after.