“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” – Peter Drucker
If you’re a retailer familiar with Google Analytics, you know the difference that data can make. It’s one thing to know how your business is performing; it’s another to have the numbers that tell the story of why.
Google Analytics (GA) is a potent tool that can generate a plethora of data regarding how your website is attracting, retaining, and (hopefully) converting visitors. But even the most seasoned GA professional may not be taking full advantage of its power. GA boasts a range of advanced features and reports that offer actionable insights to help retailers improve their website experience for customers.
Whether you’re a beginner or veteran user, there’s always something new to learn about GA. We’re going to take a look at some of the most important features and reports retailers should incorporate into their repertoires. These comprise four main categories:
- Goals and Funnels
- Cross-Device Tracking
- Channel Attribution
- Data Studio
Goals and Funnels
It’s important to have goals in life. You probably heard that from your parents, your high school guidance counselor, and now you’re hearing it from us, too. But in order to use Google Analytics effectively, you need to establish exactly what you’re aiming to get visitors to do on your website.
In the context of GA, a goal represents a completed activity (known as a conversion) that reflects a specific success event. Examples of goals include making a purchase, submitting contact information, creating an account, playing a video, or downloading a file.
Goals can take the form of macro goals and micro goals.
Macro goals are directly related to a company’s profitability. They’re the ultimate goals of your website, whether that’s making a purchase, filling out a lead form, or scheduling an appointment. For ecommerce businesses that sell products on their websites, for example, a product purchase would be a macro goal.
Micro goals are any miscellaneous conversions or actions taken by a prospect which might ultimately lead to a macro conversion. They help you better understand a visitor’s engagement with your website content.
Goals can be classified into one of several categories depending on their ultimate purpose. These include destination, duration, pages/screens per session, and event goals. See the chart below for more info and examples.
When Smart Goals are enabled, Google Analytics uses machine learning to examine a variety of signals to determine which website sessions are most likely to produce conversions. The best-performing sessions are converted into “Smart Goals,” which can be imported into Google Ads to optimize ad performance.
Once you’ve figured out which goals are most relevant to your business, it’s time to think about how your website visitors are reaching those goals. This is where funnels come into play.
Funnels are specific to destination goals and help us understand customer interactions and exits throughout the site. While funnels don’t reflect the actual conversion path, they do show the critical path visitors take to reach a specific goal.
Funnels make it easy to see where users are entering and exiting the conversion process. This allows you to identify troublesome pages that are hindering visitors’ progress on the way to a conversion. Other key insights you can gain from funnel analysis include:
- Checkout process in need of redesign
- Identify out-of-stock products
- Products unavailable for certain geographies
- Poor navigation
- Limited payment options
Today’s consumer isn’t limited to only one device. Think about your own daily routine: You’re likely on a desktop at work, browsing with your smartphone on the bus, and perhaps using a tablet somewhere in between. If you fail to recognize every device on which a user visits your site, you’re neglecting the big picture.
In Google Analytics, cross-device tracking is a process of stitching together a customer’s interactions with a website across multiple devices. This enables you to take a holistic view of the customer journey. If a user first visits on a mobile device and later returns on a desktop to make a purchase, you can see the entire journey thanks to cross-device tracking. This is achieved through implementing User-ID tracking and enabling Google Signals.
Cross-device tracking unlocks a series of reports to give you a better idea of your customers’ device habits. These include the Device Overlap report (see below), which shows how many of your visitors use each device or combination of devices.
Other useful reports include:
- Device Paths report: Displays the sequence of devices used to engage with your site.
- Channels report: Allows you to see which channels (organic search, paid search, direct, email, etc.) and devices are driving the best performance.
- Acquisition Device report: Determine how many users that arrive on one type of device convert on the same type of device, how many convert on a different type of device, and how many simply don’t convert.
Applications of Cross-Device Tracking
Here are just a few of the ways cross-device tracking will make your life easier:
- Give your remarketing strategy a tune-up based on user/device clusters.
- Recognize the relevance of cross-device advertising.
- Optimize customer journeys based on popular devices.
Limitations of Cross-Device Tracking
While that all sounds great, cross-device tracking does come with a few drawbacks of which users should be aware:
- Data collected is not retroactive.
- You can’t apply segments like in other Google Analytics reports.
- Users must be logged into their Google accounts with ad personalization turned on to be captured by cross-device tracking.
When it comes to conversions, Google Analytics helps you give credit where it’s due. Attribution modeling is the process by which credit for a sale or transaction is assigned to one or more marketing touch points.
GA offers seven default attribution models. These include single-touch models like First Interaction and Last Interaction, as well as multi-touch models including Linear, Time Decay, Position-Based, and Data-Driven. You can also create up to 10 of your own custom attribution models per reporting view.
You can use the Model Comparison Tool to see how different attribution models change the valuation of your channels (see below). Experiment with models to determine which one is most appropriate for your business goals.
The potential insights are many, but keep these points in mind when using attribution modeling:
- Make sure all marketing campaigns are tagged and have campaign parameter tracking.
- A combination of conversions and cost per order is a better gauge of performance than only sales.
- You can use attribution models for goals other than ecommerce metrics.
Numbers are powerful in their own right, but sometimes a dazzling visual is required to really drive the message home. If you’ve ever struggled to communicate the insights in your data to your organization’s decision makers, Data Studio is the answer.
Data Studio is a feature in Google Analytics that combines data from different sources to build highly visual, easy-to-use dynamic reports. You can easily pull information from GA, spreadsheets, Google Ads, and more to tell the most compelling story.
The Data Studio interactive dashboard allows you to organize and present your data in the most effective format. These reports are easy to build, read, share, and customize, and ensure your statistical analysis makes the necessary impact.
Upgrade Your GA Skills
We’ve put a lot of information on your plate, but becoming more proficient in Google Analytics is truly worth your while if you’re an online retailer.
To make it a little easier, we’re offering a 10-point Google Analytics audit. This overview of your GA account includes goal setup, funnel configuration, enhanced ecommerce reporting, and more. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!