What are visitors looking for? Your checkout page tells you only where you've succeeded – not where you've missed an opportunity. Consider Best Buy's experience stocking a portable refrigerator to chill beer in the US. At first, they stocked it only during the Super Bowl. But search keywords reports revealed that shoppers still looked for the product code well into the baseball season – yet they couldn't find anything on the site.
Other key data that goes beyond conversions is the 'cart abandonment' rate: the percentage of customers who put items in the cart but leave your site before checking out. This crucial metric of your site's ability to close sales may indicate that something's amiss with your checkout process.
Where are your visitors landing, bouncing, and viewing? It's often assumed user experience begins on the homepage, and this misconception drives many an ecommerce site to waste hours of design work in the wrong place. Search engines dig deeper into ecommerce sites, bringing visitors to not just 'electronics', but also televisions, MP3 players or sat navs. Analytics data will tell you where your real 'homepages' reside, so you can focus your design work there. Curious? Just take a look at the 'Top Landing Pages' or 'Top Entry Pages' report in your Web Analytics tool.
Conversely, analytics will tell you which landing pages have the highest bounce rate – ie on which did people land, look around and quickly leave? This data tells you which of your pages are letting your customers down, and can also help with your redesign, since you can infer intent through the list of keywords and referring sites.
Web analytics can also show you the top viewed pages: information that's often overlooked. While you may consider yourself in the business of selling products, most of your hits could represent people reading customer reviews. Or perhaps you're selling 10 lines of products, but two of them show especially high traffic. Knowing what interests your customers will help you design a site that better meets expectations.
Analytics can help you understand what drives performance up or down. Earning $15,000 in the last 24 hours is good; knowing what drove that surge is even better. Ecommerce tracking shows the number of orders placed, the value of those orders, and more, by hour, day, week and month. By segmenting your data over different time lines, you can see both seasonal trends and more subtle buying habits that could otherwise go unnoticed.
Putting this information into practice takes not just creativity, but also a willingness to experiment. This spirit of adventure comes through on some of the most successful retail sites. Crutchfield (crutchfield.com) has taken the unorthodox approach of putting its checkout cart on the left side of the screen. Is that a good idea? Analytics reports have confirmed that it is – at least for them. Wal-Mart commonly puts products on its website that are unavailable in its stores. When those zebra- patterned bed sheets prove they have a following, the company understands the demographics enough to place them in targeted store locations.
Earlier this year we redesigned the Google Analytics site. The goal was to make it easier to discover information relationships via navigation and visualisations. We created a customisable dashboard and introduced sparklines. We developed new graphing tools and a new type of date slider, which make it easy to see spikes and dips in traffic as you set date ranges. And one of the most popular new features is one of the simplest: the ability to email reports and schedule these emails so that information can be easily shared with key stakeholders in your organisation.