E-Commerce and Web Analytics - dummies

By Lillian Pierson

Web analytics can be described as the practice of generating, collecting, and making sense of Internet data in order to optimize web design and strategy. Configure web analytics applications to monitor and track absolutely all your growth tactics and strategies, because without this information, you’re operating in the dark — and nothing grows in the dark.

Web analytics provide fast and clear results that gauge e-commerce growth strategy effectiveness. You can use web analytics as a diagnostic tool, to get to know your audience, to understand their preferences, to start doing more of what works, and to stop doing the things that clearly don’t work. If you want to devise growth strategies that actually grow your business, you need to make sure you’ve configured web analytics to track and monitor all stages of the funnel, as well as every touch point between your brand and its prospective customers.

Appraising popular web analytics applications

Data scientists working in growth hacking should be familiar with (and know how to derive insights from) the following web analytics applications:

  • Google Analytics: A free, easy-to-use, powerful web analytics tool, Google Analytics is great for monitoring not only the volumes of traffic that come to your website over time but also the demographics and summary statistics on your visitors, your website referral sources, your visitor flow patterns, real-time visitor behavior analytics, and much more. Google Analytics can show you benchmarking analytics that provide insights about how your website’s performance compares to the performance of other websites in your industry.
  • Adobe Analytics: You can use Adobe Analytics for marketing attribution, mobile app performance, social media marketing performance, return-on-investment (ROI) investigation, and real-time visitor monitoring.
  • IBM Digital Analytics: The perfect platform for integrating performance data from all your business’s web channels — from data generated by website guests visiting using personal computers to mobile visitor statistics, and even social media channel performance — IBM Digital Analytics offers powerful analytics capabilities to keep you informed of real-time and historical visitor behaviors, as well as relevant cross-channel interactions. The platform also offers marketing attribution and tag management capabilities.
  • Webtrends: Offering advanced multichannel analytics, real-time visitor behavior monitoring, and the technology you need to reclaim lost sales from shopping cart abandonment via email remarketing tactics, Webtrends is a powerhouse web analytics application. It even goes the extra mile by offering a campaign optimization feature that you can use to track, monitor, and optimize your search engine marketing efforts, as well as your search and social advertisement campaigns.
  • Google Tag Manager: Website tags — code snippets that collect data for use in your third-party analytics applications — can help you measure and manage the effectiveness of your Internet marketing campaigns, but the process of deploying tags is error-prone and requires coding. Google Tag Manager is a free tag-management tool that offers a code-free interface and a rules-based system that allows you to easily manage and deploy your website marketing and tracking tags.
  • Assorted social analytics tools: In addition to the more heavyweight offerings described in this list, you can find many free, easy-to-use social analytics applications to monitor and measure the effectiveness of your social media growth initiatives. These include Sendible, which has ample options for tracking statistics from your Twitter, Facebook Page, Instagram, and Google Analytics metrics on one custom dashboard; Facebook Page Insights (http://www.facebook.com/Your_Facebook_Page_ID/insights); Pinterest Analytics; Iconosquare Statistics for Instagram; and Google URL Shortener for link tracking.

While a cookie is not a web analytic application, per se, it is a text file that tracks the activities, interests, and browsing patterns of a website’s visitors. Almost all large-scale e-commerce businesses use cookies to collect visitor information that helps the business improve the overall user experience and optimize advertising efforts.

Accessing analytics for acquisitions

Analytics for acquisitions provide a measure and gauge of the effectiveness of your user acquisition tactics. If you want to optimize your brand’s channels, to glean a deeper understanding of your audiences, or to evaluate the performance of your growth tactics, look to user acquisition analytics. Here are some means by which you can use web analytics to begin boosting your user acquisitions:

  • Audience discovery: By taking a close look at your web analytics and the sources from which your new users are being acquired, you can infer an idea about the interests of users in each of your channels.
  • Channel optimization: After discovering insights about your channel audiences, you can use those insights to optimize your channels — designing your channels and the offerings you extend along them so that they better align with the preferences of each channel audience.
  • Optimized social-growth strategies: Social media networks are brand channels. Each network functions for its own purpose, and the preferences of audience members in different networks tend to differ, even if the niche is the same. For example, content about news events tends to perform well on Twitter, whereas Facebook audiences seek to be entertained and inspired. News content doesn’t fare so well on the Facebook network and vice versa. What’s more, your specific audiences have their own, particular interests and nuances per social network. Use social analytics to deduce the interests of your audiences per social channel, and then you can use that information to optimize your efforts there. You can also use social network analytics to identify the main influencers in your niche so that you can begin forging friendships and strategic alliances.

Applying analytics for activation

User activation analytics provide a measure and gauge of your user activations over time. You can use activation analytics to gauge how your user-activation tactics are performing, allowing you to optimize your user sign-ups, even on a per-channel basis. The following are a few ways in which you can use web analytics to optimize your user activation growth rates:

  • Sign-up rate monitoring: Analytics that reflect the number of new user sign-ups, in the form of either email subscriptions or RSS subscriptions. This metric gives you an idea of how well your website’s content is meeting the wants and needs of newly acquired users. These analytics are also a good gauge of the overall effectiveness of your calls to action — your prompts that tell users to sign up in exchange for some promised benefit to them.
  • Average session duration: You can easily derive information on average session duration by taking a quick and basic look at your Google Analytics. Average session duration is a good gauge of how compelling your visitors find your website. And the more compelling your site, the more likely it is that your acquired users will convert to active users — and active users to refer their friends and convert to paying customers.

    If you’re working on growth for a client or employer, you can access their Google Analytics account by having them add your Google account as an authorized user of their Google Analytics account. If you’re working on growth for your own brand or website, you must sign up for a free Google Analytics account and then install the Google Analytics Tracking code into your site.

    Whether you’re working on behalf of a client or yourself, you must have your own Google account. You can get one of those by registering through Google.

  • Website heat maps for website optimization: A website heat map is a visual graphic that uses colors to depict the areas of a web page where visitors are clicking with greatest and least intensity. Applications such as SessionCam and ClickTale offer mouse-click heat map data visualizations that show you how your customers and user segments are using your website — in other words, what website features and areas are most attractive to users. This information tells you about the effectiveness of your activation tactics and your overall web design. If you see that user attention flow isn’t focused toward your call-to-action areas, you should perhaps redesign your page in a way that helps to redirect user focus.

Your main goal should always be to push users toward the next stage of the sales funnel.

Reviewing analytics for retentions

Retention analytics provide a measure of your user retention tactics. Retention analytics can help you boost customer loyalty or increase the amount of time your users spend interacting with your brand. Boosting user retentions is, in large part, a function of marketing strategy and psychology, but web analytics are also an integral part of maintaining and growing your brand’s retention rates. Here’s how you can use web analytics to optimize your user retentions growth:

  • Email marketing open rates: Tracking and monitoring time series — collections of data on attribute values over time — that capture email open rates can give you an idea of how well your email marketing tactics are performing, in general. For example, if you see a steady decline in open rates, either your subscribers aren’t that interested in the topics described in email headlines or you’re sending emails too frequently and spamming your users’ inboxes — in other words, wearing out your welcome. High email-open rates reflect a high level of subscriber loyalty, which is always a good thing.
  • RSS view rates: Tracking and monitoring time series that capture RSS view rates can give you an idea of how well your blog post titles are performing with your RSS subscribers — in other words, how well the blog content topic is matched to your subscribers’ interests. This metric can also tell you whether your headline copy is intriguing enough to draw RSS subscribers in for a read. High RSS view rates reflect higher levels of loyalty among your RSS subscribers.
  • Customer satisfaction monitoring: Sentiment analysis is an analysis technique where you apply text mining and data categorization techniques to web data in order to identify the feelings and attitudes of people (and customers) in your networks. Some social analytics applications offer a built-in sentiment analysis feature. You can use one of these applications or code something up yourself. Whatever you choose, be sure to stay on top of what people are saying about your brand across your social media channels, because it’s vital for the protection and proactive management of your brand’s reputation. As they say, “The customer is always right.”