The Web Analytics Guide for Ecommerce Websites

You are probably keeping track of the number of visitors and orders that you are getting to and from your ecommerce website.

But do you really know how well your website is performing?

For example, do you know:

  • What percentage of your total visitors are converting into sales?
  • What percentage of them abandon your checkout process?
  • From what pages they most often leave from?
  • Do you know your best and worst performing landing pages?
  • Have you found your best and worst performing traffic sources arriving on them?
  • And what are they clicking on most often when they get there?

These are all vital questions that help you understand the current performance of your ecommerce website and discover the highest impact ways to improve it. Do you know the answers to these questions? If you don’t, you aren’t alone, many ecommerce website owners and marketers don’t either.

So how do you find answers to key questions like these? You will need to use a good web analytics tool like Google Analytics. I recommend this tool in particular as it gives you all the major reports that you need, is very easy to use, and best of all, it’s free.

In this guide, you will learn how to harness Google Analytics to use with your ecommerce website. In particular, you’ll learn the best metrics and reports you need to monitor and gain insights from. I will also show you how to gain additional insights using another analytics tool called Hotjar. So, let’s get started!

Step 1: Setup Google Analytics on your website

The first thing you need to do is set up Google Analytics so you can begin tracking and understanding your ecommerce website performance and gaining insights. Here are the key things to set up:

Don’t rush through setting all of this up, spend some time doing it right. It’s better to get the setup right first time because you can’t go back and correct web analytics data that has come into Google Analytics wrong.

Step 2: Monitor key metrics and set targets to beat

There are many metrics in Google Analytics – users, sessions, pageviews, new visitors, exit rate, average time spent, bounce rate, and many more. But which are the most important to pay attention to?

Some metrics are just important to track and keep your eye on, while others are essential for understanding and improving your ecommerce website and sales. To make it easier for you, here are the best metrics to check often:

  • Ecommerce conversion rate. This metric is the single most important indicator of your website performance, and is the percentage of your website visitors that make a purchase. The higher this percentage is the better, and the average ecommerce conversion rate is 2-3%. You can find this metric under ‘Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview’ and should be checked regularly.
  • Shopping cart abandonment rate. This is the percentage of visitors who add a product to your shopping cart but then don’t continue to purchase. This percentage is usually quite high for a website that isn’t optimized, with the average shopping cart abandonment rate being 68%.To find this metric go to the ‘Funnel visualization report’, located under the ‘Conversions’ section.

    Look for the ‘funnel conversion rate’ metric at the top of this report (see below) and then subtract that from 1 to get your shopping cart abandonment rate. Hopefully Google Analytics will make this a standard metric soon!

Conversion Rate
  • Average order value.This is the average monetary value of your visitor orders. The higher this is the better and can be increased by better upselling and cross selling your products. You can find this metric on the ecommerce overview report (‘Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview’).
  • Homepage bounce rate. This is the percentage of website visitors who arrive on your homepage and leave without clicking on anything. Obviously not something that you want to happen very often. The lower this percentage is the better, and the average bounce rate is 40-50%. It can be decreased using best practices like decluttering your homepage and making your unique value proposition more prominent. This metric is found on the ‘All Pages’ or ‘Landing Pages’ reports next to your homepage.
  • Repeat visit rate.This percentage is the number of visitors returning to your website in comparison to new visitors. The higher this is the better as it indicates visitors like your website and return frequently. Anything over 30% is good. You can find this metric under the ‘Audience > Overview’ report.
  • Monthly visitors.This simple but useful metric is the number of visitors arriving on your website per month. You can find this metric under the ‘Audience > Overview’ report.
  • Monthly orders.This important metric is the amount of orders placed on your website per month. This metric is on the ecommerce overview report (‘Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview’).
  • Monthly revenue. This important metric is the total value of all of the orders on your website per month. You can find this metric is on the ecommerce overview report (‘Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview’).

For all of these metrics you need to check the last 30 days’ performance (change the date range in the top right corner) and also set a good target to beat. The most important thing is to set realistic targets – don’t use industry or competitor metrics as benchmarks because every website is different and this can set unrealistic expectations.

Step 3: Gain insights from essential Google Analytics reports

Looking in Google Analytics can be a little daunting at times as there are so many different reports to look at.

Some reports are basic but good to monitor like the ‘All Pages’ report, but which reports actually gain you the most insights to help improve your website and the number of sales from it? To make it easier for you to know the best ones I will know discuss the most important ecommerce reports to learn from.

Landing pages report

This report lists the top pages that your visitors arrive directly on. These pages are very important as they form a considerable amount of your traffic and act as first impressions for your whole website (many visitors judge your whole website within 10 seconds of landing). If these aren’t performing well then fewer of your visitors will be engaged when they arrive and won’t convert into sales very often.

On this report, look through the top 20 landing pages for two key things that indicate poor page performance. First check for any pages that have a high bounce rate of over 60% (visitors who leave without clicking on anything). Then check if any landing pages have an ecommerce conversion rate much lower than your website average. The ones you find are your poorly performing pages and you should improve these quickly using CRO best practices to increase your sales.

landing page report

Don’t forget to also see which of your top landing pages are performing well for both of these metrics, as you can learn from these and apply some of the best practices on them to improve your poorly performing pages.

This highly revealing report is found under the ‘Behaviour’ reports section.

Traffic source/medium report

The quality of your website traffic often has a huge impact on your ability to convert higher amounts of visitors into sales. This report will help you understand which sources need to be improved and which sources are performing very well so need to be focused more on. For example, maybe your SEO isn’t converting visitors into sales as much as you might hope for.

On this report look for any traffic/medium sources that have a high bounce rate (over 60%) or an ecommerce conversion rate lower than your site average. These poorly performing sources need optimizing as quick as possible. In particular, look at the performance of your Google cpc, Google organic, and emails.

Also, don’t forget to check if any of your key traffic sources aren’t in the top 10 but should be. For example, your emails should be one of the top 10 sources as this type of traffic often converts much higher.

This report can be found under ‘Acquisition’ reports section.

Funnel visualization report or checkout behaviour analysis report

It’s essential to find out how well your shopping cart and checkout pages are performing – if visitors find them hard to use, confusing or not very engaging, then you will be losing many potential sales. These two reports will help you discover how well your checkout is doing, and the most common one is the funnel visualization report as you can see below.

Funnel

Use either of these reports to find which pages or sections of your checkout have the highest percentage of drop off rates, as these will be in need of improving the most as quickly as possible. These pages should be optimized using best practices like reducing distractions and increasing security and trust messaging.

You will also find your shopping cart abandonment rate (as discussed earlier) on these reports, which is the number of visitors who abandon their purchase while they are in the cart or checkout. Remember the average is 68%, so if you are much higher than that it indicates that your checkout can be improved.

Both of these reports are found under ‘conversions’ reports section.

Mobile overview report

People are increasingly using their mobile phones and tablets to browse and purchase from ecommerce websites, and these visitors have a different experience than regular desktop website users (e.g. smaller screens, lack of mouse, slower download speeds). To understand how well your website performs on both of these devices it is vital that you check out this report. It will tell you what percentages of visitors are using mobile and tablets, but more importantly it will also tell you how the ecommerce conversion rate compares to the desktop website.

mobile conversion rate

On this report look for any devices that have much lower than your website conversion rate average, as this indicates that you need to optimize your website for that type of visitor. To convert more of these visitors, you need to offer mobile and tablet optimized versions of your website, ideally through an adaptive website that changes depending on the exact size of the visitors’ screen.

This very useful report is found under ‘audience’ reports section.

Browser overview report

Sometimes small differences between browsers can make elements on web pages not look good or even break things. This of course annoys visitors and often lowers conversion rates and sales. To help check for potential issues for different browsers it’s vital that you check the browser overview report frequently.

browser conversion rate

When looking at this report you should check if any of your browsers have a conversion rate lower than your website average. If this is the case this indicates you need to do a detailed browser check for issues that may be causing this lower conversion rate, particularly errors in your checkout pages.

This report is found under ‘audience’ reports section.

Site speed page timings report

One of the causes of visitors prematurely leaving ecommerce websites are slow loading pages. This is because your visitors are pickier than ever before and are used to pages loading very quickly.

To help you check how fast your pages are loading you need to regularly use the site speed page timings report. This will help you understand which of your pages are loading slower than average and need optimizing to load quicker – pay particular attention to your homepage, category pages and your top product pages.

Site Speed Report

This page speed report is found under the ‘behaviour’ reports section.

In-page analytics report

All the reports that I have highlighted so far are essential for understanding what your visitors are doing on your website. But to help you form even better insights you also need to visually see what visitors are doing and what they are clicking on. To help you begin to do this Google Analytics offers a simple click map report that visually shows the top clicks on any of your pages, including percentage click rates.

This click map is very useful because it helps you understand visitor intent, and which links and call-to-action buttons are least and most popular with them. Discovering this visual insight will help you to optimize the locations and wording of your most important links so that more people click on them. It is particularly useful to check on your navigation menu items and category page filter options, and for your major call-to-action buttons.

In Page Analytics

This visual report can be found under the ‘behaviour’ reports section and can also be accessed also by using the Google Analytics Chrome extension (which usually works more reliably).

Step 4: Create a Google Analytics dashboard

Rather than having to look separately at each of the key metrics and reports mentioned previously, you can monitor these more conveniently by setting up a dashboard in Google Analytics. This allows you to see a quick overview of your website traffic, sales and conversions on one page.

This is a great dashboard creation guide that will step you through everything you need to know. In particular, I suggest you add graphs of key metrics as this helps you see trend lines, and you can add several elements to each graph. Here is an example of an ecommerce dashboard that uses many key metrics and a good layout.

You should also get your dashboard emailed to you and other key stakeholders once per week. This is easy to set up using the ‘email’ button at the top left of the dashboard. This will help you to remember to monitor key metrics and to dig deeper for greater insights.

Step 5: Gain further web analytics insights from Hotjar

Google Analytics is the most essential web analytics service on the market today. However, it does still have some limitations, most notably good visual analytics features.

To help you do even greater analysis and generate even better ideas to improve your website, I recommend you also use another analytics tool called Hotjar. It has 7 different tools to help analyze and improve your website, but in particular it has 3 web analytics features that are especially useful to analyze and complement your Google Analytics metrics and reports.

Analyze heatmaps and scrollmaps for key pages

The visual click analysis feature of this tool is much better than Google Analytic’s In-page Analytics feature. They use an actual heatmap with hot and cold colours to help you better visualize areas that are most and least clicked. It also has a good scroll map feature so you can see exactly how far your visitors scroll down your pages – this is vital for helping to see how often visitors miss key content that may be lower down on your key pages. The heatmaps also include a move feature so you see exactly where you visitors move their mouse, not just click.

So, the first thing you need to do is turn on heatmaps for your key pages including your homepage. This will also enable the scroll map feature and the mouse move map feature.

Record and watch visitor recordings for best insights

Click maps and heatmaps are very useful to understand visitor intent, but to gain even greater insights you need to take this a step further and actually watch your visitors using your website.

Hotjar offers this powerful visitor recording feature. Watching recordings reveals your visitors most common paths through your website and the issues that they most often encounter – forming excellent ideas for fixing and improving key pages like your homepage and checkout pages.

So, go ahead and turn on the visitor recording feature. This will then begin recording all of your visitors’ journeys so you can watch and gain insights from them. To generate the most insights, I suggest you pay attention to visitor recordings that involve your key pages, and also watch recordings from visitors on different devices.

Analyze form abandonment on your checkout pages

Hotjar also offer an essential report that Google Analytics doesn’t – form analysis. This is vital for checking which fields in your checkout form are causing most problems for visitors. This helps inspire ideas to improve your form completion rates even further, resulting in a higher checkout rate and more sales. Removing problematic fields that are not that important or confusing is a good way of doing this.

This form abandonment feature is particularly useful if you have a single page checkout and there are not specific pages to measure drop off using the Google Analytics funnel visualization report.

Go ahead and turn on form analytics for all the pages within your checkout flow and also for any other important forms on your website. Then check for fields that have the highest drop off rate and optimize them.

You can also use Hotjar to help improve your ecommerce by using its other great features like polls and surveys.

Take Away

  • Without a web analytics tool, you won’t know how well your website is performing.
  • Your ecommerce conversion rate and shopping cart abandonment are key metrics to improve.
  • Gaining insights from your analytics is essential for creating ideas to optimise your website.
  • Your top landing pages and funnel visualization report are important reports to check.
  • Check key metrics and reports regularly, and set up a dashboard to be emailed weekly.
  • Using Google Analytics and Hotjar are two great analytics that complement each other well.
  • Get highly revealing insights by recording and watching visitors use your website.
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Rich Page

Author: Rich Page

Rich Page is a web analytics and CRO expert with over 10 years’ experience optimizing websites. He is the author of ‘Website Optimization: an Hour a Day’ and offers a free website conversion toolbox.

  • Awesome stuff Rich, it still amazes me when store owners don’t run analytics… or look at it.

    Next on my the list is a hotjar and cro tool run down. The cherry on the cake. 🙂

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