As a growth-focused ecommerce merchant the traffic you get to your store is precious. You’ve spent a lot of time and resources growing your ecommerce business. When you’re putting together a plan to improve conversions it’s imperative you identify the problem and make data-driven decisions.

But… you don’t want to waste that hard-won traffic on a battery of multivariate tests that won’t contribute to lifts in conversion.

Before you start the process of optimization and testing you should turn to the data you have in Google Analytics. Use your analytics tools to identify the pages with the best opportunity for lifting conversions while also identifying specific page issues.

Keep in mind Google Analytics and other tools for heuristic evaluation, user testing, and customer feedback channels won’t lay the problem out in front of you.

It’s never that easy, right?

However, interpreting the data you have readily available in key reports can lead you to pinpoint trouble areas. Digging deeper will reveal the most likely problems, narrowing down the changes and improvements you can make as part of your ecommerce optimization strategy (find out our ecommerce optimization checklist.)

Here are the key reports you should start reviewing as part of your optimization efforts.

(For the purpose of this piece I’ll assume you have a working knowledge of goal tracking in Google Analytics and have ecommerce tracking configured)

Wait, before diving into the ecommerce reports…

You may already know this but I want to stress that you should never analyze the traffic to your store as a whole. Those are average numbers. You don’t want to calculate based on averages because your customers aren’t average.

They don’t think or act the same way consistently.

You know from your marketing initiatives that you need to segment your audiences to improve success. That segmentation is necessary here as well, because works in one audience segment may not work in another. When you compare new vs. returning visitors, different devices and browsers, and buyers vs. non-buyers you’ll see a notable difference in performance.

At the very least, segment your traffic into desktop vs. mobile users.

Desktop vs. mobile usersAdd a segmentation to your audience to better understand diferences between then.

Go to Audience > Overview and add a new segment, or edit the “all users” segment to begin choosing the segments you want to target, then click “apply”.

Whatever segments you choose to analyze, make sure you run every Google Analytics report for all of your segments.

Now we can start running those reports.

1. Demographics Reports

While general demographics aren’t the most reliable data primarily because your tracking code doesn’t really know who is visiting the site. It’s logging the user information it has available. In some cases you might have a college age son searching and visiting using the device his 55+ year old mother.

Still, part of any successful ecommerce optimization strategy is knowing who your audience is and how it (your content and message) appeals to them, how they interact with your site, and how those interactions contribute to your revenue.

You can access this report by navigating to Audience > Demographics > Age
Demographics ReportReview both age and gender when running demographic reports.
This Google Analytics report provides insight into how traffic and engagement metrics vary among age groups. The data will also be split per the segments you have established. Once you’ve reviewed the Age data click to Gender to see opportunities to improve engagement and how Gender engagement varies from engagement by Age.

2. Screen Resolution and Browser Reports

Conversion issues are very often related to usability issues. A site doesn’t necessarily have to be broken to have a usability issue. In fact, a seemingly innocent or random design bug can seriously impact your conversion rates according to a study from Baymard:

“During testing we observe how seemingly innocent layout bugs and quirky interactive features cause the test subjects to doubt the security of the site. In fact, some subjects even believed the site had been hacked or wasn’t currently working properly, causing them to abandon their purchase due to a lack of trust in the site.”

Given the variety of devices, browsers, and screen sizes you may encounter engagement and usability problems that threaten conversions on just one type of mobile device.

Given the variety of devices, #browsers, and screen sizes you may encounter engagement and usability problems that threaten #conversions on just one type of #mobile device. Click To Tweet

Check this data by going to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS
Browser ReportsIsolate browsers and resolutions that create friction and usability issues for customers (instead of using segments it’s a good idea to add a secondary dimension: Device Category)

Once there, look at the data for “Browser” and “Screen Resolutions” and Primary Dimension.

If you discover a less-than-ideal conversion rate you can run tests on your own to check for usability issues. Things to watch for include:

  • Non-responsive interface on some browsers and screens
  • Key conversion elements like CTAs pushed below the fold
  • Elements interrupting the flow of conversion like unresponsive modals
  • Form input issues on some browsers or resolutions

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3. Mobile Overview Reports

There’s a reason you split your mobile and desktop segments – mobile represents a significant share of online traffic. For many users it’s the preferred method of researching purchases and browsing the web.

As of 2017, mobile traffic represented more than 50% of all website traffic worldwide. It’s no surprise when consider there are over 4.9 billion unique mobile users. That’s 66% of the world’s total population on mobile.

As of 2017, #mobile traffic represented more than 50% of all #website traffic worldwide. It's no surprise when consider there are over 4.9 billion unique mobile users. That's 66% of the world's total population on mobile. Click To Tweet

This Google Analytics report shows acquisition by device lets to tap into data around shoppers accessing your site by the device.

You can find this report under Audience > Mobile > Overview
Mobile Overview ReportsMonitor mobile conversion for abnormally low conversion rates.
In the example above the mobile conversion rate is noticeably low, roughly a quarter of desktop conversions (24%). The average ecommerce conversion rate for mobile should be closer to about 50% of desktop conversions. That’s a flag for an opportunity to improve the mobile experience. Note that tablets account for only around 4% of traffic so, any optimization for tablets should be given a lower priority.

While we’ve already set up segments for this you can use this tab to pull data on:

  • Ecommerce bounce rate per device
  • How each device has contributed to revenue
  • Transactions associated with the device
  • Overall conversion rate per device

What you want to look for is the comparison between mobile, desktop and tablet conversion rates specific to add to cart conversion and ecommerce conversion.

As a rule of thumb mobile conversions are considerably lower than desktop and tablet. According to Smart Insights, first quarter global conversions for desktop were 3.63% while smartphone conversions averaged 1.25%.

Mobile and desktop conversionsTheres a consistent gap between mobile and desktop conversions around the globe, not just in the United States. Source.

That can be due to a variety of reasons and doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. In fact, many customers shop across multiple devices initiative a cart on their phone before switching to a desktop or tablet to complete the purchase.

The next step with mobile is to dig deeper. Are your mobile conversions rate lower than you expect? Open the device report to get a bit more granular.

4. Mobile Device Reports

Use this report to get a comprehensive view of the different mobile devices used by your customers and site visitors. Expect a significant variety of devices so sort the data accordingly.

You can find this report under Audience > Mobile > Devices
Mobile Device ReportsMonitor device engagement and performance to ensure no single device or device type is triggering usability issues that the customer experience and conversions.
I recall one client with a substantial portion of its regular visitors accessing the site via iPhones (more than 70%, actually). That kind of insight made it easier for the team to focus our optimization efforts and lift conversions on a large segment.

If you find some devices are underperforming, then perform usability tests with those specific devices to locate the problem.

5. Site Speed Page Timings Reports

Site speed is a critical factor in conversion, especially with mobile users. Nevermind that site speed is one of many ranking factors users by Google’s algorithm – site speed problems are as much a user experience problem as they are a conversion killer.

Few things will send a customer packing like forcing them to wait for content to load, carts to populate, and checkouts to update. Don’t expect them to return either – people largely rate their experience on site performance, and 79% of users who aren’t happy with your sites performance are less likely to purchase from you again.

As far as conversions go, a single second delay in load time can produce a 7% reduction in conversion (check out what tips you can steal from Apple’s online store to boost your conversions).

As far as conversions go, a single second #delay in load time can produce a 7% reduction in #conversion Click To Tweet

To access this report, go to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings then click on DOM Timings and select the appropriate data.
Page Timings ReportsMonitor site speed performance to identify areas where performance lags. Review and sort the data by the number of pageviews; address pages with the most traffic and act quickly to prevent your most popular pages from driving away frustrated customers.
You can view data on the following:

  • Avg. document interactive time which is the time it takes the system to pass control back to the site visitor so they can begin navigating again
  • Avg. document content loading time is the metric it takes for all the scripts running a page to load
  • Avg. page load time measures all activity on a page including all 3rd party apps, scripts, integrations, social buttons, etc. It’s not an ideal metric where conversion is concerned but it can tell you if everything you have plugged in is pushing your load times into the mud.

Avg. page load time measures all activity on a page including all 3rd party apps, scripts, integrations, social buttons, etc. It’s not an ideal metric where conversion is concerned but it can tell you if everything you have plugged in is pushing your load times into the mud.

Note: Be sure to compare mobile numbers to desktop performance.

6. Funnel Visualization Report

Customers take a variety of steps before finally completing a purchase and converting. The process or path they usually take is the funnel, and because there are multiple steps there are multiple opportunities for your funnel to spring a leak.

The Funnel Visualization report gives you a step-by-step view of this conversion path and the data between each step.

To access this report go to Conversions > Goals > Funnel Visualization
Funnel Visualization ReportAs your customers progress through the funnel you’ll find areas where they exit rather proceed.
This report doesn’t provide details on what caused them to exit, but you can see clearly at what point they disengaged from your store.
Funnel VisualizationFocus on areas with the most significant loss or the greatest leak
Use that information to determine what occurred right before the exit; check the language and copy that could be impacting their emotional behavior, look for bugs, check for technical issues that may create friction while shopping, etc.

Don’t just start at the very first step where you lose a customer. Move through the funnel and focus on the steps with the lowest % of customers proceeding forward (or the highest number of exits)

In order to create a funnel you’ll need to first set up at least one goal in Google Analytics. Kissmetrics has a very in-depth guide on setting up goals and funnels.

Keep in mind that funnels in Google Analytics don’t allow for advanced or cross-device segmentation. You can do a manual funnel assessment by creating a custom report and performing an analysis on “users” for each page along the path to conversion.

The custom user report provides a period snapshot of user visits to critical pages along your conversion path, showing differences in page visits to help identify where customers may be drifting out of your funnel.
Custom user analysisA custom user analysis report lets you see how various user segments perform along your established conversion path and where they may be drifting out of your funnel.

7. Goal Flow Report

The goal flow is similar to the Funnel Visualization report but there are some advantages to using this over Funnel Visualization.

One of the quirks of Funnel Visualization is that it backfills data, so there’s no accounting for customers who loopback a step. The Goal Flow presents a more accurate visitor path, and it does that in several ways:

  • It’s a bit more flexible with the format so it’s easier to understand flow into and out of pages
  • You get pageview numbers in the nodes as well as visit numbers
  • You can dig deeper into the data by clicking into nodes, highlighting segments, and even segmenting data.

To access this report navigate to Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow
Goal Flow ReportUse the goal flow report to track loopbacks and funnel steps that take place out of order.
Loops in the conversion path are incredibly important to identify. This is a customer going backward in the process (back button). A prime example of this is when a customer arrives at the summary step, just before confirmation, and decides to back up in order to correct shipping data, try to find and enter a coupon code, modify the order, etc.

If the Goal Flow shows recurring loops in high volume then find opportunities to improve the experience for customers.

For example: If the loop takes customers from summary to the shipping information then consider optimizing the checkout funnel so shipping information can be updated from the summary page without requiring a step backward.

8. Time Lag + Path Length Reports

Your conversions and ecommerce transactions will be tracked in Google Analytics and credited to the last campaign, organic search, or ad responsible for referring the visitor before their conversion.

The Time Lag + Path Length reports let you determine how many times a user interacted with a channel prior to converting but also the amount of time that passed between the very first touch point with your brand and the final purchase/conversion.

To find this Google Analytics report navigate to Conversions > Multi-channel Funnels > and select the desired report.
Time Lag + Path Length ReportsMulti-channel funnel are preferred over similar ecommerce conversion reports as these more accurately track the customer journey.
Note: when running the report change the conversion from “all” to “transactions” so you’re not measuring all conversions.

Google provides a great example of how you can utilize these reports in conjunction with the conversion path report:

“For example, many people may purchase on your site after searching for your brand on Google. However, they may have been introduced to your brand via a blog or while searching for specific products and services. The Multi-Channel Funnels reports show how previous referrals and searches contributed to your sales.”

With a better understanding of the length of time and steps involved in the conversion process (from the customer’s point of origin) you can begin testing methods to reduce time lag, improve conversions, and encourage customers to checkout faster.

For example, if your data indicated that it takes customers an average of four visits over the course of a week to pull the trigger on a purchase you might consider testing messaging and campaigns that create a sense of urgency on product pages.
Countdown timerUse urgency, like this countdown timer, to encourage customers to take action lest they miss out on your offer. Source.

Wrapping up

Google Analytics is nothing short of a wealth of information, but the generic top-level data isn?t sufficient for uncovering the funnel leaks and opportunities to improve conversions.

While the reports I’ve mentioned here aren’t the only reports you should monitor, they provide significant insight and should be high on your list. Of course, there are countless metrics and reports at your disposal, and you should track metrics aligned to your business goals. With that said, these reports can help you dissect the customer conversion path to identify problem areas and make data-driven decisions that will provide that much-needed uplift in conversions.

Analysing data is a crucial element of ecommerce optimization but you should also know the wider aspect of ecommerce development. Find out the future of ecommerce development and get our latest ebook on this topic!


Growcode Ecommerce Blog / Ecommerce Optimization / 8 Must-Have Google Analytics Reports for Ecommerce Optimization

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