It seems these days that everyone is running their own ecommerce shop. You can set up your store, find products to sell and start running ads all within an afternoon. Easy right? Maybe.
However, while starting a store might be easier than ever, growing an ecommerce shop beyond 7 figures in revenue isn’t.
That is a frustrating, tiring and never ending fight. To do this, you need to figure out what works AND what you’re able to scale through many, many experiments.
Luckily, there’s a “secret weapon” that you can bring to this fight to give you an edge. The name of this secret weapon? Google Analytics.
You’re likely familiar with how Google Analytics can help you understand your marketing traffic but it can do much more than that.
You can actually track all of your ecommerce metrics like total orders, average order value and e-commerce conversion rate all within Google Analytics. You could even track what users are doing before they purchase something like how many of them view a product but don’t add it to their carts.
This gives you a 360 view of your e-commerce business alongside your marketing data. From here, you can start digging to find the best customer segments that will let you grow to 7 figures and beyond.
In this post, I want to give you a comprehensive overview of “ecommerce tracking” in Google Analytics, show you how you could use all of this data to grow your revenue and help your company get started even if you have no analytics experience.
Why You Should Use Google Analytics to Track Your Ecommerce Data
This is the question that always comes up when I tell companies to send their ecommerce data to Google Analytics.
Most of these companies are already getting high-level metrics from their ecommerce software (Shopify, Woocommerce, etc) such as total orders and average order value so why should they go through all the trouble to get Google Analytics setup?
The answer: segmentation.
As the saying goes:
“Averages Lie But Segments Don’t” – Avinash Kaushik
A metric like average order value is useful but if you want to improve it, you need the ability to dig deeper (i.e. segment) to what is behind that metric. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Let’s imagine that your average order value is $50. This is the average from all the orders within a specific time period.
How would you go about increasing this metric to $60?
Perhaps you’re thinking in tactics already. Upselling customers in more locations, offering discounted add-on items, etc but these tactics could be even more powerful if you offered them to the right customer segments.
To find the right customer segments, you need data.
While the average order value is $50, some orders will be worth $20 while other orders will be worth $100. This second group is the one that becomes interesting to us.
What do people buy in an order of $100? $150? $200?
You can then use this information to craft a tactic that will help you increase the average order value. Instead of your tactics being random, you’ll be able to focus on the customers who are already purchasing more than the average.
This is what good analytics can tell you. It can show you the different segments that you should focus on.
I had a client once that contacted me to help them clean up their Google Analytics data. Their data had serious issues which explain why they weren’t doing anything with it. They were spending serious money on advertising ($500,000+ per month) and yet, they had no visibility into the different customer segments that were buying their products.
They would simply look at high-level numbers like “this is how much we spent” and “this is how much we made” and as long as things look positive, everything was good. A part of me was impressed with this simple but dangerous approach. However, any wrong move or change could cost them a lot of money (as it did on several occasions).
We ended up sending all of their ecommerce data to Google Analytics which instantly
let them see exactly what marketing channels were driving sales.
They were also able to see the performance of their landing pages and figure out how to improve them to get more users to checkout.
They used all of these insights to double their monthly revenue from $1 million to $2 million within 30 days, a 104.27% improvement.
Common Questions that Google Analytics Can Help You Answer
Once you got your data inside Google Analytics, we can now combine it with your marketing data to ask effective analytics questions such as:
- What are the marketing channels driving the most orders?
- Which of my users are purchasing my products? e.g. returning vs new, male vs female, etc
- What is the conversion rate of my site? Can I be alerted if it drops?
- Where are users getting stuck before purchasing (funnel analysis)?
- Are users adding my products to the cart? Are they removing any products?
I’ll also walk you through the most useful reports in a section down below.
Should I Use Ecommerce Tracking for My Non-Ecommerce Company?
I have been seeing more companies who love the idea of tracking revenue inside of Google Analytics but they aren’t running an ecommerce store. Perhaps they are a SaaS company or they have mobile gaming apps.
For cases like this, you might be able to send your revenue data to Google Analytics. It really depends on how your users pay you.
The ecommerce functionality of GA relies heavily on a “transaction” model. It assumes that you’re receiving individual transactions with multiple items/products inside of it (like an ecommerce store would).
I once helped a non-ecommerce company use the ecommerce functionality to track their revenue. They were a non-for-profit that received donations (one time and recurring) through their websites.
We were able to track all of their donations using the ecommerce functionality of Google Analytics.
Each donation was one transaction and it only had one item/product which was the donation itself. If the donation was recurring (repeats every month), then we simply applied a multiplier to the transaction total for the average length of a recurring donation e.g a $10 recurring donation became $100 (using a default multiplier of 10).
In short, if you’re a company that receives donations or one-off purchases, then you can likely use the ecommerce tracking of Google Analytics.
If you’re a company that receives monthly payments through a SaaS model, then you would be better off finding another analytics tool that gives you a more flexible revenue model. Mixpanel or Amplitude would be good choices here. Look for tools that give you relevant metrics out box e.g. ARPU if you’re running a mobile gaming app.
I created a free video course for Mixpanel that will teach you everything you need to know about.
What’s the Difference Between Standard and Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking?
Standard will give you basic data like the number of orders, conversion rate, average order value, and most popular products. You’ll be able to combine this data with the rest of the Google Analytics data like marketing channels, location, demographics, etc.
Standard is great for any ecommerce store that is just getting started with Google Analytics. It will give you most of the reports that matter in the beginning and it will let you segment that data to find useful insights.
Enhanced gives you everything that Standard does but they also let you track your checkout funnel, when users add or remove products from their cart, when users view a product (impressions), etc. Enhanced gives you a more granular look at how your users are interacting with your products BEFORE they complete a purchase.
You can also always upgrade from Standard to Enhanced later on in the future. I would recommend that you start with Standard and get familiar with the data before diving into Enhanced.
I have personally made this mistake in the past. We instantly saw issues like orders being dropped, the conversion rate tanked and overall, the data integrity suffered. It’s a mistake that I won’t be making again.
So if you’re using Standard and you want to get some of the reports that Enhanced gives you, you need to convert ALL of your Standard code (transactions, transaction items, etc) into the equivalent Enhanced format.
How Do I Set Up Ecommerce Tracking? Do I Need a Developer?
Setting up ecommerce tracking will depend on your ecommerce software. If you’re on a popular platform like Shopify, then you likely only need to enable a few settings and your ecommerce software will do the rest.
If you’re running on custom software then you will need a developer to help you implement all this. There’s two options here which I will tackle below.
For those on popular ecommerce platforms, here are some links that will help you get this setup:
If you don’t see your software listed above, try googling it: YOUR SOFTWARE NAME google analytics ecommerce tracking.
I’ll provide you with instructions for both but my recommendation is that you use Google Tag Manager to send ecommerce data from your website. The setup might take a little longer but it will be easier to maintain and upgrade later on.
Instructions for sending ecommerce data through Google Tag Manager:
2) You then need to create a tag (Universal Analytics) using the “Transaction” type. This tag will automatically look for the info from the dataLayer.
3) Finally, you need to figure out how to trigger the “Transaction” tag. The easiest way is to fire it on the thank you page after a user completes a purchase. You then need to make sure that they dataLayer information from step 1 is loaded during this page.
This option requires 3 steps which look like this:
1) You start by loading the loading the ecommerce plugin using this command:
Make sure to fire this command after the Google Analytics tracker has loaded so after this line:
[js] ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXXXXX-1’, ‘auto’);[/js]
2) Now that we loaded the ecommerce plugin, we create a transaction. A transaction is an order by a specific user. Users can have multiple transactions i.e. multiple orders. The code looks like this:
‘id’: ‘1234’, // Transaction ID. Required.
‘affiliation’: ‘Acme Clothing’, // Affiliation or store name.
‘revenue’: ‘11.99’, // Grand Total.
‘shipping’: ‘5’, // Shipping.
‘tax’: ‘1.29’ // Tax.
Note that each transaction needs a unique ID. This usually comes from your shopping cart or your database.
3) Once we have our transaction, we can add all the items that are found in this order. We can do that by using this code:
‘id’: ‘1234’, // Transaction ID. Required.
‘name’: ‘Fluffy Pink Bunnies’, // Product name. Required.
‘sku’: ‘DD23444’, // SKU/code.
‘category’: ‘Party Toys’, // Category or variation.
‘price’: ‘11.99’, // Unit price.
‘quantity’: ‘1’ // Quantity.
The ID here matches the ID of the transaction we created since this is what Google Analytics uses to keep track of things. You would fire this code for every item inside an order but with different information for each item.
4) Once you are done building your transaction and adding items, we can send it to Google Analytics. We do that by firing this command:
Ideally, you should fire these commands after a user successfully completes their purchase.
Enabling ecommerce tracking in your Google Analytics View
You need to enable ecommerce tracking on specific views. You start by switching the status to ON and then clicking “Next Step”.
You will see a few options like “Related Products” and funnel steps. This is part of the Enhanced Ecommerce within Google Analytics which requires extra setup. If you use a popular shopping cart, this might already be setup for you.
What Reports Should I Be Looking at as an Ecommerce Store?
This is the fun part. We got some data and now we want to start digging into the right reports. I’ll cover the 5 most useful reports that you need to be using from day 1. I also made note if that report is available through Standard or Enhanced Ecommerce.
Related: If picture is worth a 1000 words then a video must be worth a million. I prepared a 2-3 minute video for each of the core reports I listed below and I show you exactly how to use them to increase the revenue from your ecommerce shop. Download these videos here.
You could also take these reports and put into a dashboard to track your most important KPIs.
Basic Ecommerce Overview (Standard and Enhanced)
This is report will give you all the high-level metrics like transactions, average order value, total revenue and ecommerce conversion rate.
You can then compare two metrics in the trend line chart. I find it useful to compare revenue and ecommerce conversion rate or ecommerce conversion rate and transactions. This lets me know if any increase in revenue is due to a better conversion rate (good) or simply more traffic (more transactions = more revenue).
Product Performance (Standard and Enhanced)
This report lets you see how individual products perform and what are your most popular products by revenue, sales, etc.
In this report, you should be looking for items that are popular or starting to become popular. While your top 5 products might always be the same, products 6-10 might be always changing. You could create marketing campaigns around these kinds of products and get more users.
Sales Performance (Standard and Enhanced)
This report shows you individual sales/transactions and it appears to be a straightforward report.
The power of this report comes from segmentation through the “Secondary Dimension” feature. You could add other metrics and dimensions like country or device category (mobile, tablet or desktop) to find popular segments for orders.
Checkout Behavior (Enhanced Only)
This is your classic funnel report which we saw earlier in this post. We can see where users are dropping off in our funnels and what areas we need to fix.
By default, you’re seeing all of your users but you can drill down by using the “Advanced Segments” feature of Google Analytics. You could then isolate a specific customer segment like mobile users, female users or even complex segments like users from Texas who are using Chrome and are between 45-55 years old.
Marketing Channels & Ecommerce Transactions (Standard and Enhanced)
This report shows your traffic sources against ecommerce transactions. Which traffic source is converting at the highest rate? Which traffic source is making you the most money? You could combine this report to optimize your Facebook Ads for example
Related: If picture is worth a 1000 words then a video must be worth a million. I prepared a 2-3 minute video for each of the core reports I listed above and I show you exactly how to use them to increase the revenue from your ecommerce shop. Download these videos here.
Common Problems with Ecommerce Tracking and How to Fix Them
It’s common to see errors as companies try to track their ecommerce data inside Google Analytics. Let’s look at some of the most common ones and how to fix them.
Discrepancies in Data Between Google Analytics and Your Ecommerce Software
Minor discrepancies in data between Google Analytics and your ecommerce software is fine. How minor? 5% or less. If you’re seeing more than 5%, then you got some technical issues that need to be addressed. Moving your analytics tracking to Google Tag Manager will help you solve a lot of issues.
What About Refund Data?
You can actually send refund data to Google Analytics from your backend. As long as you use the same transaction ID (which is your order ID), Google Analytics will be able to store it. Once again, Tag Manager should make this pretty easy (are you seeing a pattern yet?).
Watch Out for Timezones
I hate time zones. I have lost track of the number of clients who looked at data inside Google Analytics and then compared it to their ecommerce software and said “Google Analytics is inaccurate. What’s wrong?”.
In a lot of cases,time zoness were the issue. You can switch that timezone that Google Analytics uses but your ecommerce software might be stuck in UTC (Universal Timezone). Keep that in mind when you’re comparing two data sources and get them on the same time zone if possible.
Google Analytics can be your one stop shop for all of your marketing analytics needs. Start with Standard and then slowly move to Enhanced to get even more data firepower.
Earlier in the post, I mentioned that a client doubled their monthly revenue from $1 million to $2 (a 104.27% improvement) million within 30 days of getting Google Analytics properly setup. I helped them implement the Standard version of ecommerce tracking and later on, we added some enhanced features like the checkout funnel report.
I prepared a series of short videos that will walk you through the same implementation that I did for my client and help you get ecommerce tracking setup for your own store within the next week. I’ll also you show how to use the core ecommerce reports to increase the revenue of your ecommerce store.
You can download all of this videos by clicking here.