How to use Google Analytics to Track Your First Time and Return Visit Buyers

More on advanced reporting with Google Analytics here.

Because your website is only as good as your ability to convert visitors into buyers, the following two advanced segment reports in Google Analytics will help you capture your first time visitor/buyers into repeat visitor/buyers. Follow the selections on the screen shots to set up your own site-specific reports.

First time buyer
This particular report can help you understand what motivated visitors to buy on their first visit. What you learn from this report can help you to motivate future new visitors to purchase in as few visits as possible.


Return visit buyers
You can use the return visit buyer reporting tool to understand your returning visitor’s behavior. If they didn’t buy on the first visit, use the data in the report to optimize your site or process to ensure you convert visitors to purchases sooner.


The One Thing You Shouldn’t be Operating an E-Commerce Community Without

March 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Social Media

You are part of a community. Right here, on this site, you’ve chosen to be a member of the eCommerce Optimization Community.

See how easy that was? The similar thread all readers of this site share is the hunger for practical how-to information for increasing eCommerce sales. Your customers have the same common thread for your products or services.

Let’s continue the community conversation by digging further into how product and service organizations keep themselves in business.

As mentioned, online communities are not much different than physical ones. To be successful, you need to let folks know who you are and what you sell. Once you’ve got them in the door, you need a plan for turning one-time customers into repeat customers.

The key for turning one-timers into repeaters: Interaction.

You wouldn’t let an in-person customer walk through your store without saying a word to them so why do it online? One of the best things you can do for your E-commerce site is to offer opportunities to interact.

Here are five great opportunities for you to create community interaction on your site:

1. Blog. Post information related to your products, services, staff, life, etc. Keep it as serious or light-hearted as you want. Your goal is to have a space where you can post items that may not be not be considered relevant on the rest of your site. Need inspiration? Check out the blogs as an example.
2. Offer Voting Privileges. Consider adding voting or recommendation capabilities to your site. Allow users to suggest options for other users. Consumers will almost always go with peer recommendations over what they perceive are targeted marketing campaigns.
3. Add Widgets. The name may be cute, but their role on your site could make a huge difference. Add widgets to your front page, your check-out page and other popular pages to promote new products or services.
4. Host Fan Clubs. This can be part of your blog or a separate entity all together. Because your customers are your greatest fans, give them an opportunity to create their own “club.” Create online buttons or catch phrases your customers can use on their own sites, blogs or e-mails. There’s no better advertising than free advertising.
5. Host forums. Depending on your product or service, you may have customers with questions. Creating a space where users can ask and answer questions is a great way see what people think of your products and services as well as your own customer service.

And of course, concoct creative combinations of the previous 5 opportunities. Let your imagination run wild. Let’s say your site sells cat toys. Why not set up a contest where customers vote on the most popular cat toys. Ask your Fan Club members to write reviews for the top five vote getters. Post the reviews on your blog, forum or front page and let the e-commerce begin!

The Most Important Pages on an Ecommerce Site

February 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Conversion, Design & Usability

To be successful in ecommerce you need to be proactive not passive. Continually analyzing to discover problem points and testing methods that better those points is essential. You must market, promote, adapt and be willing to go out on a limb in some cases — thinking outside the box. You must continually monitor the customer experience your site delivers to your visitors and ensure the layers of that are working together.

You cannot sit back and expect sales to come in simply because you have a website listing products which target a specific market — even if you are getting loads of traffic to that site. If you are not going to be proactive you are not going to see results.

During my coaching engagements with store owners I often see the same underlying mis-conception in where to focus improvement efforts, and what objective to target first for increasing sales conversion.

As the old saying goes, “you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run.” To expect conversion increases without first targeting the most important areas often ends up in frustration.

For example, to focus on the checkout process in an effort to increase sales when your website analytics shows that the majority of your visitors never even make it that far will yield nothing. Why? Because if your visitors are not even making it that deep into your site then they can’t checkout anyhow. It goes to say that if they don’t see the checkout process then making adjustments to it will not yield additional sales.

So where should you focus your improvement efforts?

To answer that question for every store is difficult. Each business is different and each situation needs to be analyzed in order to develop an action plan for improvement based on the unique circumstances and objective desired. You should let your website analytics dictate where to begin.

However, although the answer to that question is not clear cut, I can certainly give you a starting point for focusing improvement efforts. You see, although each ecommerce site is unique, the pages that visitors encounter — on any ecommerce site — which influence them to make a successful purchase remain fairly consistent.

If you are wondering where to focus your improvement efforts try adding these pages to the top of your list.

1. Home Page

Oftentimes (unless paid search or SEO efforts dictate otherwise) the home page of a website is where a bulk of your visitors will end up at some point — if not right from the beginning.

The home page needs to effectively speak to the visitor demographic(s) in such a way that they desire to continue deeper into the site. If they don’t move past your home page (often indicated by high website bounce rates) they aren’t getting to the product pages. If they aren’t getting to the product pages they likely can’t add an item to their cart. If they don’t add an item to their cart, they won’t checkout. Got that?

The home page should, at the very least, give visitors multiple options for accessing the products on your site and should have some room reserved for the latest promotion.

If your website has a high bounce rate from the home page, you need to first focus your efforts on that page with the single objective of getting deeper visitor penetration into the site (i.e. increased pageviews, longer time on site.) This is one example of what I meant when I referenced the “crawl before you walk …” statement above.

2. Product Pages

It is from this page that most product information is gathered and questions are answered which ultimately lead the buyer to adding an item to their cart. Take care in your presentation, placing wording, descriptions, photos, and customer assurances in the best location to persuade action.

The goal of a product page should be to get the user to add the item to their cart. You can’t make a sale if the item is not in the cart!

3. Checkout Pages

Once an item has been added to a visitors cart the only way they can get out of your store with that product is through the checkout. This is a critical part. Think of it … you have an interested visitor who has a product or products in their cart and that likely wants to become a customer. The only thing keeping from that now is your checkout.

The checkout process should definitely be monitored for abandonment rates using website analytics. In Google Analytics I recommend setting up a funnel and associated goal for this process alone to keep track of its effectiveness. You want to know where in this process people may leave so you can refine it to capture future opportunities.

The ultimate goal of the checkout process is to get the visitor out the door with a successful sale. Keep in mind though that for multiple step checkout processes you may likely need to develop smaller incremental goals throughout the process to get to that final objective. Your abandonment points reported by your tracking funnel will tell you where and what these smaller goals should be.

In Summary

There are an almost unlimited number of areas on a website which contribute to higher conversion. In reality, the entire customer experience must be considered if a sustainable and profitable ecommerce business is the goal. The list of pages I provided here are just a starting point for organizing your approach.

Although these pages are important (each serving its role in closing the sale) changing just one will not always guarantee increased sales. You will need to interpret what your analytics is telling you in order to determine which page(s) to devote attention to.

Pay particular attention to your visitor click paths and develop an action plan for improvement with realistic incremental goals as the objective. Think big but be willing to start small. Measuring and expecting incremental improvements over the “ultimate goal” will result in that final goal being reached more often.

Remember, identifying and addressing the actual problem is the first step toward increasing conversion. You wouldn’t put the cart before the donkey and the same applies when looking for improvement from your website.

Finally, take it in stride making alterations to the most “problematic” pages first as reported by your analytics program. In doing so, you’ll be gradually building what I call a “trail to the sale” which will lead the visitor down a specific and intended path toward the end goal.