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The 5 Best E-Commerce Analytics Tools

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January 18, 2016

The beauty of an online site is all the data that can be collected. This helps  to create an accurate story of how people are interacting with the site.

Let’s skip back to the land-before-time for an example. Those far-gone days before the internet!

Newspapers were all the rage and were big money. Advertising in them was expensive, but it was very hard to get accurate data back from how the adverts performed. They did work, but optimising was not really possible.

Along comes data-driven marketing and the ability to track your return on investment. Now the newspaper industry is flailing and nowhere near as profitable. Why? Data.

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Our newspapers will drive loads of business! Prove it!

With this in mind, how are you approaching your e-commerce business. Are you putting your finger in the air to test the wind and then trying different tactics out on a hunch? Are you like the ad men in Madison Avenue with your big ideas? Because it won’t wash anymore and it would help you grow.

I see it all the time. A store owner reads an article about an SEO trick and implements it without any testing. They think they are doing well but the analytics show the opposite. A designer makes huge decisions about the structure of the checkout based on their aesthetic.

A designer makes huge decisions about the structure of the checkout based on their particular aesthetic. Customers hate and conversion drops off.

Now, I chose these quite vanilla decisions deliberately. They might seem harmless, but as we discussed in out guide to increasing your e-commerce revenue we know that altering a conversion rate by half a percentage point can make a whopping great difference in revenue.

The main point here is the importance of basing your decisions on data.

Ok, let’s agree that data is useful. It’s also very easy to collect these days. All e-commerce platforms worth their salt have existing integrations with the major analytics platforms. If you need something custom, like a custom goal, it should only be a couple of lines of script to do this.

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It’s important and easy. When it comes to e-commerce, there are more settings than usual, but by using the integrations already built the setup is considerably easier.

Ok, we are data converts! What tool should we use?

The main thing to say here is that you don’t have to use just one tool. In fact, it is better to have a range (or a stack) of tools so you can view your data from multiple perspectives.

The key for each tool is to have an actionable insight from using it. The single biggest problem with analytics tool is data-overload. Too much data can paint a very rich but not very intelligible picture. I’ll outline what we consider the best analytics tools for e-commerce below and what actionable information can be learnt from them

1. Segment.com

This is first for a reason. It’s a data aggregator and major time saver. It collects your analytics with a single javascript script and then pushes that out to any number of analytics packages. It makes your life a hundred times easier, and we love it.

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This is how it feels once you’ve setup segment.io

This has the following advantages:

  • Single script loaded on the site – faster!
  • Only requires a single integration – less development (read: less cost to implement)
  • Correctly formats the data for other integrations
  • Can easily test other analytics packages easily without having to touch your site code

We use this on the YoGrow site and find it awesome. It also works with the other analytics packages below (except Metrilo… come on Metrilo!)

2. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools Google Search Console

This is the most well known of analytics packages. It’s usually set up by the developers who build e-commerce sites and for good reason. It’s an impressive tool and it’s also free. They do have a premium service for Enterprise clients, but its free offering is seriously powerful.

We suggest this to be your go-to place for your site metrics. Capture all your data with analytics. You can’t import legacy data, so even if you do not use it now, do set it up. You might want to use it in the future. Being able to compare against last years data will be useful to you at some point (if you ever return to GA).

Here are our top reasons we love it

I’ve also listed Google Analytics counterpart – Google Search Console (which many still know as Webmaster tools). I find this more clunky than GA, but it does have some really neat tools and data hidden within it. Make sure this is setup too and integrated with Google Analytics.

3. MixPanel

Google Analytics is not perfect. The backend can overwhelm even the hardiest of data nerds. I’m also not a fan of the Google Analytics sales funnels, which is where MixPanel particularly excels. It makes it much more simple.

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The result of too much time in Google Analytics compared to MixPanel

I suggest using this as a counterpart to GA and not a replacement. Remember you can use both tools at the same time and it’s super easy to do this when you have segment.com setup.

MixPanel lets you quickly create sales funnels so you can learn how users move through your site. For example, you could have a funnel that goes: views blog > goes to product page > checkout > purchase. Having these funnels helps you sculpt the user journey, so it converts better.

With this data, you can feedback your insights into your store and optimise. These feedback loops help you perfect your site and are very powerful. You can learn where there are dead ends and low conversion points. It’s the opposite of our ‘hunch’ described earlier.

This is our favourite feature of MixPanel, but there are many more. It also has a fantastic breakdown of your users and their behaviour. All in all – an essential analytics tool for your e-commerce store.

4. Full Story

This is a revolutionary tool. When I first saw it, I was blown away. When I then used it to learn how people use our site, I had my eyes opened.

Full Story captures how a user navigates through your site. So in MixPanel, we can set up a sales funnel and analyse the data of how people move through it, with Full Story we can watch the user move through the site. It tracks the mouse and how the user interacts with your site.

You are observing your users, and it will be frustrating but educational. You’ll spot how users struggle to find your basket. You can see user intent and their frustration.

A common use for e-commerce is to look at the user journey through the checkout. We had one e-commerce store use it to discover an important stumbling point: the checkout required users to enter a postcode (zip code if you are in America) to have a space in it. So if the postcode was AB12 3CD, then it would fail with AB123CD. None of the customers understood this, and there were many lost baskets here.

Fixing this increased the conversion rate. I doubt it would have been spotted without Full Story.

5. Metrilo

We love Metrilo because it brings a personable face to data. We think data should be used to tell stories, but you need to see the wood and the trees. That’s where Metrilo comes in.

It has some really neat customer intelligence, so you can learn better who your customers are. You can then use this data to send very targeted marketing.

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Drill down to really accurate data

A good example would be to find your top customers. These are your ‘whales’ – they are very powerful. Using Metrilo, you can easily find them, learn more about them and then talk to them. We’ve run campaigns in the past where we’ve sent a hand-written card and a free gift to these top customers. We had an awesome response with increased sales and a few fantastic reviews of the site.

The little things matter. By collecting all the data and then using the segmentation tools offered in tools like Metrilo you can have a much more personable interaction with your customers that will help grow your business.

The problem with these tools

Yes, we think there is something MAJOR missing here. We think it’s so important that we built our own tool YoGrow to help e-commerce stores.

It’s that they miss the two most important metrics a store needs:

  1. Custom Targets
  2. Return on Investment

With these tools, you can compare against previous date ranges, but as a business, you don’t want just to do better than the past. You want to set goals for each month.

It’s only by setting a goal do we actually achieve it.

That’s not a Lincoln quote I’m afraid, that’s all me, and I believe it. Now, this can be achieved in a spreadsheet. Indeed, this is where a lot of companies keep their data and targets. When I was an e-commerce manager before Raison and YoGrow this was a big part of my job. To create targets and then collect the data from various sources. We only did this collection every week or so, because it was very tedious.

As a consequence stores find it hard to keep their targets and spreadsheets up to date. This is why we built in an easy to use target setter in YoGrow. You can set a comparison month for your key e-commerce metrics and then check how you are performing this month against that data.

growl_little_smThe best part is getting live updates. No more spreadsheet imports and exports. Just log in and get a quick glance of what is performing and what is underperforming compared to your targets.

The second item we think is essential for any business. Because e-commerce is so data driven this can be a seriously powerful tool.

I’m talking about your Return on Investment. When you engage an expert or a service at a monthly cost, you need to know what value they are going to create for you. Quite simply: Will they create a profit for us. Will they have a positive return on investment.

If I spend $1000, I certainly do not want to see a return of $500. This often happens with marketing professionals employed by some of our clients. We’ve seen data spun all sorts of ways, but we think the buck should stop with ROI. Forget the vanity metrics and give me the raw return on investment any day.

But the problem is this again is not calculated by any of the analytics platforms. So we’ve included it in YoGrow. In fact, you can request proposals from Experts with this built-in. Right from the get-go you can see how and Expert can increase your revenue.

Which analytics platform do you use?

YoGrow is currently in beta, and you can sign up for it on the home page. As I mentioned at the start, it is smart to have a collection of analytics tools. Which ones are you currently using? Let us know in the comments below – it would be fascinating to learn which tools the e-commerce community are using.

4 Comments on “The 5 Best E-Commerce Analytics Tools

Januario
September 27, 2016 at 4:29 am

This is actually a pretty good list… thank you for this post 🙂

Reply
Elliot
November 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Thanks!

Reply
a.casey@jamesgalt.com
November 12, 2016 at 11:28 am

No mention of HeapAnalytics? Which is great for rapidly setting up event tracking for non-coder marketing people. Also once installed if you want to add an event at a much later date, it can pull in the data retrospectively. Can’t do this in GA!

Reply
Elliot
November 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm

I’ll check this out. I think easy event tracking is a great feature – GA can be a real pain to get setup correctly sometimes!

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