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The Best ECommerce Marketing Stack for Growth

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January 25, 2016

Analytics is something most people do, but not enough do very well. We have great intentions and get our analytics packages installed, but how often do you use the data to inform your business strategy?

Measuring your traffic increases is only one facet of a very rich picture that your analytics data can paint of your online site.

I’m going to run through our suggested configuration of your site, which tools to use and how to use the data. If you have an e-commerce store that is ready for growth, then you need to start tracking and feeding this data into your digital strategy.

Without data you're just another person with an opinion

The Analytics Stack

While I’m a big advocate of keeping things as simple as possible, when it comes to Analytics there are tools that I turn to. Tools that can save you time and help you understand the data.

You see, when I started out in marketing, I loved Excel. I was creating complex vlookups in my sleep and had so much data crunching going on my computer often froze.

It got to a stage where I was even dialing into Google Analytics to retrieve the latest data. Previously I had to do a lot of copy-pasting.

Well, that method was very cumbersome. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, least of all business owners who already have their hands full.

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Spreadsheets = Frustration

I still recommend using spreadsheets to learn about data and create custom tables, but for day-to-day operations, there are some fantastic tools that are indispensable.

Here are the tools we think make up a solid stack. It’s what we use on this site. Underneath I’ll go into a bit more details about what each tool helps us achieve.

How we chose our analytics stack

First off, a stack is a collection of tools that work together. It’s important to note as these tools do have cross-over. Many offer the similar functionality. I may use them for somewhat different reasons, though.

When choosing these tools I have the following in mind:

  • Quick learning curve
  • Scalable
  • Good value / Low starter price
  • Integrate together
  • Good support and documentation

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Collecting data

The data on your site is usually collected from javascript trackers. To get a real feel for what trackers are loaded on different sites you can choose services like Ghostery.

I recommend installing their Chrome extension which pops up which trackers are loaded.

Now, I’m not against tracking as I can see it’s benefit to e-commerce stores. Marketers do need to be responsible though otherwise site users will block by default, and the data we can use to grow our business will be very low quality.

If you want to install a tracker, it can be a lengthy process. Your developer would need to add the script into the header or footer of your site. It might need specific data inserted at different points, and it might need to be triggered on specific pages (e.g. Checkout).

Some services will have an existing integration. For example, there are many Google Analytics integrations for WordPress and WooCommerce. These can help integration.

But, there is an even easier way, and it’s called Segment. Once this is integrated onto your site, all data is centralised at Segment and from there integrated with other services.

This saves you from multiple integrations. It also ensures your data is consistent across all platforms. If you want to track specific events or user information, then they have a simple analytics.js script to do so.

Segment is free until you reach over 50,000 API calls

Google’s Tools

There are two tools in the above list from Google: Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formally known as Google Webmaster Tools).

Both are essential for your store. Even if you do not use these tools, I suggest integrating them.

You cannot add legacy data, so if you want to use these tools in the future but have only just added them, you won’t have a lot of data to work with.

But I think they will be useful, and all e-commerce platforms can integrate with them because they are so well used.

Want to learn about which metrics to track and how they can help you grow your revenue? Check out our guide to increasing your store revenue.

Search Console does collect data but is mainly used for setting up your sitemaps and settings for Google. When you are in Google Analytics you can also connect your Search Console account – make sure you do this.

Google Analytics (GA) is a beast of a tool and needs a whole blog series to explain the full breadth of what can be done with it. Needless to say, it’s a full-featured tool that has great e-commerce tracking.

Both Google tools are free to use

Simple ECommerce Analytics with YoGrow

growl_little_smGA can swamp you in data even though you can create custom reports. Creating a custom spreadsheet can be cumbersome too. That’s where YoGrow steps in.

YoGrow has a one-click integration with Google Analytics and presents that data in a clear and e-commerce focused manner.

You can also add a custom target (which Google Analytics doesn’t have). This lets’s you set e-commerce goals and get live updates about how you are performing.

Just log in and see if you are on track.

YoGrow has a free one month trial

MixPanel

MixPanel can do many things, but we only use the one. The beauty of Segment is it’s easy to move around the tools easily.

We use the MixPanel sales funnel to understand better the journeys users take to become customers. We can easily add custom trackers using the analytics.js script and then feed this back into MixPanel.

Rob Sobers has a great guide in which he talks about his marketing stack and how he created his custom event trackers which hook into MixPanel.

At each stage of the funnel we can understand where the drop off points are and better optimise the user journey. The cool thing is these funnels can be created retrospectively. You can amend and play with the funnel and it will resegment the data.

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Although Google Analytics does have funnel functionality, I found it far too fiddly (like much of GA) and MixPanel make it much easier to get actionable data.

MixPanel is free up to 25,000 data points

Intercom & MailChimp

These two are not necessarily associated with analytics as they are involved in tracking user details, but they are just as important.

Collecting this data is all about understanding who your users/customers are and how they use the site. Intercom let’s you capture the specific data about these users. Their personal details, their actions.

On the paid packages of Intercom, you can interact with these users. You can also set up automation’s which get triggered on specific segmentations. For example, you can send a triggered message to a customer who hasn’t returned to the store after some months.

MailChimp lets you send newsletters to these users in a more traditional way. I won’t elaborate on how as this is relatively straight forward.

The reason these two work so well is twofold:

  • Both integrate with Segment
  • Intercom and MailChimp have a user sync, so if anyone unsubscribes from an intercom communication they are unsubscribed from your MailChimp list.

Even if you are not using Intercom now, it’s a breeze to setup with Segment and lets you capture your customer data. You can always use this data in future marketing campaigns, but if you have not collected it from the start, you will be working at a disadvantage.

Intercom and MailChimp both have freemium plans

Positionly

This third tool has an integration with Google Analytics, but its main use is tracking data which cannot be found on your site. It monitors your keyword positions and backlinks.

These two datasets provide an insight into your SEO campaign. You can see which keywords and articles are doing well which can inform your marketing strategy.

You can also pick up any problems the site might have. When we upgraded our SEO plugin, a bug created problems with our sitemaps. Because we were tracking our positions, we noticed and fixed this within a day.

A fantastic tool to understand the data of Google, from the other side of the fence.

Plans start from $15/mo

A method for success

The danger with any tool is that it becomes a barrier and not an enabler. You can sometimes get bogged down in the features and never get any actionable data from it. That’s one of the reasons we don’t suggest Google Analytics for everything.

60% of the time it works everytime

Marketing that is tracked and directed by data is powerful. Perfecting your marketing stack is one of the most important parts of your business strategy. If any of the tools you use (or mentioned above) end up getting in the way, then don’t use them. They should all be moving you towards growth.

What tools do you use that are essential to your e-commerce stack? Let us know in the comments.

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