9 Lessons Learned Implementing Enhanced Ecommerce

Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce has been out of beta since June 2014, giving online retailers and marketers loads of new insights and making life easier for analytics administrators. Here at Empirical Path, we’ve learned a lot helping our enterprise clients plan (see #2 and #8) and implement (see #3 and #4) this complex upgrade. There is much to like in this powerful Google Analytics plugin, and we are excited about the growing number of integrations coming online from leading ecommerce and tag management providers.

We recently asked our team to share their top tips for making the most of Enhanced Ecommerce, including any pitfalls (see #6) to avoid along the way. Here is what they had to say:

1. Upgrading means more than just flipping a switch

Much of the excitement around Universal Analytics (a prerequisite for Enhanced Ecommerce) owes to the fact that some of the most popular Google Analytics (GA) customizations can now be done in the admin interface without changes to the GA Tracking Code. Enhanced Ecommerce teases you with a simple on/off button in the settings for each view, but for most sites, though, that is just one step—preferably the last—of the upgrade. We have found that Enhanced Ecommerce normally requires additional, technical changes to track the product and promotion data it needs. Now, if your site platform already exposes product data in an easily consumable object (eg, JavaScript, meta tags, or properly ID’d DOM elements) then you are in luck, as passing that data to GA is much simpler, especially if you’re using Google Tag Manager (GTM).

2. Start from the transaction and work backward

Tracking how many of which kinds of products are sold for how much money is the essential element of Ecommerce reporting. Even though legacy GA Ecommerce reports provide SKUs and revenue, this is still the first thing we tackle during Enhanced implementations. We do this so clients can harness the additional Product Category and Product Brand dimensions. Next, we track checkouts both as events and as a series of steps, so attrition among these non-purchasers can be understood. Reversing our way up the funnel, we track Add to Cart to enable Cart Abandonment reporting, then Product Detail Views so the new Cart-to-Detail Rate and Buy-to-Detail Rate metrics work. Finally, we address Product Lists and Marketing features to capture the complete funnel.

3. Take advantage of Internal Promotion tracking

Early on, our team was excited about the new ability to measure the impact of screen real estate, positioning, and UI elements like callouts, carousels and calls-to-action devoted to internal promotions. Most of our legacy workarounds for measuring internal promotions required the use of customized event trackers, which not only added cost for our GA Premium clients but did not capture impression data. Still, impressions can be a heavy lift for client developers to pass to GA, and as with display ads, the question of viewability can create doubts or the need for workarounds. Expert help with implementation is recommended here.

4. Piggy-back with Dynamic Remarketing

Enhanced Ecommerce thrives on the same shopping behavior and product category data as Google AdWords’ Dynamic Remarketing feature. With Google Tag Manager in particular, the mechanics of collecting and passing the needed Dynamic Remarketing Custom Variables such as page type, category and product are easily shared with GA’s product categorization, id, price, brand, variant, list and position. This creates an economy of effort and consistency across the two systems

5. Consistency is essential. Check your product name spelling

Powerful new reports like Product Performance Shopping Behavior combine product-level metrics collected from very different stages in the shopping cycle: Product List Views can be anywhere on the site, Product Detail Views typically use a different template, and Checkouts and Purchases are on pages that might even be on a different platform altogether. Because GA will report a new row for each unique product name, any variation in the spelling or case of those product names can lead to reporting disconnects such as having hundreds of purchases without any associated product detail views. Row and view filters can help you sort this out, but it’s always better to clean up these variations at the source.

6. Avoid pear-shaped funnels

Both the Shopping Behavior and Checkout Behavior reports are improvements over the goal funnels we used to rely on to visualize dropoffs across shopping steps. The new reports can now track steps by events (not just pageviews), allow segmentation by other dimensions, and enable quick creation of useful segments for analysis and remarketing. Often however, because Sessions with Transactions is the default final step, these visualizations can result in a counterintuitive, pear-shaped widening at the end where a sharp tapering should appear. The Sessions with Transactions value can be larger than prior steps such as Sessions with Check-Out if the previous steps were implemented later than Transactions, or if a secondary checkout path wasn’t upgraded to Enhanced all the way up the funnel. So, even though we advise starting with Transactions and working backwards, we also recommend releasing a complete Enhanced Ecommerce setup—from Product Views through to confirmation—into your main GA views all at once instead of implementing in stages.

7. Treat your category page listing like an Adwords ad

Enhanced Ecommerce is great for seeing the granular performance of each item on a category page and allowing you to view the Click Through Rate (CTR) of each listing independently, much like a paid search ad. Unlike in paid search, however, you are in control here! Use these insights to reorder product positions by pushing up higher-potential products and moving laggards out of top clickthrough spots.

8. A little organization of product data goes a long way

On the process side of things, we have found that spending time organizing and thinking through your product data makes implementing Enhanced Ecommerce much simpler and future-proof. Most product information lives in a data model in the back end, typically expressed as pictures and text on a product page. This is fine for the presentation piece but can create headaches for anyone trying to collect consistent data into one object to send to Google. By taking the time at the beginning to account for all of your product metadata and render a useful digital data layer object (Google spec, W3C spec, flat object), you will always know where your data is coming from and remove the risk of future changes breaking your data collection scheme. Providing this virtual connector between Google and your back end data model removes a fragile middle step and is the way to go.

9. Train your team on the new approach

GA users can be a little startled when the Ecommerce menu under Conversions doesn’t expand into the familiar Overview, Product Performance, Sales Performance, Transactions and Time to Purchase sub-menus. Our recommendation is to be proactive in communicating the new dimensions, visualizations and segmentation shortcuts, so you can increase the number of stakeholders using Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking to improve conversion rates. We recommend documenting any of the metadata you will be passing into Google Tag Manager and sharing that with your technical team. Help stakeholders understand that as the site evolves and the checkout flow changes (as it inevitably will) the tracking mechanism and metadata that you have in place will have to be updated as well.

So, those are some of our tips and takeaways from these first few years of Enhanced Ecommerce. What are yours? There is no doubt in our minds that Enhanced Ecommerce is worth the effort for anyone selling online who wants to sell more, especially as tag management and ecommerce platforms adopt the new standard. Get ready for a much deeper understanding of your customers, user experience and products!

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