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e-commerce holiday retailer

Marketing LandIn this post, originally published by Marketing Land on July 20th, 2015, Nick Iyengar, Cardinal Path’s Associate Director of Digital Intelligence, highlights five e-commerce techniques to make your 2015 holiday season a success.

Think it’s too early to start planning for the busiest online shopping time of the year? Think again! Columnist Nick Iyengar shares some e-commerce tips to help you prepare.

e-commerce holiday retailer
This article is part of Marketing Land’s Holiday Retailer series.


If you’re like most e-commerce organizations, you’re already deep into planning for the 2015 holiday season, aiming to optimize revenues during one of the most frenzied shopping periods of the year.

According to IBM’s annual “Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report,” the holiday season continues to have a huge impact on shopping attention. It not only starts earlier and lasts longer, but it grows consistently. And, for good measure, Cyber Monday continues to be the biggest online shopping day of the year.

As you ramp up your planning, here are five e-commerce techniques that can have a big impact in making this your most successful year yet.

1. Ensure Your Implementation Is Up-To-Date With Universal Analytics

For some, the migration to Universal Analytics (UA) is like an elephant in the room. As I’ve written before, Cardinal Path (my employer) has surveyed its top clients and partners, and a little over half of respondents have already migrated to Universal Analytics.

Another third are running “classic” Google Analytics (GA) in parallel with Universal Analytics, as a first step toward completing a full migration. The rest were in the process of planning for how to get started.

Many e-commerce organizations were early adopters of UA because of its Enhanced Ecommerce capabilities, including product impression tracking. We’ll be discussing these in more depth below, but suffice it to say that the workarounds that are necessary in classic Google Analytics are rendered obsolete with the insights that come standard in the free upgrade to UA.

In many cases, making the move from classic GA to UA is a low-risk and low-effort proposition — but the return on your time investment can be quite high, especially with the potential payoff of a big holiday season.

It’s a great time to review and refresh your site goals. I see a lot of e-commerce organizations deploy major site format changes ahead of the holidays. Now is a good time to ensure that the site goals and GA dashboard widgets align with the changes to the site.

It’s also good to QA your tags within Google Tag Manager or another tag management system to ensure they are firing as expected against key goals and Key Performance Indicators.

2. Activate Your E-Commerce Capacity In Universal Analytics

Once you’ve migrated to Universal Analytics, you can use a variety of Enhanced Ecommerce features.

It’s critical to be able to see the behavior of people who shop your sites. Yes, you have a good view in a standard funnel report, but with the Enhanced Ecommerce reporting, there is more information to add context to your understanding of shopping and purchasing behavior.

With the new Shopping Behavior Analysis reports, you can see where users leave and re-enter the funnel across multiple sessions — this is valuable considering that for many customers, the shopping journey spans across multiple visits to a site. For example, you’ll be able to see how many sessions included product views during their “Research” or “Purchase Intent” stages of the journey, or how many exited your site and then returned at a later time to complete their purchase.

Shopping Behavior Report

You can wield this feature to consider the full process of your customers’ shopping journey and where they abandoned their carts. Look at whether they were on a smartphone versus a tablet or desktop, and you’ll get some understanding about what might have caused the drop-off.

Was it cumbersome for the person to complete a credit card transaction on a smartphone? Did they realize you don’t ship to their foreign country? Did they leave when they realized they’d have to register before paying?

Take a look at Product List and Product Performance reports, and from there you can do some analysis around what list of products perform in nuanced ways. For instance, you can look at products such as top sellers or categories (blue vs. red widgets) and learn the product conversion rate when a product is on list X vs. list Y vs. list Z.

You can even push that one step further to learn what position in a given list performs best. Does a product perform well only at the top of a list, or is its performance immune to where it sits in the list? Does a product listing have a higher click-through rate (CTR) when it is displayed as a cross-sell item or when it is displayed as a search result on a product gallery page?

Product List Report


Within the Product List Performance report, you can use a new feature Google calls “last action” attribute, which assigns credit to specific product lists, so that you can begin to understand which product lists are driving conversion. Your customers may respond strongly to search results, gallery pages or category pages. You can use product attribution to learn how best to influence shoppers.

Retailers will get the most value out of this type of functionality, but anyone who offers a wide variety of products will benefit from this type of analysis.

The Product Coupon report takes you one step deeper into understanding whether and how coupons are driving unique purchases at the product level. Combined with the power of the newInternal Promotion report, this can be a big help when thinking about on-site promotions and whether people are willing to purchase a product at the regular price vs. at a sales price or as an extra deal.

You might find people will buy children’s clothing no matter the price, and that the biggest influencer to women’s clothing purchases is compelling product imagery, a sale price, or even an article discussing how the garment was made.

It may be that you find a new way to define your product’s value — such as sustainability — that is more important to shoppers than the price, which means that you don’t need to discount certain items in order to boost sales.

Luxury online retailer 1stdibs (disclosure: a client) is taking advantage of the most impactful Universal Analytics features for e-commerce providers, gaining increased visibility into the product interactions 
that happen before a purchase, during the shopping experience, and at the checkout process. 1stdibs looked at product list performance, shopping cohorts and checkout behavior in particular. And it’s reaping the rewards of these insights including, among others, a 24% increase on conversion quarter over quarter.

“We have a wealth of data around the attributes and behaviors of someone who might benefit from what 1stdibs is doing, and that means we can start to adjust our media plan accordingly. It means we can provide just the right message to just the right person at just the right time and really be effective with our marketing dollars,” Anna Ivnitskaya, manager of analytics at 1stdibs, said in a case study.

3. Leverage Segmentation To Generate Revenue Through Retargeting And Deliver Personalized Experiences

Remarketing is easier than ever before. You can use segmentation to identify the people who view high-margin products, and then easily turn that segment into a remarketing audience within the Google Analytics interface.

Through segmentation, you also can identify customer behaviors that surprise and inform you and use these learnings to improve the way you communicate with them. Do high-value customers respond well to frequent email communication? Do repeat customers use paid search links to return to the site and complete a transaction?

Combine  Google Analytics (GA) and Google AdWords to retarget based on advanced segments or even a single product SKU. This could especially be useful for the holidays, when there are pretty big opportunities with the increased comparison shopping and researching for that elusive “perfect” gift.

4. Use Tag Management For Efficiency And Scale

We all understand the power of data, but your data can only work for you if you have comprehensive, clean data that captures the information you need. And if you can put the necessary code mechanisms in place in a fast, trustworthy, large-scale way, then all the better.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) or another tag management system (TMS) can integrate with your current content management system and e-commerce platform. When these systems talk closely, you’re able to send data to GA but also go deeper and deliver a different experience — hyperlocal or hyperpersonal, for instance — even as you gain a lot of technical efficiencies. This enables you to spend more time on analysis and respond to holiday logistics such as changing inventory and pricing.

From a technical standpoint, when your data communicate with each other and you are leveraging a TMS, you can ramp up your media spend and have the confidence that implementing media pixel tags by the hundreds or thousands will be done accurately, reducing stress and work hours.

5. Mobile Optimization

Mobile shopping represents the largest growth area, according to Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. And with mobile ad spend climbing to new highs, there’s no doubt that overlooking this critical part of your e-commerce strategy could put your online retail success in jeopardy.

By removing friction from the mobile buying experience, whether it’s through an app or mobile Web, you will be creating an optimized customer journey that pays dividends. And if you can get some of this in place for the upcoming holidays, all the better.

Once you are confident that your mobile shopping experience is well-optimized, you can leverage mobile analytics to identify the best opportunities to encourage users to engage and complete a purchase. Start by taking a look at revenue by traffic sources — are smartphone users arriving at your mobile site or app via links from your email newsletter, and are they purchasing high-value products?

Take it one step further by creating a dedicated landing page for your email subscribers, with personalized incentives, to improve conversion rate. Consider testing different landing page options to identify the most effective layout and calls-to-action for generating purchases.

Creating a seamless experience on mobile across all of your marketing communication channels (especially for email and social) is essential for responding to the growing mobile audience.

Since online shoppers may use multiple devices throughout the course of their experience, consider implementing the User ID feature of Universal Analytics. This developer-generated ID can track users across multiple sessions, and it unlocks the Cross Device report within Google Analytics, which empowers you to analyze purchase behavior for unique people who visit a site multiple times across their smartphones, tablets and desktops.

Circling back to the earlier example of luxury retailer 1stdibs, they leveraged dedicated mobile application tracking to design and deploy a Google Analytics mobile measurement solution for their iOS app, which included tracking users across not just touchpoints, but the multiple devices they use, for a more holistic view of the customer experience.

This meant a whole new level of understanding their customers. For example, they didn’t know if people would actually buy on their new app or just use it to browse, returning later to  purchase on the website.

By tying together cross-device sessions with the User ID feature, 1stdibs can answer these kinds of questions and see how people are moving between the app and the website and what those experiences look like. These translate directly into customer value and help react to, and plan for, customer behavior.

Tapping into the power of Google Analytics, Enhanced Ecommerce and tag management can set you up to effectively and efficiently track, segment, retarget and enhance the buyer experience for high-value customers during the big shopping days and beyond.




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