Solving 6 Common Ecommerce Problems in Google Analytics

If you use Google Analytics for your ecommerce business, Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behavior by Justin Cutroni (blog) is a great resource (provided you already have a general understanding of basic web analytics). It covers a broad range of applications including creating an implementation plan, how to use profiles and filters, marketing campaign tracking, CRM integration and enterprise implementation.

With permission of O’Reilly Media, this post is an excerpt of the “Common E-Commerce Problems” section of the book (pp. 128-129).

Garbled data in e-commerce reports

If the data in the product performance reports (particularly the Product Overview and Product Categories report) is garbled or contains extra characters, there may be an issue with the data in your hidden form. Verify that the transaction line and product lines contain only alphanumeric characters. Monetary data should not include a dollar sign or commas.

All transaction sources are your website

This is a common problem for websites using a third-party shopping cart. The problem is normally not the implementation of the e-commerce tracking code. It is more likely that the cross-domain tracking is incorrect.

A simple way to identify the source of this problem is to examine the data in the All Traffic Sources report. Use the E-Commerce tab to identify which traffic sources are driving revenue. If your website’s hostname is listed in the report, there is probably an issue with the cross-domain tracking.

Missing transactions

It is not uncommon for some transactions to be missing from Google Analytics. This usually occurs when visitors navigate away from the receipt page before the data is transmitted. If the number of transactions in Google Analytics is off by more than 10% when compared to your accounting software, there may be a bigger problem.

In general, Google Analytics should be tracking most transactions. If there is a significant number of transactions missing, double-check the implementation. You may want to move the e-commerce code to the top of the receipt page so the data is sent to Google Analytics immediately as the page loads in the visitor’s browser.

Tracking third-party e-commerce platforms

E-commerce tracking may not be feasible for all third-party shopping carts. If the shopping cart provider does not permit modifications to the receipt page, the standard implementation of e-commerce tracking will not work, and you should try a workaround.

Each shopping cart is different, so there is no single workaround that will solve every problem. A quick search of your shopping cart provider’s support documents should point you to the integration instructions.

Yahoo! store transactions

As of March 2010, the standard e-commerce implementation process will not work with Yahoo! stores. There are various companies that charge a monthly fee to integrate Yahoo! store e-commerce data and Google Analytics data.

I’ve used Monitus’s Web Analytics Connector (http://troni.me/9PcS1E). Its service connects your Yahoo! store data with your Google Analytics data. Monitus charges a monthly fee for this service based on the number of pageviews your site generates. If you’re using a Yahoo! store, you should consider using the Yahoo! service.

Inflated e-commerce revenue

There can be two causes for inflated revenue numbers in Google Analytics. The first cause is usually people bookmarking the receipt page and visiting multiple times. The only way to resolve this issue is to add some type of logic to stop the e-commerce code from executing when the receipt page is accessed directly rather than as part of a transaction.

Another cause of inflated revenue data is canceled transactions. Google Analytics collects e-commerce data when the receipt page renders in the visitor’s browser. If the transaction is declined or modified at some point later, these changes will not be represented in Google Analytics.

The only way to modify transactions in Google Analytics is to erase the transaction by submitting a duplicate transaction with a negative value. While this will eliminate the revenue from the transaction, it will not eliminate the other information associated with the transaction. This is the only way to remove a transaction from Google Analytics.

You can pick up your own copy of Goolge Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behavior from your favorite bookstore or Amazon. Or, follow the author on Twitter @justincutroni.


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6 Responses to “Solving 6 Common Ecommerce Problems in Google Analytics”

  1. Mark says:

    If only it were that easy.

    Justin Cutroni along with most other leading analytics experts also makes the point that implementing Google Analytics is hard.

    And to do it properly you are going to need someone with experience.

    Even Google estimates that the vast majority of GA implementations are not done correctly.

    Missing or wildly inaccurate transactions is one of the biggest issues discussed on the Google Analytics forums.

    And there are dozens and dozens of reasons why your ecom data may be inaccurate.

    Fixing it and resolving it can take a lot of time and work.

  2. David says:

    I have also found thay Paypal orders are rarely counted in Analytics e-comm data. I believe this is due to the fact that customs rarely complete orders on the site (using a receipt page) but are directed to the Paypal pages (at the same stage when customers would enter CC details) and dont click on ‘return’ once on Paypal. Would love to know if others have seen this behaviour as well.

  3. Mark says:

    David,

    yeh Paypal is a special case. Google does provide some guidance on how to deal with Paypal and other third party payment systems.

    It;s precisely because customers are directed away from your site to a third party site that causes the problem.

    It can be overcome, but it takes a bit of work, and is the sort of task you really need a programmer for, or at least someone with technical expertise.

  4. @David: The PayPal/GA integration stinks. As Mark mentioned it takes quite a bit of programming work to get the data right due to the cross-domain issue. However, there is a way. Check out this thread in the Google Analytics help forum: http://troni.me/eNRKkb.

    You need to configure instant payment notification and add the Google Analytics JS to the IPN script. If you’re using PHP go to IPN forum on http://www.paypaldeveloper.com for some pre-fab scripts. There are some _really_ smart people hanging out there to help.

    Hope that helps!

    Justin

  5. David says:

    Whats the point in ripping off copy from page 128 of Justin Cutroni’s book “Google Analytics” & adding no insights your self?

    • Hi David, I was sent the book by Justin Cutroni and in lieu of doing book reviews which are typically “this is a great book that you should definitely read” drivel, I opt for publishing book excerpts so you can get an idea of the quality of content in the book. The intent was not to provide color commentary but to give you a snapshot of the book that I found valuable for the ecommerce audience.

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