The Google Analytics e-commerce reports contain two specific reports that I believe are critical to understanding the behavior of site visitors: Days to Purchase and Visits to Purchase. These reports are the only way to measure the online sales cycle using Google Analytics.
But, as their names imply, these reports are focused on commerce. But not all websites are commerce based. What if we have a lead gen website? We want to measure how long it takes to get a lead, not make a purchase.
Herein lies the problem: there is no “time to conversion” or “visits to conversion” report in Google Analytics.
To get around this little issue EVERYONE should use GA e-commerce tracking to measure conversions, regardless of site purpose.
Before I talk about how to set up e-commerce tracking for a non-commerce site let’s discuss the Visits to Purchase and Time to Purchase reports and how they can be used. Remember, in this application of e-commerce tracking “purchases” are really just conversions.
Here’s the first report we want to use, the Visits to Purchase report.
The Visits to Purchase report shows how many visits a visitor generated before they converted. The chart above shows that most visitors convert on the first visit. This is good. It means that visitors come to the site, find what they need and convert. This can also be very bad, it means that we have one chance to get someone to convert. If they do not convert on the first visit then we may not get another chance.
Let’s pair this data with the Time to Purchase report to better understand how much time passes between a visitor’s initial visit and their “conversion” visit.
The data indicates that everyone converts on Day 0, or the current day. This makes sense since most everyone converts on their first visit.
But what if most conversion occurred on the second visit? If conversions happen on the second visit, but still on Day 0, it means that visitors are probably doing some research prior to conversion and are checking another site on the same day before returning to our site to convert.
Knowing how many visits to a site it takes to convert a visitor is very actionable. What if the data indicates that visitors convert after the third visit? This means that we need to get a visitor back the site a third time to have any chance for a conversion. We may change our keyword bidding strategy to target visitors that are further along in the conversion cycle or we might try to collect an email address to send them additional information via email.
The key concept is that this data explains how many times we need to get the visitor to return to the site in order to generate a conversion.
If we do not using the e-commerce code to track “conversions” then we do not have access to this information.
One More Reason to use E-Commerce
There is one other reason why I like to use e-commerce tracking to track conversions. Google Analytics will only track one conversion per visit. If a visitor converts multiple time at the same goal Google Analytics will only count one conversion.
However, GA will track multiple purchases per visit. Is this a big deal? Not really. But if you want to make the data as accurate as possible, and have a goal that can be achieved multiple times per visit, then try using a transaction to track it.
Plus, using e-commerce to track conversions adds an extra “goal” to each profile, bringing the total to 5. Woo hoo!
Installation & Setup
There are three basic steps necessary to use the e-commerce tracking code on a non e-commerce site. While the steps are similar to those described in my previous post on installation there is one big difference. Let’s walk through each step.
Step 1: Activate the Reports
The first step in setting up GA e-commerce tracking is enabling the e-commerce reports. Log into GA and edit the profile settings. Specify that your site is an e-commerce site. This enables the e-commerce reports.
Remember, the e-commerce reports is a profile setting that is “off” by default. You’ll need to activate the reports for each new profile you create.
Step 2: Tag your Receipt Page
I know this seems like a silly step, but make sure you add the GA tracking code you your receipt page. You must have the standard GA tracking code on your receipt page in order to track purchases.
Step 3: Install the Code
This is where the installation differs from the standard installation. To measure purchases with Google Analytics you need to add the following code to your thank you page. The code does not need to be modified in any way.
You'll notice that I added the e-commerce code to the regular GA page tag, but you can add it anywhere on the page. I just like keeping things together, it seems more organized to me.
You'll also notice there is a lot of missing information in the above code. I've added the bare minimum for the tracking to still work. Don't worry about the missing data, GA will still track a transaction, i.e. a conversion, and we will be able to use the Visits to Purchase and Time to Purchase reports.
That's it. Once the code has been added you'll start to see some data in your Visits to Purchase and Days to Purchase reports.
Got an interesting story to share about your e-commerce implementation? I would love to hear about it below in a comment.
Remember, this is part 3 in a multi-part series on e-commerce tracking. You may be interested in parts 1, 2 and 4: