The Hidden Pitfalls of Using Google Analytics for Ecommerce Business Analysis

In Google Analytics we trust.

The research by an analytical service Built With shows that overall 28,534,626 active sites are using Google Analytics. The service has proved its reliability and is rightfully considered the best tool for web analytics. With Google Analytics you can easily track the key metrics of your site, better understand your visitors’ behavior and monitor effectiveness of your online marketing efforts.

But how useful can the service be for eCommerce analysis? Can it be an effective ally in the battle for customers’ money?

The answer is ‘yes’. And ‘no’.

On the one hand, the service can deliver some valuable sales stats. On the other, missing transactions, and issues with PayPal don’t let you get a coherent account on each aspect of your store sales performance.

In this post we will look at the exact Google Analytics problems an eСommerce store owner can face and learn how to track eCommerce metrics 100% accurately.

Let it roll.

1. Inaccurate traffic data

Today, Google Analytics is one of the most popular and reliable traffic analytics tools on the market. But the fact is — it delivers not 100% accurate data.

Depending on the number of hits per month, about 10-20% of your traffic data can be wrong. That may happen due to the following reasons:

  • about 80% of all keyword data is ‘Not Provided’
  • no cookies and Javascript – no traffic data
  • “unique visitors” section may deliver inconsistent data
  • traffic sources report is incorrectly categorized, incomplete and mislabeled
  • and dozens more

Some of the issues mentioned above can be solved by checking if Google Analytics code has been implemented correctly.

However, in cases with disabled JavaScript in a user’s browser, data sampling of big reports, etc. there’s little you can do. You’ll just have to learn how to make the judgments to understanding that the data is flawed and adjust your strategies accordingly.

2. Missing transactions issue

In general, Google Analytics catches most of your transactions. But the service isn’t originally designed to be a back-end accounting solution. The GA reports do not show the exact same sales numbers as your e-commerce platform.

This data can be lost for the following reasons:

  • shoppers leave a checkout page before data gets transmitted to Google Analytics
  • shoppers disable javascript when making transactions

If you notice that you are missing on more than 10% of the total amount (in Google Analytics) of all your transactions, you need to act and check the tracking code. Also, you may run some test transactions (with a debugger like Fiddler) to make sure that Google Analytics catches the right data every time.

3. PayPal transactions tracking challenge

A huge amount of commerce owners use PayPal to accept online payments. But Google Analytics, alas, is not on friendly terms with this payment provider.

The main reason why GA can’t catch some PayPal transactions is that customers start the process on a merchant’s website and then go to PayPal to complete the payment. Paypal, in turn, doesn’t allow adding analytics tracking to its pages.

PayPal transactions tracking challenge
PayPal transactions tracking challenge

Approximately, in 80-90% of all cases visitors come back to the merchant’s site to see a ‘Thank You’ page. But those 15% who don’t, leave Google Analytics no data about the transaction. This is what causes inaccuracy in GA sales reports.

There are some third-party solutions for solving this issue, but none of them can provide 100% accuracy of results.

4. Customer anonymity

Google Analytics lets you see the sources your customers are coming from, their location and the time when purchases were made.

However, there’s no way to track any personal customers’ information — all the data you get is strictly anonymous. In other words, there’s no way to get some important sales stats — you can’t see who purchases in your online store, how much and what exactly.

If you had personal customers’ info at your disposal, you could reward the most loyal customers, which, in turn, could enhance your brand experience and generate more sales.

But unfortunately Google Analytics cannot be of any help with that.

5. Tracking refunds, product costs and taxes

Refunds, discounts and taxes — that is all we don’t like but can’t avoid. These expenses constitute a considerable part of profit an online store may be losing daily. Hence, every online merchant needs to carefully keep track of each processed refund, used discount and applied tax.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to track all the above mentioned things with Google Analytics.

People often order online but process a refund over the phone. In other cases, they return something online, but the return has to be verified and approved in some other system. In these cases, it’s not appropriate for the website to automatically track the return, because it either doesn’t happen there, or may not be a valid return.” (via Analysis Engine)

Also, Google Analytics doesn’t track taxes and product costs, therefore there’s no way to correctly calculate Net Profit using this service.

Is there a way to solve all these issues at once?

Yes, there are some tools that help online merchants get 100% accurate sales data and complement data Google Analytics misses. These are:

SavvyCube

If you have a Magento-based store, SavvyCube will be the best tool to generate maximally accurate sales reports. The software is designed to help Magento store owners get the precise and reliable insight into how their online business has been doing.

SavvyCube
SavvyCube

SavvyCube pulls data directly from the original sources (including Google Analytics, PayPal and Magento itself) and combines it altogether in extended customizable sales reports.

SavvyCube lets you conveniently overview purchasing behavior stats for each customers’ and delivers data on such important metrics as store revenue, refunds, Net Profit, taxes, payment provider fees and shipping expenses. Thus, the software lets you complement Google Analytics data.

Summing up, with the software you will be able to easily see which products sell best (and which ones don’t sell at all), find your top-paying customers, learn which sources convert best.

This type of software will be the best choice for small and mid-size businesses. The basic plan starts at $9 per month and comes with unlimited data retention, the ability to import past orders and free lifetime support.

RG Metrics

RJMetrics is a Web-based software designed for eCommerce companies, online content providers, companies involved in social media activities and SaaS vendors.

The tool is capable of accumulating data from a bunch of different sources including Google Analytics. RJMetrics connects your Analytics accounts and aggregates web data together with that from your operational database, your CRM, or customer support platform all in one place.

RG Metrics
RG Metrics

Once data is collected, store owners get a detailed picture of their sales performance, can check what their email marketing efforts bring and analyze effectiveness of their eCommerce platform.

That will ensure a better understanding of such important metrics as lifetime customer value, the average order size (for each customer or customer group) the average time between purchases different customer groups make.

All collected data is hosted in RJMetrics warehouse. Although access to all data is secured with AuthSub, OAuth or Open ID, this potentially be a problem for a lot of users who prefer to keep data in their own data warehouse.

The price of the product is available upon request.

JIRAFE

Jirafe is have-it-all tool for big eCommerce businesses. Best suited for those who are working with big amounts of data and need to get a granular level of detail and clarity on their sales stats.

The software is capable of combining Google Analytics data with data taken from your eCommerce platform, payment provider and personal data you get from your customers. Thus Jirafe will let you make up for the data Google Analytics misses by default.

Data from multiple sources gets compiled together under the same easy to use interface. Also, you can fully customize your reports: add customized widgets, change the way Jirafe calculates and collects eCommerce data.

With Jirafe you can get detailed reports on marketing effectiveness, products popularity and any transaction information.

In addition, the tool will let you see how much profit you have lost for a certain period of time. Jirafe will show your most abandoned carts and the total amount of revenue you have lost due to cart abandonment. That will allow you to find out the reasons why customers are leaving your site and shape better sales strategies.

All that lets Jirafe effectively complement the data Google Analytics misses.

As for product pricing, the cheapest plan starts at $499/ month (it’s charged annually).

Bottom-line

Googe Analytics is acknowledged as a great free tool that delivers a great chunk of valuable analytical data and helps you understand the fundamental eCommerce metrics of your site. Yes, it has some drawbacks but there are lots of ways to solve these problems.

Are you satisfied with sales reports Google Analytics delivers? How do you cope with the issues of the insufficiency and inaccuracy of data? Perhaps you know some alternative ways to overcome the above described issues?

Please share your ideas in the comments below.

1 thought on “The Hidden Pitfalls of Using Google Analytics for Ecommerce Business Analysis”

  1. Thanks for the nice ideas on how to get round Google Analytics drawbacks.
    Do I understand you right, that you were mainly talking about Magento analytics solutions?

    – Iggy

    Reply

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