photo of on sale here posterI think Enhanced Ecommerce is the best thing to happen in Google Analytics for years for retailers.

Here’s why: people want products.

Real people come to ecommerce web sites for products – we hope. It’s the products that matter to people. Abstract concepts like ‘home pages’ or ‘categories’ are just the mechanisms which display the products, they do not have any interest in themselves.

Enhanced Ecommerce finally gives products their rightful place for retailers.

Retailers also tend to focus on products. In truth, many retailers are more excited by their products than by their customers.

I can remember how we all used to obsess over new products in my first job working in a sports shop in London back in the seventies. Decades later I see the same thing when I’m guiding retailers through the maze of Google Analytics reports. When we get to the products reports, suddenly the session catches fire. Instead of talking about things like ‘sources’ or earnestly studying lists of gobbledegook web site page URLs, we’re looking at things people recognise and care about. The names of their products.

But up until 2014 all that Google Analytics showed you was which items people had actually bought. This left a big hole in the data, since only a relatively small number of sessions end in a purchase. What about all those other sessions? The ones where people were looking at things, but not buying.

What products were those people looking at? Well, you could normally answer that question when it came to actual product pages. But how about category pages and sub-category pages? Those pages are like galleries, listing loads of products. But which ones? And which ones did people choose to click on?

This kind of thing obsessed us all back in the days when we agonised over which products to give how much space to in print catalogues. Teams of merchandisers argued over ‘look to book’ ratios.

In the catalogues, most of the time, each product only appeared in one place. The web changed all that. Suddenly we could put products in several categories. But which? It became tempting to put them in loads of places, leading to usability and navigation nightmares for the customers, reducing sales for us.

Meanwhile we tried to report on this from the perspective of ‘pageviews’ in GA. The fundamental starting points were the ‘page’ and the origin of the visit. True: you could reverse engineer the process from the starting point of the product purchased, or maybe even the ‘product page’ viewed. But it was not easy. The structure of the data was not really designed for this.

Picture of Budapest Central Market

Off-line a store or market can be a destination. But on line it has to be the products.

Enhanced Ecommerce marks a fundamental change to the structure of GA. It introduces the concept of the ‘product’. Products can now become the starting point of the analysis. At the top level we can look at products and see where they were most often seen and how people interacted with them in these different places. We can see how often people added them to the cart, or removed them as well as how many people bought them. All of this in standard reports designed specifically for ecommerce.

You can store and report on a lot more information if you want to such as the cost price or margin, if you wish. You can add extra layers of detail, such as ‘where’ on the category page was this item was when it was clicked. I know that several of my clients spend a lot of time working with the order in which products are displayed on listing pages. They have to use external spreadsheets for doing that if they haven’t upgraded to Enhanced Ecommerce.

In this post I don’t want to go into all the extra product details you can track and analyse in the new GA. And I won’t go into the other huge improvements in Enhanced Ecommerce, notably much more useful and powerful funnel reporting. Those are vast improvements, but they are not a fundamental change.

The big change for retailers, in my opinion, is the introduction of the ‘product’ as a central concept in GA. Pageviews, sessions and sources are still key concepts, but they remain closely tied to concepts like ‘web sites’ in the ‘digital’ silo. GA has now moved into a bigger world.

By putting products central stage in Enhanced Ecommerce, Google Analytics has come of age for retailers.

That’s the key take-home point from this post. Others have written better than I can on the topics of everything from general introductions through to the nitty-gritty details of getting Enhanced Ecommerce right in Google Tag Manager. So for the rest of this post I’ll confine myself to assembling a list of good resources.

Resources for Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce

Here’s my pick of the best general introductions to the features of Enhanced Ecommerce. I’ve chosen some general introductions which contain plenty of examples and illustrations to show why you should upgrade. And also a very good technical guide to explain how to do so.

Google Analytics Focuses on Shopping & Merchandising Analysis

Screen shot of Blastam Enhanced Ecommerce Article

by Paul Lear
Start of a four part series. Very detailed, very good. Lots of tips on the hidden features of the new reports. Recommended.
Part Two
Part Three

Optimize Your Site With Enhanced Ecommerce

by Kristoffer Olofsson

Screen shot of Online Behaviour Enhanced Ecommerce Report

Brief but good.

Ecommerce Tips for Google Tag Manager

by Simo Ahava

Screen shot of Simo Ahava's GTM guide
Simo Ahava’s blog is probably the best resource for the latest very practical guides to getting things right with Google Tag Manager. And if you’re migrating to Enhanced Ecommerce it makes a lot of sense to use GTM and a Data Layer at the same time. So this article is very important. It’s technical and contains code. This is a good thing.

Resources Related to Products and Merchandising

The concept at the heart of this post is that products and people are the most critical factors for ecommerce success. The manifestation of the products in a web site or app is just a necessary function of people choosing to buy products. So it would be daft of me not to point you to the Minethatdata blog which contains a wealth of material on the subject.

Here’s an extremely short post as a starting point:
http://blog.minethatdata.com/2014/12/why-i-harp-on-merchandise-productivity.html [Opens in new tab]

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