Owners of e-commerce websites sites have my deepest sympathy. There’s so much that they need to get right to see some sizable results – technology, product selection / merchandising, pricing, Google and analytics. And even when it does go swimmingly well they’re left with an industry standard measly single digit conversion rate. Where’s the satisfaction in that? All that work for 3 or 5%?

We all know that optimising the shopping cart process can push these rates upwards. But what about actions that occur prior to the cart stage? The bit where people are looking through your products, trying to decide if this is really for them. These are actions that occur further back in the sale process, where the goal is to influence, persuade and motivate the visitor to take action.

Here, the task is to present the right type of message in the best choice of content. Text, images, documents and videos – all of these can work well – if your visitors decide to consume what you offer. So let’s get stuck into how we can set up some kind of conversion tracking for these stages.

Conversion Action #1 Document Downloads

Say you sell technical products that cost north of $400 and are struggling to make any sales after months of promotion. Lots of visitors to the product page but no one placing it in the cart and the till just isn’t ringing. To debug the issue you might decide to produce a product manual in PDF format for free download. Or maybe a buyer’s guide for those looking to purchase a product like this for the first time. Both documents could be loaded to sit nicely on the product details page ready for the next interested visitor to come along.

Then with some swanky changes to your Google Analytics code you can now see if either of these documents are being downloaded. It could be that both are being pulled off the site by 50% + of those that visit – or that no one pulled any of them off at all. Unfortunately, if you can’t get anyone to grab a free download on the product then you’ve got a bigger problem to solve than your e-commerce conversion rate.

We saw a similar situation with a customer only the other month. They had been purchasing Google AdWords traffic for a number of months with very little results. Lots of clicks, lots of dollars but no sales. They had a smattering of PDF manual documents around their website but no tracking to see if they were being used. We updated their Google Analytics set up, started tracking downloads and found that for every 100 clicks there were over 30 downloads. The traffic was interested in the products on offer – the first hurdle was overcome. It was just the sales process that needed to
be revamped.

See the image to follow that shows a Google Analytics account modified to show event tracking underway. This can include downloads, email link clicks and clicks to external websites.

Event Tracking
Action #2 Video Plays

Video is another great source of content that, once tracked properly, can become a great conversion value to monitor and improve. Last year we worked with a client who owned a website that sold one product promoted through a 35 minute video of a webinar they had run recently. The content was great. When they ran live webinars the conversion rate of attendees was impressive. Nevertheless we weren’t sure putting all 35 minutes online for visitor consumption was the right plan.

They, of course, thought it was perfect as it was. But were smart enough to know that good Analytics would tell the real story. So again we modified their website tracking, updated the video player and began to track the video play action itself and the length play time per session.

The image to follow shows some of this data that was collected.


Video Plays through Google Analytics Events

And the results? Well, there was a high percentage that arrived on the page and played the video. That was the good news. The bad news was that the average play lasted 10 minutes, and those that played to the end were no more likely to convert than those who watched just some of the content. They all converted the same, and it was at a higher rate than those who didn’t play. So the playing mattered – the content just needed to be re-worked to get all the good stuff at the front end and to make the video more widely promoted around the website.

So there you have it. By tracking your PDF downloads and video plays you can start to see what affect – if any – they are having on your sale process. Usually the more content visitors consume – in whatever form – the greater your chances of closing the sale. Have fun.