There’s a reason that an ecommerce site’s checkout process is one of the most popular analytics topics. Once a person initiates a checkout, she has self-identified herself as a visitor with a high intent to purchase. Chances are, you’ve already spent money acquiring that potential customer. You've likely invested in (a) marketing efforts to make her aware of your site, (b) the paid search click that got her to your site on this or a previous visit, and (c) the overall investment in your site so that she was able to find a compelling product or service. But, visitors are often fickle. Even a minor speed bump on their checkout paths can be enough to cause them to abandon the effort, in which case the investments you made were for naught.
There are many ways to identify those speed bumps so they can be flattened out or removed. This article will cover three of them: funnel analysis, error message capture, and simple usability testing.
Google Analytics Funnel Visualization
Hopefully, you already have a Google Analytics funnel set up for your checkout process. The process is straightforward.
- Set the order confirmation page as a destination URL goal.
- For that goal, configure each step — i.e., page — in the checkout process as a step in the funnel
Depending on how your site works, you may want to set the first step in the funnel as your shopping cart page, or you may want to set it as the first step in the actual checkout process.
For more information on the mechanics of setting up goals and funnels, refer to Google’s documentation on the subject.
Once you have the goal and funnel configured, you can view the fallout that is occurring along the purchase path with the "Funnel Visualization" report under "Conversions > Goals."
The funnel visualization shows of all the visitors who started down the purchase path — viewing the cart in this case — who reached each step in the process and how many fell out of the process at each step. The visitor can view other pages in between two steps, such as navigating to the site’s return policy before completing the checkout. As long as she gets to the next step in the process during the visit, she will be counted as having progressed in the funnel.
A second visualization of the funnel that is available in Google Analytics is the "Goal Flow" view, which is also found under "Conversion > Goals."
Two things that this view provides that the standard funnel visualization doesn’t are:
- A visualization of “loopbacks.” How often visitors move backwards in the funnel. In the example above, one of these is shown in the arrow that goes from "Start Checkout" back to "View Cart."
- Segment traffic in a range of ways. Both by viewing the funnel only for visitors in a specific segment, or by changing the dropdown to split out the traffic by one of many dimensions. In the example above, the traffic is split by "Source."
If there is more falloff in the process than you would reasonably expect to see, digging into the "Goal Flow" may help you isolate it, if it is a particular step in the process, traffic from a particular source, users of a particular browser, or some other factor that seems to be problematic.
The example above shows a one-step checkout. One-step checkouts aim to simplify the checkout process, which is good, but they introduce a challenge from an analytics perspective: a funnel visualization only shows that some percentage of people are abandoning the process on the key page, without providing any specifics as to what it is on that page that tripped them up. One way to dig into that page is by capturing and analyzing warnings and error messages that get presented to visitors.