Blast from the Past: Review Your Site’s Success From 2015

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It’s a new year, full of possibilities and opportunities for your business; but as satisfying as it is to look forward to your store’s future, it’s equally important to review the past! Gauging the performance of your store over 2015 can provide excellent lessons on the most effective path for 2016. But with all the options available, where do you start?

First off, Volusion offers various reporting features that come free with every store and include multiple levels of data that can track and inform you about your business. In this article we’ll review Reporting, Abandoned Carts and Smarterstats, and provide an overview of third party tracking software, to help your business learn from the past for a more successful new year.

Reporting

First up, the humble sales report. You can access this in your store’s admin under Reports > Reporting. Here you’ll see a basic report, which will show the major trends of the past year. But let’s say you want to get more specific and look at a monthly breakdown of revenue to see what your store’s best “season” was?

To see this, click the Create/Edit Report button. Select Orders from the Choose Report menu, then edit Based on Order Date or Ship Date as you prefer. For Time Period select 2015, and set the first By filter to Month.

In the Advanced Options below, set the first filter to PaymentAmount, give it an Axis Title if you like, and select Currency from the last dropdown. Click Generate, and voila! A month by month breakdown of sales appears, including useful stats that you can view or save in a CSV format.

This is just one example of the power of the Reporting section, and there are many other reports that can be useful in a yearly review. You can use an OrderDetails report to see the best selling products in your store, or a CategoryViews report to determine what is catching your customers’ eyes. And don’t forget you can always save the reports you run for later, saving you time this year and in the future!

Abandoned Carts

Researching your abandoned carts is another excellent way to spy patterns in your store, this time reviewing customers that don’t stick around. This data can be important if you suspect there is a particular reason why more customers aren’t checking out, like a featured product with a technical issue, high shipping fees or prices.

There’s no Volusion workaround for comparing prices with your competition, but the Orders > Abandoned Carts section can show you the number of times a customer decided not to continue to the checkout (as well as “live” carts, the most recent).

If a customer logged in to an existing account it will show their account info, as well as their IP address, item count, and the last time they saw on your site. You can even click the Settings button, select Enable Quick Edit and then click the various Cart IDs to see more details in the Quick Edit window, including the specific items they had in their cart.

If you see a lot of customers leaving a particular product in the cart, you may revisit it to determine why people are changing their minds. For customers who signed in, you can even send an email asking if they need any help finishing their order, or complete the order for them using the Phone Orders function.

If you’re seeing a lot of abandoned carts, do not panic! Instead, check the IP addresses. If you see a lot of the same IPs popping up, and the orders are made close together, it is likely the by-product of a web crawler, or bot. These automated programs are used by search engines when “crawling” your site, to collect information, which often includes adding a few items to the cart repeatedly to see how things work.

If you look at the IP address and confirm the activity is caused by a bot, remember that this behavior is often benign and even useful as search engines crawl your site. However, if you are experiencing bandwidth issues or other problems, you can also block the IP or reduce bots’ ability to index your store. And if you want a fresh start to your Abandoned Carts section for the new year, this support article contains a Bulk Update you can run to delete your older cart info.

There’s a lot to see, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed at first.  Reviewing our Knowledge Base articles on the subject can help.

SmarterStats

SmarterStats is an analytics service that Volusion uses internally for store traffic data. This powerful tool can be accessed through your MyVolusion account by clicking the View Stats link under the My Stores section.

This can be useful for all kinds of traffic data and reports, everything from where your store’s bandwidth usage is coming from to your most popular pages, images and biggest fans! The tabs down the left side organize the information for specific purposes, but to track trends of 2015, focus on the first one, Site Activity.

Before we continue, it’s important to understand the difference between Page Views, Visits and Hits, since many sections in SmarterStats use them.

A visit describes one individual visitor who arrives at your site and proceeds to browse. These visitors are often tracked by IP address, unique (new) visits and return visits. Once a visitor arrives, they will often browse a few more pages. Each individual page they view is a page view. On average, a visitor will look at about 2.5 pages before leaving a site, so it’s generally a good idea to keep your important pages (like products) within three clicks or so of your homepage.

Finally, we have a hit, which refers to the number of files downloaded from your site, including photos, graphics, buttons and so on. Thus a single visit could generate multiple page views and hits.

The Site Activity section offers a variety of ways to track your store’s progress over time. Traffic and Visitor Trends show the big picture, while stats like Top Pages and Top Images can show you what your customers hit up the most.

In addition the basic information, you can create custom reports on any page in SmarterStats, by setting the date range, chart type, sorting and number of rows and clicking Generate Report. This will display the items you selected, and the date range you chose will remain for later reports. You can even set it to 2015 and run all your annual traffic reports in quick succession!

For example, if bandwidth becomes an issue, you could run a Top Images report to see if an image is causing the problem. Perhaps customer traffic is proving too much for a high res image on your homepage, or maybe one of your product images is linked on a popular blog.

You can also run a Paths report to see how customers are getting to your store or even if a recent social media post made an impact! And much like your store’s Reports > Reporting area, you can export this report as a CSV file.

By default, each SmarterStats account begins its data collection on the day a store goes live, giving you access to a treasure trove of traffic trends. It also tracks your admin activity, so you will probably see things like your own IP showing up in the “top” reports. If you’d rather see ony customer traffic, you can navigate to Settings > Site Settings > General Settings, and in Import Filters, click Add to exclude your own IP from the statistics.

Third Party Analytics

As you can see, your Volusion hosting plan comes with a wealth of resources and tools to help you review your store’s 2015 performance. But if this isn’t enough to feed your desire for data, your store can also integrate with many third party analytics and sales tracking solutions!

Often, you can easily add html code provided by the third party to your store’s template in Design > File Editor before the closing </body> tag (e.g. for Google Analytics).

For any kind of sales or conversion tracking code, pixels and ROI scripts – basically anything designed to monitor the orders processed through your checkout – you would instead add the code to Article 130 in Design > Site Content. If you didn’t have this code installed previously, it can’t help you review 2015, but it doesn’t hurt to expand your view for the future.

With sales and traffic reports, views into abandoned carts, smart statistics and third-party tools, your store’s history is at your fingertips! So hop into your time machine and travel to the past! Utilizing your extensive collection of data to inform your future store design and practices can help to ensure a bright and successful ecommerce future. And when your business shines, Volusion shines right along with you. Need help with site reporting? Contact our support team or explore our ecommerce analytics service to help your business this year!

About 

Michael Crary is an avid reader, writer, and student of history in Austin, Texas. When he isn’t helping merchants maximize their business, you can find him playing bored games, enjoying movie and food trailers, and making terrible puns.

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