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Measure First, Improve Later: Why A/B Testing Starts With Analytics

Ecommerce shop owners are result-oriented. And no result is more gratifying than conversions.That's why we talk a lot about conversion rates optimization (CRO). It can have many meanings, of course. Understanding your business starts with analytics

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Ecommerce shop owners are result-oriented. And no result is more gratifying than conversions.

That's why we talk a lot about conversion rates optimization  (CRO). It can have many meanings, of course.

According to the folks at Qualaroo, it can be: 

‍…the method of using analytics and user feedback to improve the performance of your website.

Or even more simple:‍

‍…finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.

Both get straight to the point: If your sales funnel has holes in it, CRO will tell you where they are. And you can fix them with targeted A/B testing.

This can only show results if you have the right data.

That’s where analytics comes in.

Understanding Your Business Starts With Analytics (Testing Comes Later) 

When you‍ set up a proper analytics program, it rewards you with provides the accurate data you need to support testing. Then you can start your optimization strategy, and collect the laurels in due time. 

Analytics forms the foundation of the whole process. And you want it to be a solid one.

We like to use our “the gym analogy” (no membership needed, though).

You hire a personal trainer because you want to be able to lift 300 pounds. On the first day, you ask, “When will I be able to lift 300 pounds?"

The answer would involve a number of factors, such as how often you’re going to work out, your nutrition level, the types of exercises you’re doing, your existing strength level, your musculature, and more. 

They would never just say, “Five months.”

As you begin your workout regime, you’ll see a lot of “small wins” on the way to 300 pounds.

One day, you’ll be able to lift 100. 

Another day, you’ll notice you’ve gained muscle.

Eventually, by meeting a number of small goals, you’ll be able to lift 300 pounds.

You can see where we are going here.

Exercise habits represent testing. However, you also need weights that you can trust: imagine your personal trainer giving you 200 pounds saying it's 300.

Then, there are no real results (and a lot of money wasted on a sketchy personal trainer).

That’s the analytics part of the analogy: data you can trust. That's to form the foundation of your system.

Creating A “Proper” Analytics Setup

We're glad you understand an analytics setup that's trustworthy and accurate? There are a few major elements to look out for:

1. The Right Tools

You’re only as good as your tools. industry standard Google Analytics is big for a reason.Here's why

  • It’s free. A “free, powerful enough” tool always beats a “paid, slightly-more-powerful tool”, in our opinion. 
  • It’s an industry standard. Once you’re set up with Google Analytics, you have loads of resources. Work with it yourself or hire a consultant.
  • It’s easy to use and scale. Google Analytics won't require hours of tutorials to be able to set up experiments. 

We also like FullStory and Hotjar, useful tools that show you users’ click and scroll habits using heat maps.

These types of tools provide useful information for understanding customer behavior. Heat maps can be divided in:

  • Click maps, showing where your visitors click on your website.
  • Hover maps, tracking the movements of the mouse pointer.
  • Scroll maps, tracking the vertical movement of the screen as visitors read your content.

These tools also have a features session recorder, where you can watch the interaction of each individual visitor.

Google Analytics event tracking, in conjunction with Google Tag Manager and Page Analytics, can also measure those insights.

2. The Right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

We're happy you finally set up your analytics tools. Well done!

Next: what exactly are you measuring with them? 

If you don't know where to start – and that's also OK! –but here’s a list of important measures to consider

  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Cart abandonment point (where in the process)
  • Traffic to sales pages
  • Unique visitors
  • Returning visitors
  • Scroll depth
  • Length of time on page

Made your choice? You're ready to set up your tools to deliver data on a regular basis.

3. The Right Analysis

Oh wow, look at all those numbers you've got there! Amazing, right?

Erm… What does it mean?

Learning what to do with the data you've gathered and how to analyze it is the stepping stone when it comes to testing.

If you’re looking at your cart abandonment data and you‘re seeing a lot of dropoffs right after you ask customers to fill out a form… Is your form too long? Does it happen too early in the process? Do you require too many fields? 

You can start thinking of tests that might give you an answer to that. 

The Perfect Match to Analytics: Research Your Customers

Data can only tell you so much. For the best possible research-backed foundation for your testing program, you’ll need to talk to your customers.

Remember: once your analytics are set up, your job isn’t done.

Does that mean A/B testing will give you results now?

Not really. But wait! Let's explain why.

A conversion rate optimization (CRO) program based on A/B testing is a long-term investment. 

It's for shop owners who want to see their ecommerce thrive on long-term revenue growth instead of short-term “quick wins”.

It depends on what your goals are, what “results” mean to you, and if you need to set up the foundations of a testing process from the ground up.

Take time to understand your business. And the first step in that process is analytics. Then, move on to research your customers.

After all, sales happen with people, not with numbers. 

(Although we love numbers too.)

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