April 29th 2020

In today’s crowded ecommerce space, the competition for selling goods and services online has become tougher and tougher. There’s a lot of competition out there, so the ability to respond quickly to issues on your website is extremely important if you want to keep your customers happy and ensure they do not go running to your rivals. Any major changes on your site will have a knock-on effect on your UX (user experience) and in turn, your revenue too. These changes must be spotted as soon as it occurs so it can either be resolved or optimized to maximize return.

If you use Google Analytics (GA) on your site, custom alerts are very useful for automating the monitoring of important changes, helping to minimize human error and save time. To learn how to set custom alerts, please read our How to set custom alerts article.  Although custom alerts are an effective way to monitor site changes, too many notifications can easily become noise and get ignored. In this article, we highlight the most important custom alerts that every ecommerce site should set and what to investigate when these alerts are triggered.

Revenue Tracking Alerts

These are alerts that affect core KPIs

1. Decrease or spike in organic revenue and transactions

The most important metric for every ecommerce site is revenue. It is important to monitor both spikes and decreases as; spikes in revenue (in the absence of a promotional campaign or seasonality) might be an indication of an increase in demand which the marketing team may not be aware of and presents an opportunity to maximise sales or investigate stock levels. When setting revenue alerts, ensure you set your alerts to “same day previous year” or “same day previous week” as comparing Saturday sales to Monday’s sales might present an anomaly. I prefer to set a year on year comparison alert for sales, as this will ensure that seasonal increase in demand is not highlighted as a spike.

You can set your alert specifically for product revenue (revenue from individual product sales) or revenue (total revenue from ecommerce transactions; depending on your implementation, this can include tax and shipping). If you have set up your transaction tracking right, you will be sending shipping and tax to GA, so the alert should be set for revenue.

Example of a decrease in revenue custom alert for Google Analytics

2. A decrease in ecommerce conversion rate

A decrease in ecommerce conversion rate might be an indication of the following:

  • Slow loading pages
  • Broken check out funnel
  • Broken tracking code 
  • Browser compatibility issues
  • Increase in bot traffic (read our article on how to exclude bot traffic)
  • Seasonality (ensure you are monitoring year on year to avoid unnecessary alerts)

It is important to monitor your conversion rate so any issues can be resolved as soon as possible.

3. Decrease or spike in traffic from core acquisition channels

Similar to revenue, traffic is another vital metric on any ecommerce site. Without traffic, there can be no revenue. You should monitor both decrease and spikes, as spikes can either be an indication of opportunity or spam/bot activity. 

4. Traffic flatlined

Hopefully, this alert is never triggered, as a flat line in traffic is an indication of a massive error. Even on the worst of days, your site should ta least get some traffic. In case of a flatline, these are some of the issues to investigate.

  • Tracking – has this been set up right? Is this not firing quick enough?
  • Check your robot.txt file  – Is your site no-indexed?
  • 505 error – Is your site down for maintenance?
  • Investigate your firewall – Is your firewall blocking your GA tracking script.

It is important to set this up as a daily alert due to the serious nature of this issue.

5. Goals & events

Goals and events are an important way to set up granular alerts for more specific KPIs that applies only to your site. Don’t just set up goals and events and review them when its time for your monthly report. Set alerts on these to ensure you can pick up issues and make changes as soon as they occur. An example is a decrease in downloads – this might be an indication that the download button is broken.

User Experience Alerts

Customers expect to be able to navigate your site quickly and find information easily. Failure to meet these expectations will lead to frustrated users, abandoned journeys and loss of sales. Here are some alerts that monitor user experience:

1. High bounce rate.

Although a higher than usual bounce rate could be an indication of bot traffic, it is also an indication of poor user experience; a page not loading as expected, broken visual elements or page content not meeting the users intent. A high bounce rate is not always an indication of issues on a page, as the session duration will vary depending on the page type/intent. When investigating a high bounce rate you should always consider these:

  • What is the intent of the page? Shopping, information or navigation?
  • Does the page accurately convey its intent?
  • Is the call to action easy to find?
  • How long do I expect users to stay on this page?
  • Is the content readable and broken up into easily digested chunks?
  • Is the content engaging?
  • How fast does the page load?

2. Slow page loading

We all know that speed is important. A slow-loading page will lead to high bounce rates and a decrease in conversion. Check out site speed audit checklist.

one full second can decrease conversion rates by 70%! Source                    

When creating your speed alert, you should use the figures in the average page speed report in GA as this will give you a more like-for-like comparison than using the speed figures from an external tool.  Always set the alert to all traffic, as a slow loading page affects all acquisition channels not just organic.

Slow loading page Google Analytics Custom Alert

3. Error tracking alerts – 404 (not found) pages

It is not unusual for a site to have 404 pages. However, a high number of visits to 404 pages means fewer users visiting the valuable pages that can lead to conversion. Also, a sudden spike in 404 pages might be an indication of bigger technical issues which should be investigated and resolved as soon as possible.

Example of an Increase in 404 custom alert in Google Analytics

Hopefully, this should help you set up alerts and monitor your campaigns effectively. If you need additional help on managing and tracking your campaign in Google Analytics, why not get in touch, our brilliant web analytics team will be happy to help.