For two decades the ecommerce customer journey has stayed roughly the same. Customers browse, add to cart, checkout, and then see a page confirming their purchase: the ‘thank you’ page. That last step is changing, and this is no small change as it threatens to break how many sites measure purchases.

How to track the ecommerce checkout process

Ecommerce stores that stop using a final ‘thank you’ page without adjusting their analytics setup accordingly are in danger of getting inaccurate purchase data, or even losing track of shoppers altogether.

In order to help our customers get ahead of the curve, we’ve gone through a number of test cases to find short and long term fixes to this issue. But first, a little history.

In the old days…

In the early days of ecommerce the biggest barrier during checkout was trust. Retailers paid to be certified as ‘hack-proof’ and customers wanted to make quite sure when and how their money was taken.

Fast forward twenty years to today, and in the developed world most consumers have transacted online hundreds of times. They are familiar with the process, expect a seamless user experience, and confident that when they click ‘buy’ their payment will be taken and the products delivered.

Online shoppers are so confident, in fact, that an increasing number we observe don’t even bother waiting for that ‘thank you for your order’ page. That page is becoming redundant for three reasons:

  1. Almost every checkout process captures an email address to send an order receipt to, and the email acts as a better type of confirmation: one that can be searched and referenced. Seriously, when was the last time you opted to ‘print the confirmation page’ for your records?
  2. Many retailers are forced to compete with the superb customer support offered by Amazon. This includes refunds for products that were ordered in error, and quick handling of failed payments. So from a customer’s perspective there’s little point in waiting for the confirmation page when any issues will be flagged up later.
  3. Which leads to the third reason: as retailers improve the speed of checkout, the payment confirmation step is often the slowest, and so the one where customers are most likely to drop out on a slow mobile connection. This is no small issue, as mobile revenues are expected to overtake desktop revenues for ecommerce businesses globally this year.

What does this mean for ecommerce sites?

The issue is that for many sites the linking of sales to marketing campaigns is measured by views of that ‘thank you’ page. In the marketing analysis, a ‘purchase’ is really a view of that ‘thank you’ page – or an event recorded on the customer’s browser with the sale.

If customers don’t view the page, then no sale is recorded.

If you have ever been frustrated by the lack of consistency between Google Analytics and your own payment/back-end records, this is the most likely issue.

A dependency on viewing the ‘thank you’ page brings other problems too: a buggy script, perhaps from another marketing tag, will block the recording of sales. This is another source of the type of analytics inaccuracy which the Littledata app combats automatically.

How to adjust your ecommerce tracking

The short-term fix is to tweak the firing order of marketing tags on the ‘thank you’ page, so that even customers who see the page for fractions of a second will be recorded. Sites with a large number of marketing tags will have the greatest room for improvement.

But in the long term, as this trend continues, the analytics solution is to link the marketing campaigns to the actual payments taken. This removes the need for the customer to see any type of ‘thank you’ or confirmation page, and also removes discrepancies between what your marketing platform tells you was purchased and what actually got bought. This is known as server-side tracking.

The good news for those of you on the Shopify platform is that our Shopify reporting app does this already – and solves a lot of other analytics problems in one install.

For those on other stores, please do contact us for advice. The Littledata team has worked with ecommerce businesses to set up integrations with Magento, DemandWare and numerous custom platforms. Not only can we help fix your analytics setup for accurate tracking, but our app then automates the audit and reporting process for all of your sites going forward.

2 Responses

  • Ateeq Ahmad 3 months ago

    Wow! I had no idea that the thank you page is now at risk. Couldn’t we just pass an event based on the click for the buy button and then pass in all the data into the ecommerce pixel via said event? What is your opinion on that? I am, of course talking of Google Analytics

    • mm

      Edward 2 months ago

      Hi Ateeq,

      Yes, that would result in more transactions being captured in GA – but then you’d have the opposite problem! If the payment failed, this would be counted as a sale – and so GA would be reporting higher sales than the ecommerce platform.

      The best solution is what we do for our Shopify app, and will in future provide an API for – to send the transaction from the ecommerce platform, not from the web page.