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How to calculate customer lifetime value (CLV) for subscription ecommerce in Google Analytics
Many of Littledata's subscription customers come to us with a similar problem: how to calculate return on advertising spend, considering the varying customer lifetime value (CLV) of subscription signups. Calculating marketing ROI for subscription ecommerce is a big problem with a number of potential solutions, but even the initial problem is often misunderstood. In this post I break down what the problem is, and walk through two proven solutions for getting consistent, reliable CLV reporting in Google Analytics. What is customer lifetime value? I work with all kinds of subscription ecommerce businesses: beauty boxes, nutritional supplements, training courses and even sunglasses-by-the-month. All of them want to optimise customer acquisition costs. The common factor is they are all willing to pay way MORE than the value of the customers' first subscription payment... because they expect the customer to subscribe for many months. But for how many months exactly? That's the big question. Paying for a marketing campaign which bring trial customers who cancel after one payment - or worse, before the first payment - is very different from paying to attract sticky subscribers. A marketing director of a subscription business should be willing to pay WAY more to attract customers than stay 12 months than customers who only stay one month. 12 times more, to be precise. So how do we measure the different contribution of marketing campaigns to lifetime customer value? In Google Analytics you may be using ecommerce tracking to measure the first order value, but this misses the crucial detail of how long those shoppers will remain subscribers. With lifetime customer value segments we can make more efficient use of media, tailor adverts to different segments, find new customers with lookalike audiences and target loyalty campaigns. There are two ways for a marketing manager to see this data in Google Analytics: one is a more difficult, manual solution; the other is an easier, automated solution that ties recurring payments back to the original campaigns. A manual solution: segment orders and assign a lifetime value to each channel It's possible to see the required data in GA by manually segmenting orders and assigning a lifetime value to each channel. For this solution you'll need to join together: (a) the source of a sample of first orders from more than a year ago, by customer number or transaction ID and (b) the CLV of these customers The accuracy of the data set for A is limited by how your Google Analytics is set up: if your ecommerce marketing attribution is not accurate (e.g. using Shopify's out-the-box GA scripts) then any analysis is flawed. You can get B from your subscription billing solution, exporting a list of customer payments (and anonymising the name or email before you share the file internally). To link B to A, you'll need either to have the customer number or transaction ID of the first payment (if this is stored in Google Analytics). [subscribe] Then you can join the two data sets in Excel (using VLOOKUP or similar function), and average out the lifetime value by channel. Even though it's only a sample, if you have more than 100 customers in each major channel it should give you enough data to extrapolate from. Now you've got that CLV by channel, and assuming that is steady over time, you could import that back into Google Analytics by sending a custom event when a new customer subscribes with the 'event value' set as the lifetime value. The caveat is that CLV by channel will likely change over time, so you'll need to repeat the analysis every month. If you're looking to get away from manual solutions and excessive spreadsheets, read on... A better solution: tie recurring payments back to the original campaign(s) What if you could import the recurring payments into Google Analytics directly, as they are paid, so the CLV is constantly updated and can be segmented by campaign, country, device or any other standard GA dimension? This is what our Google Analytics connection for ReCharge does. Available for any store using Shopify as their ecommerce platform and ReCharge for recurring billing, the smart connection (integration) ties every recurring payment back to the campaigns in GA. Here's how the connector works The only drawback is that you'll need to wait a few months for enough customer purchase history (which feeds into CLV) to be gathered. We think it's worth the wait, as you then have accurate data going forward without needing to do any manual imports or exports. Then, if you also import your campaign costs automatically, you can do the Return on Investment (ROI) calculations directly in Google Analytics, using GA's new ROI Analysis report (under Conversions > Attribution), or in your favourite reporting tool. Do you have a unique way of tracking your marketing to maximise CLV? Are there other metrics you think are more important for subscription retailers? Littledata's connections are growing. We'll be launching integrations for other payment solutions later this year, so let us know if there's a particular one you'd like to see next.
Shopify's 'sales by traffic source' report is broken
If you're a Shopify store manager, one of your biggest questions should be 'which campaigns lead to sales?'. We looked at data from 10 Shopify Plus customers to see whether the sales by traffic source report can be trusted. Under the Shopify store admin, and Analytics > Reports tab, you can (in theory) see which sessions and sales came from which traffic sources. BUT this sales by traffic source report is broken. Looking at 180,000 orders for 10 stores in Q4 2018, here are the marketing channels which Shopify Analytics says brought the traffic: Direct 83.5%Social 9%Search 4.5%Unknown (other websites, not social or search) 3%Email ~0.1% And using comparative data from Google Analytics we know this is all wrong. Here's a comparison of Shopify's attribution to Google Analytics last-click attribution of sales for one of these customers: Marketing attribution comparison for 700 orders Shopify Google Analytics Direct 99% 43% Search (Paid + Organic) 0.6% 7% Social 0.4% 10% Email - 25% Affiliates - 15% Here's why it's broken 'Direct' traffic is when the source is unknown. But for Shopify's report this means where the source of the last session is unknown - the user most probably visited a search ad or product review previously. Having only 1% visibility on your marketing performance is just not acceptable!We know that tagged Facebook traffic alone represents 7% of traffic for the average store, so 10% of sales from Social is more normal. Social also brings more than the actual sales in terms of visibility and influencers.Google generates billions of pageviews a month for ecommerce stores. If your site gets only 1% of its traffic from search, we'd be very surprised! Including paid search this site is still well below the 40% average. (Check out our 6 essential benchmarks for Shopify stores.)Monthly emails and personalised retargeting emails are now a staple of online marketing, and we know all the customers in this analysis use email marketing of some form - including for new product launches, discounts and cart abandonment campaigns. The problem is, it's unlikely to be the only campaign which brought customers, so it gets drowned out by other 'last click' channels. The solution: multi-channel attribution.Affiliates are a really important channel to get right, as they are paid based on the sales attributed to them. Why should you rely solely on the report the affiliate marketer gives you, and not see the same numbers in Google Analytics? So don't leave your marketing analytics to guess-work! Try the Littledata app to connect Shopify with Google Analytics on a free trial today. All paid plans include unlimited connections, to ensure accurate marketing attribution for sales via ReCharge (subscriptions), CartHook (one-page checkout), Refersion (affiliates) and more.
The year in data: 2018 in ecommerce statistics
How did ecommerce change in 2018? Let's take a look at the data. Littledata benchmarks online retail performance in Google Analytics, and with over 12,000 sites categorised across 500 industry sectors we have a unique insight into ecommerce trends in 2018. The pattern we're seeing is that web sessions are becoming ever shorter as users split their attention across many ads, sites and devices. Marketers need get visibility across a range of platforms, and accept that a customer purchase journey will involve an ever greater number of online touch points. In the following analysis, we look at how performance changed across 149 ecommerce sites in 2018, and how these trends might continue in 2019. Ecommerce conversion rate is down Ecommerce conversion rate has dropped by an average of 6 basis points, not because of a drop of online sales - but rather because the number of sessions for considering and browsing (i.e. not converting) has risen. This is partly an increase in low-quality sessions (e.g. SnapChat ads preloading pages without ever showing them to users), and partly an increase in users from platforms like Facebook (see below) which bring less engagement with landing pages. See our mission to Increase Ecommerce Conversion Rate for more details. Revenue per customer is up Revenue per customer is the total sales divided by the total number of users which purchased online. The increase of $16 USD per customer per month shows that many stores are doing better with segmentation - ignoring all those sessions which don't convert, and retargeting and reselling to those that buy lots. The growth in subscription business models is also fuelling this trend. Getting a customer to commit to a regular payment plan is the most effective way of increasing revenue per user. See our mission to Increase Average Order Value for more details. Reliance on the homepage is down Content marketing became mainstream in 2018, and no self-respecting brand would now rely on the homepage alone to drive interest in the brand. The percentage of traffic coming 'through the front door' will continue to fall. In building out a range of keyword-specific landing pages, stores are harnessing a wider range of Google search queries, and providing more engaging landing pages from Google Ad and Facebook Ad clicks. Usage of internal site search is up Along with fewer visitors coming through the homepage, we are seeing fewer browsers use traditional category navigation over internal search. We think this is partly to do with younger consumers preference for search, but also probably reflects the increasing sophistication and relevance of internal search tools used by ecommerce. Referrals from Facebook are up Even after Facebook's data security and privacy embarrassments in 2018, it continues to grow as the 2nd major global marketing platform. Although few sites in our benchmark rely on Facebook for more than 10% of their traffic, it is a significant driver of revenue. As merchants continue to come to Littledata to find out the real ROI on their Facebook Ads, check back next year for a new round of analysis! How did your site perform? If you're interested in benchmarking your ecommerce site, Littledata offers a free trial to connect with Google Analytics and audit your tracking. You can see ecommerce benchmarks directly in the app, including 'ecommerce conversion rate', 'referrals from Facebook' and 'reliance on the homepage', to know exactly how your site's performing. Sign up today to benchmark your site and import Facebook Ads data directly into Google Analytics. [subscribe] For this article we looked at Littledata's private, anonymized benchmark data set, selecting ecommerce sites that had a majority of their traffic from the US and more than 20,000 sessions per month. We measured the change from 1st December 2017 to 31st December 2017 to the same month in 2018.
Introducing Shopify Flow connectors for Google Analytics
Littledata has launched the first Shopify Flow connector for Google Analytics, enabling Shopify Plus stores to analyse customer journey using a custom event in Google Analytics. In addition to Littledata's native connections with Shopify, Shopify Plus, Facebook Ads, ReCharge, etc., we have now launched a beta version of a Flow connector for Google Analytics. What is Shopify Flow? Flow is an app included with Shopify Plus, which enables stores to define automation pathways for marketing and merchandising. Think of it as an ‘If This Then That’ generator just for Shopify. For example, after an order is marked as fulfilled in Shopify’s admin you might want to trigger an email to ask for a review of the product. This would involve setting a ‘trigger’ for when an order is fulfilled and an ‘action’ to send an email to this customer. How do you use Littledata Flow actions? You install Littledata's Shopify app along with Shopify Flow Every time an order is created in your store we send it to Google Analytics, along with information about which customer ID made the order (nothing personally identifiable) You add Littledata's actions to your Flow Every time the order or customer event is triggered, even for offline events, the event is linked back to Google Analytics In Google Analytics you can then: Segment the customer base to see if these actions influence purchasing behaviour Visualise when these events occurred Analyse the customers making these actions: which geography, which browser, which marketing channel (in GA 360) Export the audience to retarget in Google Ads (in GA 360) Export the audience to run a website personalisation for using Google Optimize How do you set the actions up in Flow? Google Analytics customer event – can be used with any customer triggers, such as Customer Created Google Analytics order event – can be used with any order triggers such as Order Fulfilled, Order Paid, How else could I use the events? You can now link any of your favourite Shopify Apps with Flow connectors into Google Analytics. Some examples would be: Analyse if adding a product review leads to higher lifetime value Retarget in Google Ads after a customer's order is fulfilled Set up a landing-page personalisation for loyal customers (using Loyalty Lion connector) How much does this cost? The Flow connectors are included as part of Littledata’s standard subscription plans. You’ll need Littledata’s app to be installed and connected to link the events back to a customer – and to get reliable data for pre-order customer behaviour. [subscribe] Can Littledata set up a flow for a specific app? Our Enterprise Plans offer account management to help you configure the Littledata Shopify connection, including the Shopify Flow connectors. Get in touch if you have a specific app you'll like to make this work with.
How to stop Google Tag Manager being hacked
Are you looking at the wrong Black Friday metrics?
Paying attention to the right ecommerce metrics can help you establish the best customer base and shopping experience for long-term growth. But many retailers still focus only on the most popular metrics -- especially during the online shopping craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (#BFCM). Over the next few weeks ecommerce managers will be obsessing over data, but which stats are the most important? Two popular metrics -- ecommerce conversion rate and average time on site -- may be misleading, so I recommend looking instead at longer-term benchmarks. Here's how it all breaks down. Littledata's ecommerce benchmark data now contains indicators from over 12,000 sites, making it an ideal place to get a realistic view of Black Friday stats. Last year we found that the impact on Black Friday and Cyber Monday was larger in 2017 than in 2016. Using that same data set of 440 high-traffic sites, I dove into the numbers to see how this affected other metrics. Metrics to avoid I think that overall ecommerce conversion rate is a bad metric to track. From the leading ecommerce websites we surveyed, the median increase was 30% during the BFCM event last year...but nearly a third of the stores saw their conversion rate dip as the extra traffic didn’t purchase, with this group seeing a median 26% drop. Some stores do extremely well with deals: four sites from our survey had more than a 15-fold increase in ecommerce conversion rate during BFCM, and nearly a quarter saw more than double the conversion rate over the period. But the real question is: will tracking conversion rate hour-by-hour help you improve it? What could you possibly change within in day? Another misleading metric is average time on site. You may be looking for signs that the the extra traffic on the holiday weekend is engaging, but this is not the one to watch. The time on site for visitors who only see one page will be zero, which will mask any real increase from engaged visitors. Where to focus instead Now, do you know what good performance on funnel conversion metrics would look like for your sector? If not, have a look at Littledata’s industry benchmarks which now cover over 500 global sectors. Littledata’s benchmarks also include historic charts to show you how metrics such as add-to-cart rate vary for the average retailer in your sector month by month. Next try the ‘speed’ performance page to see how fast a user would expect a site in your sector to be. If you see site speed (as measured in Google Analytics) drop below average during Black Friday trading it’s time to pick up the phone to your web host or web operations team. Then, are you tracking return on adverting spend for extra Facebook Ads you're running during the quarter? Ad costs will spike during the peak trading period, and you make not be getting the same volume of traffic conversion into sales. Here are some quick pointers. Facebook Ads. Littledata’s Facebook Ads connection will ensure accurate data, with a dedicated Facebook report pack for automated insights. Shopify. If you're running your site on the Shopify platform, read up on which metrics are most important for Shopify stores and check out Shopify's BFCM Toolbox for seasonal online marketing. Missions. Use Missions in the Littledata app to make permanent improvements to your user experience. BFCM may be over before you can make the changes, but customers will keep buying the rest of the year. For example, can you increase add-to-cart rate with tips such as highlighting faster selling items or recommending an alternative to out-of-stock products? So focus on some clearer metrics and I hope Black Friday brings you every success! [subscribe]
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