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!

2018-11-19

Should you outsource your ecommerce operations?

After you've created an ecommerce startup, the initial goals are all about recovering costs and expenses. As soon as the profit margins rise and you've broken even, you face some big decisions that will decide the growth of your online business. First of all, should you start outsourcing? Because many first-time entrepreneurs think it's more cost-effective to do everything on their own, it is a common mistake to pass on hiring freelancers. In this post I’ll highlight the core benefits of outsourcing your ecommerce operations. Focus & growth There are many aspects to promoting your product, and ecommerce operations is an integral component of your company's growth. By outsourcing your ecommerce operations, you have the time to focus on the goals and growth of your company. When hiring a freelancer from a reputable marketplace such as FreeeUp.com, your contract will protect both parties. The roles are clearly defined and you get expert advice in key areas. Your time is valuable, and when you free up your days to re-focus on growing sales, the sky is the limit. Short-term & long-term options First of all, this isn't an all-or-nothing decision. Hiring freelancers can be short-term or long-term depending on the needs of your business. By delegating specific tasks to various experts, your business has the opportunity to grow and flourish as you originally intended. You also have the unique opportunity to scale as needed without the commitments that traditional employment requires. And experts are exactly that - experts! Why reinvent the wheel? The need for a skillset As your company grows, your knowledge grows. Creating an ecommerce startup has a steep learning curve, however, and outsourcing for expert advice makes a lot of sense. Coaching a freelancer is not required as they are already specialized in their skillset. By hiring freelancers, your business can grow outside of your core expertise. For instance, why spend time learning about optimizing landing pages for conversions when you can just hire an Optimizely expert? Furthermore, professionalism is a must when running a business. Your company will gain a professional profile with experts at your side. Until you've gained the expertise, winging it is just bad business. If you've spent countless hours (or possibly weeks) researching ecommerce operating skills, it is time to consider hiring outside of your skillset. Freelancers are highly knowledgeable in their specific niches, and outsourcing your ecommerce operations (and other important roles such as social media and marketing), will benefit your business. Working at full capacity Being more efficient with your time is a smart business decision. When you're stretched too thin or feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks of the company, hiring a freelancer is a no-brainer. Avoiding business burnout is key. As the owner/founder/boss (and probably CMO/CEO to boot), your business needs you to be working at full capacity. Making a list of the tasks that need to be completed is a smart business move. The next step is to start outsourcing as needed. You can learn from these experts and expand your business while optimising your time in the areas you already know -- while maintaining a clear overview of your ecommerce site. Excellent customer service (doesn't necessarily start with you) There's no question that customer service is a key component for the success of your business. Platforms like Shopify have emphasized this to their merchants to help them grow. Today's consumers are demanding, and catering to your customers’ needs can quickly take all your time and energy. Remaining professional requires focus and support, which is why hiring freelancers to maintain exceptional customer service is a key component to the growth of your company. Upgrades & maintenance Ultimately, the goal is to keep everything running smoothly. When you regularly hit profit margins and your goals are being met, upgrades and maintenance will be an ongoing issue. You might want to expand your server capacity due to increased traffic, for instance, or revamp your blog. It's no surprise that the top benchmarks for growing a Shopify store include page load speeds and server response time. Even though upgrades and maintenance to support growth are positive issues, it can be time-consuming to keep everything afloat. Moreover, once you meet your goals, you’ll want to expand. Hiring freelancers allows you to make sure that everything runs smoothly as you venture out into new areas or even new businesses. The bottom line is that one person cannot do it all. Outsourcing for various skillsets will make a world of difference for your company -- and your peace of mind. Start outsourcing your ecommerce operations The benefits of outsourcing your ecommerce operations to freelancers are countless. By outsourcing your ecommerce operations, you free up valuable time to remain focused and goal-oriented. Your business started from passion -- it is important to maintain that vision and hire freelancers to help meet your targets and objectives.   This is a guest post by Connor Gillivan, CMO and co-owner of FreeeUp, a rapidly growing freelance marketplace making hiring online simpler (check out their info on hiring for ecommerce). He has sold over $30 million online and hired hundreds of freelancers himself to build his companies.

2018-08-30

How Littledata helps Shopify stores comply with GDPR

When the GDPR regulation comes into effect later this month, it will impact all websites trading with EU citizens. That means any ecommerce site with customers in Europe! Is your Shopify store ready to comply? We recently updated our Shopify app (since release 7.8) to help Shopify stores which use Google Analytics comply with GDPR. In addition to automatic fixes to help your store comply, we include recommendations for how to update your site content (such as Terms and Conditions), and how to deal with the new 'two year rule'. If you're running a Shopify store, the time to act is now. Automatic fixes with our Shopify app The first two steps are done automatically when you install our GDPR-ready Shopify app. If you're already using Littledata's Shopify app, these two fixes can be applied when you upgrade to our latest tracking script (version 3.2). Here's what they address. 1. Anonymise customer IP addresses The IP address of your website visitor is considered personal information under GDPR, and to remove any risk that this is sent to Google’s servers in the USA, our script scrambles the last few digits of the IP address. Google already promises not to store the IP address, so this step is an extra level of safety. This slightly reduces the accuracy of tracking which city your visitor came from -- but we believe that this is a small price to pay for ensuring anonymity. 2. Filter personal emails and ZIP/postcodes from pageviews Many sites accidentally send personal data in the page URLs or titles tracked by Google Analytics. For example, apps with their own checkout often send the user email as a URL parameter like ‘/url?email=myname@gmail.com’. Our script now filters that personal data out at source, so the page path you’ll see in Google Analytics is ‘/url?email=REMOVED’. Additional manual steps There are two additional manual steps to ensure that Google Analytics for your Shopify store is GDPR-compliant. 3. Update your terms and conditions You need to update your website T&Cs to ensure users are aware of the Google Analytics Advertising Features that our Shopify app activates and Google uses to identify user demographics, such as gender and interests. We are not lawyers, but we suggest using something similar to these sentences to describe what data is collected, how you (and we) use the data, and how how users can opt out: Our site uses Google Analytics Advertising Features to deduce your gender, age group and interests based on other types of websites you have visited. We use this in aggregate to understand which demographics engage with areas of our website. You can opt out with Google's browser add-on. 4. Remove user-specific information after 2 years You should also change the data retention period for your Google Analytics web property, so that Google removes all user-specific information from their database after 2 years. To make this change, logging to your GA account and go to the Settings cog, and then Property > Tracking info > Data Retention. Use the 'data retention' drop-down menu to select to keep user data for 26 months, and mark 'reset on new activity' to ON. This means that after 26 months, if the user has not come back to your website, any user cookie will be deleted. We think this sensible to comply with the Right to Erasure without making any practical limits to your analysis. Right to Erasure feature coming soon! We're also working on a feature to help websites comply with the Right to Erasure or Right to be Forgotten. Here's a summary of that aspect of the regulation, from the summary of key changes at EUGDPR.org. Right to be Forgotten Also known as Data Erasure, the right to be forgotten entitles the data subject to have the data controller erase his/her personal data, cease further dissemination of the data, and potentially have third parties halt processing of the data. The conditions for erasure, as outlined in article 17, include the data no longer being relevant to original purposes for processing, or a data subject's withdrawing consent. It should also be noted that this right requires controllers to compare the subjects' rights to "the public interest in the availability of the data" when considering such requests. Littledata's Right to Erasure feature will ensure that when you delete a customer from your Shopify admin interface, any references to that customer are deleted from Google Analytics. This won’t affect aggregate reporting, such as number of web sessions or transactions. When do GDPR regulations take effect? The official enforcement date for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is 25 May 2018. At that time any organisations in non-compliance may face heavy fines. In short, we recommend implementing the fixes above ASAP for your Shopify store. All you need is Google Analytics account and our Shopify app. And do check our blog regularly for updates. This is the best place to hear about new Littledata features relating to GDPR, as well as news and analysis about how the regulations affect different types of online businesses, including ecommerce websites, subscription businesses, and membership-based sites such as large charities and nonprofits. Looking for additional support? Contact us about GDPR consulting for analytics setup.

2018-05-02

Tracking the online customer journey for luxury ecommerce

Today I'm excited to be participating in the Innovation Meets Fashion event in Lugano, Switzerland. As an increasing amount of luxury and fashion retail moves online, high-end brands are finding it complicated to track the complete customer journey. In many cases, difficulties in tracking customers through to eventual purchase are holding back investment in the digital experience and online marketing. But it doesn't have to be this way. We've found a straightforward correlation in ecommerce between the average ticket price of the item being purchased and the number of web pages or sessions before that purchase is made. Simply put, customers spend longer considering big ticket items than they do with smaller ticket items and impulse purchases. Luxury retail involves many touch points with the brand across your websites, social sites and physical stores. The problem is that the longer than online customer journey, the harder it is to get consistent data on which top-of-funnel experiences are leading to purchasing. So first the bad news: since many potential customers browse anonymously, perfect ecommerce tracking across a long online and offline journey is not possible. Tracking browsers based on first-party cookies (such as Google Analytics) will fail when customers use multiple devices, clear their cookies or browse in-app (such as from Facebook). Yet there are three ways we have seen retailers selling high value items increase the reliability of their online behavioural data. 1. Track online shopping behaviour in detail Understanding whether customers browse certain products, view the detail of product variants and even add-to-cart is a good proxy for seeing which campaigns eventually convert. Does your brand have a good understanding of how each marketing channel influences browsing behaviour, after the landing page but before the checkout? 2. Offer a good reason to get customers to login before buying VIP offers, registering for events and discounts all offer a good way of getting customers to login from different devices. With the correct analytics setup, this login information can be used (without infringing the users’ privacy) to link together different interactions they make across multiple devices 3. Make the most of your email list Even without having a login before purchase, customers clicking through links in a marketing email can allow the same stitching together of sessions. This means that if a customer visits a link from their mobile device, and on another week from their home laptop, these two devices can be linked as belonging to the same email – and therefore the same person. Luxury online retail involves a complex journey. Littledata is here to make your tracking and reporting both easy and accurate. Sign up today to get started with our complete analytics suite, and feel free to reach out to our Google Analytics consultants with questions about best practices for luxury ecommerce. Your success is our success!

2018-03-26

GDPR compliance for ecommerce businesses

Ecommerce companies typically store lots of personally identifiable information (PII), so how can you make compliance easier without compromising analysis? With the deadline for GDPR compliance looming, I wanted to expand on my previous article on GDPR and Google Analytics to focus on ecommerce. Firstly, who does this apply to? GDPR is European Union legislation that applies to any company trading in Europe: so if you sell online and deliver to European Union member countries, the regulations apply to you. It's essential that you understand how your online business is collecting and storing PII. Splitting PII from anonymous data points Your goal should be to maintain two separate data stores: one that contains customer details, from where you can look up what a specific customer bought, and one that contains anonymous data points, from where you can see performance and trends. The data store for the customer details will typically be your ecommerce back-end and/or CRM (see below). This will include name, email, address, purchase history, etc. It will link those with a customer number and orders numbers. If a customer wants the right of access all the relevant details should be in this store. We use Google Analytics as the anonymous data store (although you may have a different ecommerce analytics platform). There you can store data which only refers to the customer record. These are called pseudo-anonymous data points under GDPR: they are only identifiable to a customer if you can link the customer number or order number back to your ecommerce back-end. Pseudo-anonymous data points you can safely send to Google Analytics include: Order number / transaction ID Order value / transaction amount Tax & shipping Product names and quantities Customer number Hashed email address (possibly a more flexible to link back to the customer record) If a customer exercises their right to removal, removing them from the ecommerce back-end will be sufficient. You do not also have to remove them from your Google Analytics, since the order number and customer number now have nothing to refer to. You do still need due process to ensure access to Google Analytics is limited, as in extreme circumstances a combination of dimensions such as products, country / city and browser, could identify the customer. Isn’t it simpler to just have one store? Every extra data store you maintain increases the risk of data breaches and complexity of compliance – so why not just analyse a single customer data store? I can think of three reasons not to do so: Marketing agencies (and other third parties) need access to the ecommerce conversion data, but not the underlying customer data Removing a customer’s order history on request would impact your historic revenue and purchase volumes – not desirable Your CRM / ecommerce platform is not built for large scale analysis: it may lack the tools, speed and integrations needed to get meaningful insights Beware of accidental transfers There are a few danger areas where you may inadvertently be sending PII data to Google Analytics: Customer emails captured in a signup event A customised product name – e.g. ‘engraving for Edward Upton’ Address or name captured in a custom dimension Our PII audit check is a quick, free way to make sure that’s not happening. Multiple stores of customer details GDPR compliance becomes difficult when your customer record is fragmented across multiple data stores. For example, you may have product and order information in your ecommerce database, with further customer contact details in a CRM. The simplest advice is to set up automatic two-way integrations between the data stores, so updating the CRM updates the ecommerce platform and visa-versa. Removing customer records from one system should remove them from the other. If that’s not possible, then you need clear processes to update both systems when customer details change, so you can comply with the right to rectification. Conclusion GDPR compliance need not require changing analytics tools or databases, just a clear process for separating out personally identifiable information – and training for the staff involved in handing that data. I hope this brief overview has been helpful. For further advice on how your ecommerce systems comply, please contact us for a free consultation. Littledata has experience with every major analytics platform and a wide range of custom setups. However, as a number of global companies are concurrently prepping for compliance, we highly recommend that you get in touch sooner rather than later!

2018-02-13

How to drive more traffic to your ecommerce site

Are you following a strategy to increase ecommerce site traffic, or are you shooting in the dark? In this guest post, Courtney McGhee outlines proven ways to get more web visitors. So you’ve created your ecommerce site and you’ve set up your social media profiles. Why isn’t your audience flocking to your site, cash in hand? The truth is, creating your website and social presence is only the first step toward generating traffic. Your strategies on these platforms will ultimately determine the amount of traffic that lands on your pages. You need to invest time, create relationships and sometimes even invest some money if you want to boost your numbers. In this guide, I'll show you proven ways to drive ecommerce site traffic. Step 1: Decide how many daily visitors you need Setting a clear, attainable goal should be the first step if you want to increase your traffic. Marketing strategies can be overwhelming if you don’t first determine what your goal should be. First, decide how much annual revenue you are looking to earn. Let’s look at the example of $350,000. Next, divide your total annual sales by the value of your average order. Let’s say your average order costs $50. This calculation gives you the number of annual orders you will need to reach your sales goal. For our example, that number would be 7000, or about 19 orders each day. Let’s realistically assume that 19 orders per day come from a conversion rate of 2%. That means you will need around 960 daily visitors if you are going to have 19 orders each day. These numbers will show you how much time you need to spend on generating traffic and can help you set attainable and measurable goals. Once you've decided on the amount of traffic you're shooting for, make sure your Google Analytics setup is giving you accurate data about all of your websites (including microsites) and isn't duplicating visitors. You'll also want to set up goals for specific events, such as when a customer adds items to their cart, signs up for your email list or completes a checkout. It's better to set up this tracking early before launching your new strategy--otherwise you won't know whether or not your new strategy worked! Step 2: Start your search engine optimization (SEO) Search engines are (or should be) one of the biggest sources of your traffic. Now, it’s time to milk them for all they’re worth. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be a main focus to drive organic traffic to your site. Whether or not you have just launched your ecommerce store, you should make a habit of reviewing each page and product on your site. To do this, you need to start an SEO audit. Enter your URL on an SEO tool like WooRank, and start an Advanced Review. You can add up to three competitors here to take your SEO up a notch. Add keywords you want to track in the Keyword Tool, and choose the location where you want to focus on. In the keyword tool, you will be able to see the volume and rank for each keyword and how you are doing against your competition. There are plenty of free keyword research tools available if you aren’t sure which ones you should be targeting. Now that you have chosen your keywords to use for optimization efforts, you should make sure you are using them in a consistent and natural way. Using them in your title tags, meta descriptions and body content will help you become more visible to your target audience. To really optimize your keyword strategy, I recommend setting up site-search tracking to see what visitors are searching for on your site and also monitoring how keywords convert on your site by adding Search Console to your Google Analytics account before moving onto the next step. Step 3: Craft your content...carefully Even for an ecommerce site, it is essential to have useful, relevant and authoritative content. Of course, it is critical to have product images, but product descriptions will really help you boost your traffic. With product descriptions, you can weave in the keywords you can easily rank for that can also drive conversions. It’s actually easier to rank higher for long tail, localized keywords that will align with your visitors’ search queries. If you are selling garden supplies and you can rank highly for “planter for tomatoes”, the produce descriptions should use “planter for tomatoes”. Include that phrase in the title, as well. The product images need to be clear and representative of the actual product you are selling. Don’t forget to include the alt text with every image you use. This should go without saying, but don’t use images you downloaded from the internet that aren’t pictures of what you are actually selling. Also, you can create content like product reviews or comparisons of different brands and models that are optimized for “planter for tomatoes”. You can experiment with other types of content on social media, like videos, that can help you rank highly on search results. Videos related to the product that can also be embedded on your site is another easy way to incorporate your keywords in your content. Step 4: Tap into social media influencers In terms of brand engagement, Instagram is one of the best platforms. There is a whopping 25% more engagement on Instagram compared to other social media platforms. Also, studies show that nearly 25% of online shoppers are influenced by social media recommendations. In order to tap into the influencer market, you need to find the people who are willing to feature your products to their many followers. Finding those people, though, is easier said than done. A tool like WEBSTA can help you find the most popular Instagram hashtags and accounts. Once you find the influencer with a substantial amount of followers that aligns with your general category, you can contact him or her and ask for your product to be featured. Step 5: Entice visitors with contests Let’s be honest: everyone loves a good freebie. Does your site have a gift that your customers will find worthwhile? Use your social media profiles, your website and your influencers to get the word out that you are having a contest for free goodies. If your potential customers think your gift is valuable, they will share it with their friends and families. The only con to this strategy is attracting people who are only interested in free stuff. These users will likely never convert to customers, so use this option only when it makes sense for your brand. Step 6: Publish user reviews Search Engine Land noted that 88% of shoppers trust reviews they read online. You can encourage your users to leave reviews on your website and social media accounts. Reviews will help you rank higher in search results, and users are more likely to click on your site/social media pages. User reviews ensure fresh, relevant content - a big plus in Google’s eyes. Here are some more stats from Econsultancy on why user reviews are so valuable: Bad reviews improve conversions by 67% 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a website with user reviews Reviews generate an average boost in sales of 18% Step 7: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising At least 43% of ecommerce traffic, on average, comes from Google search (organic). But, more than a quarter of traffic is coming from Google AdWords, according to Wolfgang Digital. So, it’s important to have both your SEO and PPC set up correctly. As mentioned above, during your keyword research find the keyword your audience uses most, like “tomato planters”. This includes the long tail keywords, too, like “best planters for tomatoes”. Now, run a PPC campaign including both keywords. Primary keywords will generate more traffic, while long tail keywords will drive less traffic but higher conversion rates. To increase conversions even more, you can link your AdWords account to your Analytics account, then use Buyer Personas for specific marketing channels to target those users that are more likely to spend money on your site. So, are you ready for real growth? Bringing traffic to your ecommerce sites all starts with setting a clearly-defined goal. You need to know where your existing traffic is coming from, and optimize all of your platforms for your visitors and search engine bots. Incorporating other strategies, when done correctly, will help you bring more eyes to your site. Contests and PPC advertising are great ways to get your product in front of your target audience. I hope this guide helps take your online store to the next level! Courtney McGhee is on the Marketing Team at WooRank, an SEO audit tool that has helped millions of websites with their SEO efforts. A former journalist in North Carolina, Courtney shifted gears and entered the digital marketing world in Brussels, Belgium.

2018-02-08

Black Friday discounting increases next season’s purchasing

I knew Black Friday had reached ‘late adopter’ stage this week when a company I’d bought fencing panels from - fencing panels – emailed me their holiday season promotions. But the real question is whether all these promotions serve to drive customer loyalty or just attract bargain hunters? At Littledata we looked at aggregate data from 143 retailers who participated most in 2016 Black Friday, versus 143 retailers who did not. For the first 23 days of November 2017 – before Black Friday – the median year-on-year increase in sales was 13% for those pushing discounts the previous year, versus only 1% growth for those avoiding Black Friday discounting *. Our conclusion is that retailers who discounted most heavily on Black Friday 2016 saw a lasting benefit in extra sales a year after the sales period. However, we don’t know whether these extra sales were profitable enough to pay for the seasonal promotions. Another possible explanation is that higher-growth retailers are more active in marketing Black Friday, but in either event the discount season has done them no harm over the following year. In a follow up post next week we’ll compare the peak discount trading – and see if on average these same stores increased their participation this year or reigned it back. Looking at 2016, it seems Black Friday was bigger than the year before for our cohort of 270 UK retailers – but at the expense of sales later in the season. Yet in the UK we are not close to US-levels of hysteria yet, where a much greater proportion of the last quarter’s sales are done on that weekend. The other interesting question is what sectors does Black Friday affect? Reflecting back on my 2016 post, it may be a surprise that the biggest boost of over 100% average increase in sales comes for Health & Beauty stores; whereas technology and computer stores on average saw a boost of 40% for the week. (The graph shows the difference with the average sales volumes in November & December, by sector, for 3 selected weeks.) And perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by those fencing panels: business and industrial sites saw a big boost too! Interested in tracking online sales activity for your own site this holiday shopping season? Littledata's ecommerce analytics software provides accurate data and automated reporting to help you track promotions and drive conversions and customer loyalty. * The statistical detail I took a group of 573 retailers we have tracked for at least 2 years, and looked at the ratio of Black Friday weekend sales (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday) to the 2 month average for November and December. Those in the top quartile (trading 2.6 times above average during the Black Friday season) were deemed to have participated; those in the bottom quartile, showing a dip in trading over that weekend were deemed not to have participated. I then looked at the year-on-year growth in revenue between November 2016 (first 23 days) and the same period in November 2017, for the discount versus non-discount group. A t-test between the groups found a 18% probability that the two groups had the same mean, not allowing us to dismiss the null hypothesis.  

2017-11-24

Is Google Analytics compliant with GDPR?

From May 2018 the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into force in the European Union, causing all marketers and data engineers to re-consider how they store, transmit and manage data – including Google Analytics. If your company uses Google Analytics, and you have customers in Europe, then this guide will help you check compliance. The rights enshrined by GDPR relate to any data your company holds which is personally identifiable: that is, can be tied back to a customer who contacts you. The simplest form of compliance, and what Google requires in the GA Terms of Use, is that you do not store any personally identifiable information. Imagine a customer calls your company and using the right of access asks what web analytics you hold on them. If it is impossible for anyone at your company (or from your agencies) to identify that customer in GA, then the other right of rectification and right of erasure cannot apply. Since it is not possible to selectively delete data in GA (without deleting the entire web property history) this is also the only practical way to comply. The tasks needed to meet depends on your meaning of ‘impossible to identify’! Basic Compliance Any customer data sent ‘in the clear’ to GA is a clear break of their terms, and can result in Google deleting all your analytics for that period. This would include: User names sent in page URLs Phone numbers captured during form completion events Email addresses used as customer identifiers in custom dimensions If you’re not sure, our analytics audit tool includes a check for all these types of personally identifiable information. You need to filter out the names and emails on the affected pages, in the browser; applying a filter within GA itself is not sufficient. But I prefer a belt-and-braces approach to compliance, so you should also look at who has access to the Google Analytics account, and ensure that all those with access are aware of the need not to capture personal data and GDPR more generally. You should check your company actually owns the Google Analytics account (not an agency), and if not transfer it back. At the web property level, you should check only a limited number of admins have permission to add and remove users, and that all the users only have permission to the websites they are directly involved in. Or you could talk to us about integrations with your internal systems to automatically add and remove users to GA based on roles in the company. Full Compliance Other areas which could possibly be personally identifiable and you may need to discuss are: IP addresses Postcodes/ZIP codes Long URLs with lots of user-specific attributes The customer’s IP address is not stored by Google in a database, or accessible to any client company, but it could potentially be accessed by a Google employee. If you’re concerned there is a plug-in to anonymise the last part of the IP address, which still allows Google to detect the user’s rough location. ZIP codes are unlikely to be linked to a user, but in the UK some postcodes could be linked to an individual household – and to a person, in combination with the web pages they visited. As with IPs, the best solution is to only send the first few digits (the ‘outcode’) to GA, which still allows segmenting by location. Long URLs are problematic in reporting (since GA does not allow more than 50,000 different URL variants in a report) but also because, as with postcodes, a combination of lots of marginally personal information could lead to a person. For example, if the URL was mysite.com/form?gender=female&birthdate=31-12-1980&companyName=Facebook&homeCity=Winchester This could allow anyone viewing those page paths in GA to identify the person. The solution is to replace long URLs with a shortened version like mysite.com/form And for bonus points... All European websites are required to get visitors to opt in to a cookie policy, which covers the use of the GA tracker cookie. But does your site log whether that cookie policy was accepted, by using a custom event? Doing so would protect you from a web-savvy user in the future who wanted to know what information has been stored against the client ID used in his Google cookie. I feel this client ID is outside the scope of GDPR, but guaranteeing that the user on GA can be linked to opt-in consent of the cookie will help protect against any future data litigation. The final area of contention is hashing emails. This is the process used to convert a plain email like ‘me@gmail.com’ into a unique string like ‘uDpWb89gxRkWmZLgD’. The theory is that hashing is a one-way process, so I can’t regenerate the original personal email from the hash, rendering it not personal. The problem is that some common hashing algorithms can be cracked, so actually the original email can be deduced from a seemingly-random string. The result is that under GDPR, such email hashes are considered 'pseudonymized' - the resulting data can be more widely shared for analysis, but still needs to be handled with care. For extra security, you could add a ‘salt’ to the hashing, but this might negate the whole reason why you want to store a user email in the first place – to link together different actions or campaigns from the same user, without actually naming the user. There are ways around that strike a compromise. Contact Littledata for a free initial consultation or a GDPR compliance audit.

2017-10-19

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