Category : Research
For every retail loser there's a retail winner
Today PwC's retail survey found the British high street is being reshaped as shoppers shift online - especially in fashion, where a net 100 high street stores closed. This misses the positive side of the story: all those shoppers are buying from independent UK brands online instead, which is one of the fastest growing area of the UK economy. We looked at 30 mid-sized online fashion retailers (with average sales of £1m per month) who get a majority of their traffic from the UK. This collection had grown their sales by an aggregate 21% from October 2017 to October 2018 (year on year). Fashion shoppers love to browse unique designs on Instagram and Pinterest, compare prices and get easy home deliveries. Independent ecommerce brands are bringing original designs to the British wardrobe, and we should celebrate their success. Behind the research Littledata gathers benchmark data from Google Analytics on over 12,000 websites, including many types of ecommerce businesses. Our customers get insights into their performance and recommendations on how to improve online conversion.
Google Analytics 360 versus the free version
We often receive questions about what customers get when they upgrade from the free version of Google Analytics to Google Analytics 360. The quick answer is that you get a lot - the possibilities are literally endless - as long as you're a big, data-driven company willing to put energy into customer engagement and marketing. Google emphasises that their enterprise analytics are designed to help large companies, like major ecommerce sites, create better customer experiences. But what does that mean in practice? There are a lot of details to understand if you're thinking of transitioning to the big paid version of Google Analytics. The main differences lie in how each product deals with the volume of data and integrations that they have available by default. I've broken those differences down into three categories: Data Collection, Data Sampling and Data Sources. Data collection In short, Google Analytics 360 allows for a faster, smarter, larger data collection. With unlimited hits per month and up to 200 custom dimensions per web property. Features Google Analytics (free) 360 Suite (paid) Hits per Month up to 10M unlimited Custom Dimensions/Metrics 20 Per Property 200 Per Property Calculated Metrics 5 Per View 50 Per View Properties per Account 50 50+ Views per Property 25 25+ Roll-Up Properties No Yes Data Freshness 24 – 48 hours 4 Hours Data sampling and limits As your web traffic grows, Analytics 360 lets you get more out of both sampled and unsampled data sets. Compared with the standard version of GA, you get better reporting on large amounts of data. Understanding how data is sampled in Google Analytics will help you scale the smart way. Features Google Analytics (free) 360 Suite (paid) Report Row Limit per Day Yes Yes Standard Reports Pre-Aggregated 50K 75K Sampling in Ad-Hoc Reports 500K Sessions per Property 100M Sessions per Property Custom Tables No 100 Custom Table Report Row Limit per Day No 1M Rows Unsampled Reports No Yes Unsampled Report Row Limit No 3M (for download) Data sources The 360 Suite makes it especially easy to pull in data from a wide range of advertising platforms and sources, including non-Google products like Salesforce. For some of our enterprise customers, especially large ecommerce sites with a focus on PPC lead gen and retargeting, the ability to seamlessly integrate with DoubleClick is itself enough to make their 360-buy worthwhile! Features Google Analytics (free) 360 Suite (paid) AdWords Yes Yes AdSense Yes Yes DoubleClick Campaign Manager No Yes DoubleClick Bid Manager No Yes DoubleClick For Publishers No Yes Custom Data Sources Yes Yes Query-Time Data Import No Yes Salesforce No Yes BigQuery No Yes Additional perks (GTM 360, beta testing) In addition to the above benefits, being able to connect Google Analytics to other Google 360 Solutions like Google Optimize 360 and Google Tag Manager 360 is a big plus. As an added perk, Analytics 360 clients often get early access to beta programs for testing and product feedback -- getting directly involved with product development to suit their needs -- plus first-hand support from Google. Google 360 can be purchased directly from Google or through a sales partner. We don't currently sell the 360 Suite ourselves, but we’ve been a certified Google Analytics Service Partner since 2015, including Google Tag Manager and Google Optimize certification, and have extensive experience with custom tagging and reporting. Plus, we built the Littledata app around those analytics best-practices. Our larger consulting clients get the most benefits out of our enterprise plans, which include automated analytics audits, unlimited access to app features, custom setup and reporting, and a dedicated account manager to help ensure deep, accurate tracking. Whether or not you've already upgraded to Google Analytics 360, we highly recommend getting in touch to make sure you're able to use this powerful tool to its full potential!
Retailers traded 2.4 times normal volumes during Black Friday week 2017
The results are in, and this year's Black Friday sales prove that things are continuing to look up for ecommerce. Across 570 online stores, the average store did 2.4 times their normal sales in Black Friday week 2017, compared with only 2.2 times in 2016 – and a greater proportion of stores participated in the sales. Following our post on pre-Black Friday trends, Littledata looked again at what happened from Thanksgiving Thursday 2017 through to the following Wednesday (the week including Black Friday and Cyber Monday) – versus a control period of November & December in 2016. Compared with 2016, we found a bigger number of stores participating in Black Friday sales this year: 53% of stores were trading more than 1.5 times their normal volumes, compared with only 49% in the equivalent week in 2016. For those stores which promoted heavily in 2016, the median boost was 2.5 times normal. And those in the bottom quartile of sales in 2016 still traded 108% their normal volumes. How did Black Friday promotions work for your store? Use our industry benchmarks to find out how your online store is performing against the competition.
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.
How does page load speed affect bounce rate?
I’ve read many articles stating a link between faster page loading and better user engagement, but with limited evidence. So I looked at hard data from 1,840 websites and found that there’s really no correlation between page load speed and bounce rate in Google Analytics. Read on to find out why. The oft quoted statistic on page load speed is from Amazon, where each 100ms of extra loading delay supposed to cost Amazon $160m. Except that the research is from 2006, when Amazon’s pages were very static, and users had different expectations from pages – plus the conclusions may not apply to different kinds of site. More recently in 2013, Intuit presented results at the Velocity conference of how reducing page load speed from 15 seconds to 2 seconds had increased customer conversion by: +3% conversions for every second reduced from 15 seconds to 7 seconds +2% conversions for every second reduced from seconds 7 to 5 +1% conversions for every second reduced from seconds 4 to 2 So reducing load speed from 15 seconds to 7 seconds was worth an extra 24% conversion, but only another 8% to bring 7 seconds down to 2 seconds. Does page speed affect bounce rate? We collected data from 1,840 Google Analytics web properties, where both the full page load time (the delay between the first request and all the items on the page are loaded) and the bounce rate were within normal range. We then applied a Spearman’s Rank Correlation test, to see if being a higher ranked site for speed (lower page load time) you were likely to be a higher ranked site for bounce rate (lower bounce rate). What we found is almost no correlation (0.18) between page load speed and bounce rate. This same result was found if we looked at the correlation (0.22) between bounce rate and the delay before page content starts appearing (time to DOM ready) So what explains the lack of a link? I have three theories 1. Users care more about content than speed Many of the smaller websites we sampled for this research operate in niche industries or locations, where they may be the only source of information on a given topic. As a user, if I already know the target site is my best source for a topic, then I’ll be very patient while the content loads. One situation where users are not patient is when arriving from Google Search, and they know they can go and find a similar source of information in two clicks (one back to Google, and then out to another site). So we see a very high correlation between bounce rate and the volume of traffic from Google Search. This also means that what should concern you is speed relative to your search competitors, so you could be benchmarking your site speed against a group of similar websites, to measure whether you are above or below average. 2. Bounce rate is most affected by first impressions of the page As a user landing on your site I am going to make some critical decisions within the first 3 seconds: would I trust this site, is this the product or content I was expecting, and is it going to be easy to find what I need. If your page can address these questions quickly – by good design and fast loading of the title, main image etc – then you buy some more time before my attention wanders to the other content. In 2009, Google tried an experiment to show 30 search results to users instead of 10, but found the users clicking on the results dropped by 20%. They attributed this to the half a second extra it took to load the pages. But the precise issue was likely that it took half a second to load the first search result. Since users of Google mainly click on the first 3 results, the important metric is how long it took to load those - not the full page load. 3. Full page load speed is increasingly hard to measure Many websites already use lazy loading of images and other non-blocking loading techniques to make sure the bare bones of a page is fast to load, especially on a mobile device, before the chunkier content (like images and videos) are loaded. This means the time when a page is ready for the user to interact with is not a hard line. SpeedCurve, a tool focussed entirely on web page speed performance, has a more accurate way of tracking when the page is ‘visually complete’ based on actual filmstrips on the page loading. But in their demo of The Guardian page speed, the page is not visually complete until a video advert has rendered in the bottom right of the screen – and personally I’d be happy to use the page before then. What you can do with Google Analytics is send custom timing events, maybe after the key product image on a page has loaded, so you can measure speed as relevant to your own site. But doesn’t speed still affect my Google rankings? A little bit yes, but when Google incorporated speed as a ranking signal in 2010, their head of SEO explained it was likely to penalise only 1% of websites which were really slow. And my guess is in 7 years Google has increase the sophistication with which it measures ‘speed’. So overall you shouldn’t worry about page load times on their own. A big increase may still signal a problem, but you should be focussing on conversion rates or page engagement as a safer metric. If you do want to measure speed, try to define a custom speed measurement for the content of your site – and Littledata’s experts can work with you to set that custom reporting up.
Don’t obsess over your homepage – its importance will decrease over time
Many businesses spend a disproportionate amount of time tweaking copy, design and interactive content for their homepage. Yet they miss the fact that the action is increasingly elsewhere. Homepage traffic has traditionally been seen as a proxy for ‘brand’ searches – especially when the actual search terms driving traffic are ‘not provided’. Now, brand search traffic may be finding other landing pages directly. Our hypothesis was that over the last 2 years the number of visits which start at the homepage, on the average website, are decreasing. To prove this, we looked at two categories of websites in Littledata’s website benchmarks: Websites with more than 20,000 monthly visits and more than 60% organic traffic (227 websites) Large websites with more than 500,000 monthly visits (165 websites) In both categories, we found that the proportion of visits which landed on the homepage was decreasing: by 8% annually for the smaller sites (from 16% of total visits to 13% over two years), and 7% annually for the larger sites (from 13% to 11%). If we ignore the slight rise in homepage traffic over the November/December period (presumably caused by more brand searches in the Christmas buying season), the annual decline is more than 10%. From the larger websites, only 20% showed any proportionate increase in homepage traffic over the 2 years – and those were mainly websites that were growing rapidly, and with an increasing brand. I think there are three different effects going on here: Increased sophistication of Google search usage is leading to more long-tail keywords, where users want a very specific answer to a question – usually not given on your homepage. The increase in mobile browsing, combined with the frustrations of mobile navigation, is leading more users to use search over navigation – and bypass your homepage That Google’s search-engine result page (SERP) changes have made it less likely that brand searches (searching for your company or product names) will navigate to your landing page – and instead browse social profiles, news, videos or even local listings for your company. In conclusion, it seems that for many businesses the homepage is an increasing irrelevance to the online marketing effort. Spend some time on your other content-rich, keyword-laden landing pages instead! And would you like to see if you are overly reliant on your homepage traffic, compared with similar websites? Try Littledata’s reporting suite. Get Social! Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and keep up-to-date with our Google Analytics insights.
It’s Black Sunday – not Black Friday
The biggest day for online retail sales among Littledata’s clients is the Sunday after Black Friday, followed closely by the last Sunday before Christmas. Which is more important - Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Cyber Monday saw the biggest year-on-year increase in daily sales, across 84 surveyed retailers from the UK and US. In fact, Cyber Monday is blurring into the Black Friday weekend phenomenon – as shoppers get used to discounts being available for longer. We predict that this trend will continue for 2016, with the number of sales days extending before and after Black Friday. Interested in what 2016 will bring? Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post! Want to see how you did against the benchmark? Sign up for a free trial or get in touch if you have any questions! Get Social! Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and keep up-to-date with our Google Analytics insights.
The Black Friday Weekend of 2015
Shoppers on Black Friday are becoming more selective – with a decrease in the number of retailers seeing an uplift in Black Friday sales, but an increase in the purchase volumes seen at those selected stores. Littledata looked at the traffic and online sales of 84 ecommerce websites* over the Black Friday weekend (four days from Friday to the following Monday), compared with the rest of the Christmas season (1st November to 31st December). 63% of the surveyed retailers saw a relative increase in traffic on Black Friday weekend 2015 versus the remainder of the season, compared with 75% of the same retailers seeing traffic rise on Black Friday 2014. This implies some decided to opt out of Black Friday discounting in 2015 or got less attention for their discounts as other retailers spent more on promotion. The same proportion of retailers (60% of those surveyed) also saw a doubling (on average) in ecommerce conversion rate** during Black Friday 2015. In 2014, over 75% of retailers saw an improved conversion rate during Black Friday, but the median improvement over the rest of the season was just 50%. 61% of websites also saw an increase in average order value of 16% during Black Friday 2015, compared with only 53% seeing order values increase the previous Black Friday. We predict that this trend will continue in 2016, with a smaller number of websites benefiting from Black Friday sales, but a greater increase in ecommerce conversion rate for a select few. Be sure to check back for what the actual trends will be for 2016! Let us know what you think below or get in touch! * The surveyed websites were a random sample from a group which got a majority of their traffic from the UK or the US. The data was collected from Google Analytics, and so represents real traffic and payments. ** The number of purchases divided by the total number of user sessions Image credit: HotUKDeals Get Social! Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and keep up-to-date with our Google Analytics insights.
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