How To Increase Sales For Your Online Store By Tracking Custom Variables

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This article is a followup to a previous post I wrote about how we use analytics tracking to improve our online store.

Whereas the last article mainly dealt with the out of the box and default features of Google Analytics, I will now delve even deeper and discuss some of the more advanced metrics that we track.

Now when I say advanced, I’m referring to the features of Google Analytics that require a little bit of extra coding and are not implemented out of the box for most shopping carts.

Because every store is different, there’s always going to be certain aspects of your business that require custom tracking data that is completely unique to your situation.

For example, let’s say you want to track customer behavior after someone has signed up for your newsletter. This can’t be done out of the box with the standard analytics snippet of code.

While Google Analytics does a great job of tracking most of the commonly used website metrics, sometimes you need finer grain segmentation of your data in order to improve your online business.

So today, I’m going to go into a little more depth about some of the custom metrics we track with our online store. This is not an exhaustive list but some of the things we look at and have taken action on in the past.

We Track Repeat Customers

Out of the box, Google Analytics bunches every customer that visits your site into several generic buckets. Sure, many of these buckets are useful, but sometimes you want to further segment your customers down depending on what type of customer they are.

For example, whenever someone makes a purchase on our store, we tag them as a “paying customer” using a custom variable in Google Analytics.

By tagging them in this way, we can filter out and specifically look at analytics data just from our repeat customers. Here are a few ways we apply this data.

  • We analyze which products our repeat customers are looking at and specifically target them with coupons or special promotions.
  • We analyze where our repeat customers are coming from and focus our advertising spend and optimization efforts on that traffic source.
  • We discover which products are more likely to be purchased repeatedly and adjust our inventory accordingly. For example, if customer X always buys napkins in the middle of November, we can account for that sale when buying our napkins ahead of time.
  • We use repeat customer data to measure customer loyalty and experiment with ways to improve repeat business

As most business books will tell you, the easiest way to make more sales is to sell to your existing customers. Since we are in the wedding industry, a large subset of our clientele are not repeat visitors.

However, the customers that do buy from us regularly tend to spend a lot of money because they are event planners, hotel managers or restaurant owners.

We Track Customers Who Have Created An Account

Most people who shop at our store do not register for an account during checkout. What this means is that when they make a purchase, they do not want their information kept in our system for future purchases and promotions.

Those that do choose to register however, exhibit drastically different behavior than our unregistered customers.

For example, registered users are much more loyal and tend to become repeat visitors. Registered users are much more likely to browse our new products. Registered users are more likely read our newsletters and spread the word about our online store. That is why it’s important to track registered users in a separate category.

By default however, Google Analytics does not distinguish between registered users and guests and everything is lumped into one big category. But by implementing a custom variable in Google, you can filter out and track your registered users separately.

Then, you can use this data to make changes to your store and offer promotions specifically tailored towards your best customers.

We Track Users Who Use Our On Site Search Engine

One of the biggest problems with many shop owners is that they neglect the search engine on their own site. In a previous article, I talked about ways to improve your online store search engine, but often times you can’t tell whether your search engine optimizations are making a difference unless you track your progress.

That is why it is important to be able to filter out and analyze those customers that actually perform searches using your online store search engine. By segmenting out search customers specifically, you can determine…

  • Whether customers are leaving your store because your search engine is not returning good results
  • Whether customers are finding what they are looking for and actually making a purchase
  • How customers browse through your store after performing a search. Are you directing them to the right product and/or the right content?

In a nutshell, you can easily measure how good your onsite search engine is by simply looking at how well customers are converting after performing a search on your site.

By filtering out searches for products that you actually carry, you can determine how well you are funneling customers in the right direction and what percentage of customers are actually finding what they are looking for.

We Track Visits And Conversions Based On Product Category

By default, Google Analytics allows you to track individual page views. Therefore, you can easily see how many people are looking at specific products in your online store.

However, if you want to take a step back and take a birds eye view at which product categories are performing the best, you need to provide Google Analytics with more information.

Analyzing your data at the category level is important because you can make decisions at a higher level to determine where you should focus your efforts on.

For example, if category A is performing especially well, you may want to invest more into category A. Conversely, if category B is hurting in sales, you may want to consider removing that category altogether or try to figure out why those products are not selling.

Some of you are probably thinking that all of this information is available offline in Quickbooks or in your shopping cart backend.

However, I’ve found that analyzing all of my data online through Google is more productive because I can obtain all of the necessary data in one place.

In addition, Google allows you cross reference other valuable pieces of data such as the traffic sources, marketing campaigns and demographic data about your customers.


Don’t get me wrong. The default tracking of Google Analytics is extremely powerful. But if you want to get down and dirty with specific aspects of your shop, you will need more power than what is provided out of the box with Google Analytics.

By default, Google Analytics spits out too much broad based information for you to interpret correctly. In order to effectively use analytics, you must learn how to filter out only the information you need and focus on what will make you the most money.

For more information, you should read up on custom variables, advanced segmentation and filters. Fortunately, Google offers some great tutorial videos on how to implement everything that I’ve mentioned in this article. You just have to apply it to your specific needs. Enjoy!

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3 thoughts on “How To Increase Sales For Your Online Store By Tracking Custom Variables”

  1. Bill Fernandez says:

    so I want to buy a couple of things from ebay and I have to have a paypal account to pay them..How does that work? Do I have to give paypal my banking account? Do they send me a credit card? Is it safe? Thanks

  2. Pingback: How to Choose an Online Shopping Cart | The Bottom Line
  3. Vanessa says:

    Hi, I have been researching on how to go about in the online business for recruitment as this is our work and we have been also into business and data tracking and have been using Gostats for this. In the book, would there be other tools online that we can use to aid is in our online start up business?

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