HOW TO: Use Analytics and Research Before & After Opening an Online Shop

Today we're discussing how to properly use research and analytics before and after building your ecommerce business. First and foremost an ecommerce entrepreneur must profile target customers. For example, what are their current buying behaviors? What age groups are likely to purchase the product? What is their discretionary income? What percentage of this age group is currently buying online?

Once the niche has been determined, if you have the budget and time you could also consider creating a demographic focus group. The focus group should concentrate on asking questions that gauge how interested prospective users would be in the product. This process should give great feedback for developing your business.

Source out the competition

How many companies are currently already in the proposed business?  How successful are these organizations?  Is there room for improvement from what competitors are currently providing that could become a competitive edge?

It’s important to visit competitors’ websites and compare their products and services, the look and feel of their site, their page rank and their traffic. This type of research will provide a better picture of what a potential start-up business is actually up against.

Once the research stage is complete, time should be spent weighing the pros and cons of the information discovered. If the pros outweigh the cons, it’s time to move onto the next stage of developing a site.

Things to consider before creating the site

For people starting their first business, it’s vitally important to put together a well thought out budget for the development of the site. Programming time can be expensive and it pays to keep costs low before the first dollar is even earned.  Keep it simple and start with a small budget. As the site begins to take off and earn its keep, that’s when it’s time to spend a bit more to upgrade and add features.

Creating the site

Design and Name

Choose a domain name and address – To start any online entity, a business owner must have a registered site. One of the xkeys to developing a successful site is professionalism. The website provides the vital first impression many people will have of a business. The more visually appealing the site is to the audience, the more likely it is that they will trust its authenticity. At the early stages of creating the site, a developer may not have the revenue to hire an expensive web programmer.  If that is the case, there are companies online that sell professional web templates for a very minimal cost.


It is important that a site be functional for users. To test functionality, friends can be asked to explore the site and poke holes in the setup. If users feel the website lacks proper functionality, a site loses credibility and, hence, possible sales.

Shopping cart

To sell goods and services through a website, the site will usually require shopping cart software to allow order processing. The PayPal shopping cart is a low-cost way for a start-up business to accept credit card and bank account payments, and can be fully integrated with a website in a few easy steps.

Choosing the best shopping cart solution for a launch into e-commerce is critical to the success of any online business. Therefore, research should be done before a decision is made. Some companies offer free shopping carts, but bear in mind that nothing in this world is truly free – read the fine print.

Privacy Policy

The average internet user is becoming increasingly aware of issues relating to email taps, phishing and other forms of hacking. Some studies have shown that consumers are becoming so nervous they are reducing the amount of shopping they do online.

How does a site ensure its visitors that they are protected? Some tips include:

– adding verification and security seals
– creating and promoting a privacy policy in a prominent position on the site
– Including tag lines that customers know that their credit card number is secure.

Having these items on a site will not only ease the website users’ minds but can also increase online sales.

Site testing

Make sure the site (in beta) works properly, and the money actually comes into the designated bank account, when testing a transaction. Although a simple step, it’s an important one – no one wants to be selling online and then find out the money has not been deposited to the correct bank account.

Other things to include on an E-commerce site

– Testimonials
– About Us Page
– Frequently Asked Questions
– Return Policy or Guarantee
– Tool Bars for easy navigation
– Contact Information – Customers may want to communicate with a live person
– Pictures and measurements of your products
– User Reviews

Final stage – Promotion and marketing

Once a site is up and running and tested, it is then time to promote it. Although there are hundreds of ways to promote a site, some quick and low or no cost ways of promoting a site include:

– Search engine optimization/adding content: Keywords, content and articles will improve search results and therefore drive traffic to a site.
– Cross links to other sites: Contact other sites with a similar demographic to arrange deals to cross-promote services
– Email marketing: Collect contact details from regular website users and use that information to communicate news and promotions regularly.
– Put the web address on everything: Include this information in letterheads, email signature, etc.
– Referral Contests: Offer incentives for current users to sign up their friends, co-workers and relatives. For example, offer a discount for customers who provide referrals.


It’s also essential to keep an eye on your Analytics data, which has important information such as where customers are dropping off in the shopping cart process, allowing you to identify areas that are causing lost sales and find a solution for them.

Web analytics are crucial to understanding and improving your online performance. In short, analytics allow for the collection of data in such a way that supports fact-based decision-making. Through web analytics, it’s possible to gather data about your online store to answer the following questions: How many unique and return visitors does your site have? How did these people arrive at your site? What keywords do they use? What is your bounce rate? By answering these questions, you gain the ability to both challenge and validate the assumptions you made about your customers’ buying habits when you mapped out your business model, allowing you to tweak your store’s execution strategy.

Web analytics is a major part of determining the success of your online presence. You can use web analytics to measure how your website functions as a tool for your business. As a business owner, you know that advertising can either help or hurt your online business depending on how it affects your cash flow. In using web analytics, you can evaluate how advertising really helps your website perform by assessing its contribution to your business.

Checking your website’s performance

To start using web analytics, you need to define the purpose of having your website. Do you sell specific goods on your site? Is it an online shopping cart? Are you offering services or simply provide content to those who share the same interests with you? Do you want your website to be a place where your customers can give their views on your products? Classifying your website is crucial to knowing how it will play a key role in growing your business. This will also help verify the type of data that should be monitored in web analytics, regardless if it is customer retention or augmenting sales.

Setting goals and metrics to increasing site productivity

Once you’ve identified what kind of website you are putting up, you can now use web analytics to determine your own benchmark. You can start by listing down what is important for your business in line with the purpose of the website, and use this to set the bar on how to measure performance. If you have an e-commerce site, you can use web analytics to track sales conversions. If you plan to use your website for lead generation or for sharing of interests, then web analytics will give you information on the number of page views, membership subscriptions, or file downloads. You can craft a customized marketing strategy based on your needs, and this will help determine your advertising costs. When you follow a carefully devised advertising campaign, it will be easier to see the impact based on the results using web analytics.

How to measure effectiveness of marketing strategies

How your site visitors ended up on your homepage is vital. When you launch an advertising campaign, you can trace their user activity using web analytics. You get to learn whether your search engine optimization was effective enough when statistics show that most of these users came from search results. Or if an existing affiliate program is working well for you by referring more people to visit your site, you can decide to continue this program. Comparing unique visitors versus actual sales, you can assess if the campaign was a success only in spreading the word about your site. This way you get to pinpoint which strategy is effective for increasing product awareness, and which is highly recommended for increasing revenue.

Take time to observe and gather statistics until you’ve reached a substantial amount of information on site activity. Keep in mind that it is possible to get both quantitative and qualitative data from web analytics, and the idea is to pay attention to the behavioral patterns of your site visitors. For example, unique visits are high on your homepage yet only a small number of these visitors continue to sign up on the subscription page. You can test the visitor experience of your website from the time a user arrives on the homepage until how a user gets directed to the sign up page.

The results of your advertising campaigns are of great consequence to measuring site performance. With various tools for web analytics it has become easier to create a yardstick for checking your website’s impact to the business. You wouldn’t want to waste your money on advertising that does not give you the results you wanted. Using web analytics to measure the effectiveness of advertising results, you now be confident enough to make sound decisions that can help improve both your website and your business.

header image courtesy of Cosmin Capitanu

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.