There are three keys to growing your online business using data analysis:

1. Capturing your ‘big data’ in a meaningful way

2. Regularly analyzing the data you are collecting

3. Continuous optimization of your efforts based on your insights for continuous improvement.

1. Capturing data

Capturing your data is one of the most vital steps in your digital strategy. Focus on how to capture ‘valuable’ information and how to intelligently manage it to provide profitable insights via data analysis.

To drive business growth, you need to identify your data resources, business goals and have the right technology / tools in place.

2. How do I analyze my ‘big data’?

Data analysis can help small business owners meet their business goals.

Many business owners believe that they don’t have time to track analytics or are scared off by the technical nature of data and data analysis. There are several different ways that you can analyze your ‘big data’ and the time and / or cost to get yourself set-up and going with data analysis will well and truly give you a return on your investment and then some, particularly over the longer term as you understand more about analyzing your data.

There are 3 options for gathering your data and getting it analyzed:

1. Researching and setting up the tools and methods yourself

2. Enlist the expertise of a data specialist to do the work for you

3. Hiring a consultant that can guide you through a tried and tested process

If you are choosing option 1, then I would highly recommend you set-up Google Analytics. Google Analytics is the preferred eCommerce analytics platform for data analysis. It is the most popular tool used by almost 80% of all websites worldwide. And it’s free!

Google Analytics is fairly easy to set-up. The exact steps differ depending on what shopping cart you are using. You can do a ‘Google Search’ on “how to set up Google Analytics for ‘x’ shopping cart”. There are plenty of resources available online to complete this first step.

Alternatively, you might think that you have Google Analytics set-up because it has been connected to your online store. Connecting your store to Google Analytics is just the first step. The reason being that there are best practice settings for eCommerce in Google Analytics that need to be set once Google Analytics has been connected to your store.

Note: It can take up to 24 hours for Google Analytics to begin collecting information.

In digital marketing, it can take approximately 3 months capturing data in the optimal structure to have enough information to confidently see trends and patterns in your data analysis and to start to glean meaningful insights on your audience, your website performance, your product sales, marketing efforts and so on.

Once you start to see data flowing into your Google Analytics account, you can begin to explore the basic overview reports for data analysis. They contain stacks of information for you to investigate and look for meaningful insights.

These basic reports in Google Analytics include:

  • Real-Time: this report shows you what’s happening on your site in real time, including active users, their location, their traffic source and active pages.
  • Lifecycle:
    • Acquisition-this report tells how your visitors and customers found and arrived at your site. You will see traffic broken down by your social networks as well as the performance of your advertising campaigns
    • Engagement – this report gives you important information about your site and how your visitors are interacting with your website
    • Monetization – finally, this report gives you more information about your sales and conversions. You can set-up various goals for tracking key actions on your site and they will be reported here.
  • User: this report goes into details about the users such as their demographics, geography, interests, behavior, and tech which includes devices and browsers.

You should get into the habit of checking your Google Analytics a few times a week as you start to gather more data. Look at each of the basic reports over different time frames to see if you can see any interesting trends or patterns. You can find the gold nuggets by continuously asking the question ‘why?’, ‘why?’, ‘why?’ – when you know the why, you will have an insightful piece of gold that you can turn into a test or hypothesis to prove or disprove. This is the process that will set you on the right track to growing a sustainable online business.

Most small business owners I have worked with are so excited about the data and data analysis when they see the power of it. You can get addicted to it (well I certainly know I am, geek alert!).

IMPORTANT NOTE: on GA4 if you haven’t taken any action as yet. If you aren’t sure what GA4 is you can read more here. Universal Analytics standard properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2023. To maximize historical data and to ensure that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) meets your specific needs, Google recommends you make the switch to GA4 now.

For any business who does not set up a GA4 property with basic settings, starting in March 2023, Google will configure one with a few basic settings consistent with the existing Universal Analytics property; this includes certain conversion events, Google Ads links, and existing website tags.

3. Continuous optimization of your efforts based on your data insights – for continuous improvement

The benefit of data analysis only comes to fruition when you take the insights from the trends and patterns that you discover, test them and then apply the learnings accordingly. We call this closing the loop. Each insight, or ‘gold nugget’ as I like to call it, when applied and tested, is a marginal gain for you in better understanding your audience and how to communicate with them.

The gift of data is “data will talk to you, if you’re willing to listen” – Jim Bergeson.

Again, I would suggest that you schedule, once a week for data analysis and to look for insights that you can test and learn from. Some may take longer than others to test and learn, however, it is a good practice to employ as this is where you will discover your formula for long term growth and success.