Small Business Marketing: A Guide to Tracking E-Commerce Sales

Much like chocolate, questionable TV, and crunchy leaves, there’s some mysterious, addictive quality to online shopping.  Don’t take my word for it: Oberlo reported that there are 1.92 billion digital buyers shopping this year. (That’s literally a quarter of the global population, by the way.) It’s an explosive trend and those interested in small business marketing have taken note.

At Holstein Studios, our full roster of B2C marketing clients offer e-commerce options on their websites. That even includes the small businesses, solopreneurs, and those primarily serving the Seattle-based market! The proliferation of user-friendly e-commerce platforms makes debuting an online shop simple, even if you’re not tech-savvy enough to rotate a PDF (you know who you are).

A Facebook interaction with an out-of-state e-commerce shopper for one of our Seattle-based clients. Not bad for a farmers market-centric brand!

A Facebook interaction with an out-of-state e-commerce shopper for one of our Seattle-based clients. Not bad for a farmers market-centric brand!

Marketing to bolster e-commerce sales is a special treat. Why? It offers a unique opportunity for measurable results. While boosting brand awareness is fun in its own right, it’s hard to beat the gratification of seeing tangible results of your marketing efforts in the form of increased sales.

How To Spend Your Small Business Marketing Budget

There are so many digital marketing tactics at our fingertips and even small business owners and D.I.Y. marketers can try their hand at a number of techniques including a robust social media strategy, improved SEO, paid ads, and influencer campaigns.

For time-strapped small business owners, it can be hard to understand which marketing strategies are actually valuable. Or in other words - which tactics resonate enough with potential customers to inspire actual sales?

Lucky for you, the answer is hidden in your very own website.

Where Does My Website Traffic Come From? A Step-By-Step Guide

Using Google Analytics, an incredibly powerful web metrics platform, you can uncover information about how shoppers interact with your website. (And, pssst, let’s not bury the lead: this tool is completely free!). In today’s blog post, I’ve provided a step-by-step guide to understand where your shoppers come from and how they stumble upon your website.

Step 1: Create a Google Analytics Account

Okay, let’s start with a disclaimer. Is Google Analytics fabulous, powerful, and just the right price? Yes, yes, and yes. Is it easy to understand? I wouldn’t say so. Google Analytics is notoriously non-intuitive, but Google does provide a treasure chest of free resources to help you navigate the platform. Google Analytics For Beginners is a fabulous course to show you the ropes via 17 video lessons.

If you don’t have the time to spare, here’s a very-abbreviated walk-through of your account setup. Within your Google Analytics account, you can create a Property which represents your own individual website or app. Within the property, you can set up Reporting Views which filter out certain data including visits from your company's internal IP addresses, data associated with a specific sales region, etc.

Step 2: Add a Tracking Code to the Back-End of Your Website

An Google Analytics tracking code is a snippet of JavaScript that collects and sends data about actions that users take on your website. If you built your site using Wordpress, Squarespace, Shopify, or another mainstream service, there's likely an easily-accessible place to populate your website with your new tracking code. Your web developer can also do this fairly easily!

Step 3: Identify Sources of Web Traffic

In the left hand side bar of your analytics dashboard, select Acquisition under the Reports menu. After selecting the All Traffic dropdown, click on Source/Medium.

Find this drop down in the left-hand sidebar of your Google Analytics dashboard!

Find this drop down in the left-hand sidebar of your Google Analytics dashboard!

Your Source/Medium report will quantify how many visitors have stumbled upon your site and, more importantly, tell you how they got there. Here are a few examples of common traffic sources you’re bound to recognize:

  • Direct (may display as (direct) / (none): This accounts for traffic that navigated to your site by typing your URL into their browser or navigating there directly via a bookmark or saved link. This typically accounts for traffic that is familiar with your website already (e.g. a happy, returning customer or someone who’s explored your site before and wants to learn more).

  • Organic Search (may display as google / organic or bing / organic): Who doesn’t love some good ‘ole free traffic? (This is perhaps my favorite thing in the entire world.) This denotes the number of visitors who found your site via search engines, a hint that your current SEO strategy is doing its job.

  • Paid Search (may display as cpc): This figure illuminates how effective your cost-per-click advertising is in leading traffic to your website.

  • Referral Traffic (may display as Instagram / referral - or whatever web, social, or app source is referring traffic directly to your website): Learn which social platforms, blogs, or other online sources lead traffic to your website with the most frequency.

  • Create Your Own! Did you know you can embed tracking data into links using another free Google tool, the Campaign URL Builder? Input your URL, campaign source, medium, and name, and create a unique link that leads visitors to your landing page. When users click through the link, Google Analytics records the data and adds it to your Source/Medium report. This way, you can understand which specific post, email, or ad inspired satisfactory (or unsatisfactory) click-throughs. (And as you become more familiar with Google Analytics, you can actually track how far these users travel through your sales funnel, identifying whether they actually converted, abandoned their carts, etc.)

Of course, you can toggle to isolate specific dates in which you’ve received site visitors. In fact, you can narrow and isolate data in super creative and innovative ways using dimensions - see Google Analytics’ free academy for an in-dept walk-through.

Of course, you can toggle to isolate specific dates in which you’ve received site visitors. In fact, you can narrow and isolate data in super creative and innovative ways using dimensions - see Google Analytics’ free academy for an in-dept walk-through.

Step 4: Interpret Your Results and Modify Your Small Business Marketing

So…why do these numbers even matter? Think about all the time and effort you’ve poured into your marketing efforts (or how much you invest to outsource your marketing).Does your marketing strategy heavily depend on Instagram? Perhaps you’ve sunk a ton of resources into a recent influencer campaign or you spend hours tweaking email marketing design. The results from your Source/Medium reports are fabulous indicators of whether or not this is time well-spent.

Using Data to Optimize a Small Business Marketing Budget

Where does your audience like to hang out online? It depends upon your target customer. One of Holstein Studios’ confectionery clients serves a market that largely consists of 50+ women and we’ve found they love to engage with and click through Facebook content. Another consumer brand client specifically caters to 18-24 year old women, and Instagram ads have been overwhelmingly successful compared to content on other platforms.

Small business owners don’t have unlimited budgets and they certainly don’t have a ton of extra time to spare.Understanding your website analytics is the most accurate and informative way to make decisions about where to dedicate your small biz marketing budget.

Not Happy with Your E-Commerce Sales?

Data just doesn’t lie, does it? Sometimes taking a hard look at the performance of your marketing efforts is discouraging. But even D.I.Y. marketers or small businesses without an ongoing marketing budget can optimize their web content to encourage sales. Read about how Holstein Studios helped the Seattle-based Shrubbery spruce up their product photography and boost online sales here.