Google Analytics is an incredible tool for all of the different bits of wisdom it provides to marketers. But the one thing it cannot tell you is critical, lest you view your web analytics as the end all be all of the data you need to make decisions.
What Is Google Analytics Good For?
Google Analytics, indeed any web analytics platform, is an excellent source of quantitative data. It can tell you who is visiting your site, what pages they are most interested in, where they are getting lost, and more. Navigation patterns, traffic sources, and conversion data is all crucial to optimizing your user experience and your marketing strategy.
But quantitative data is just one kind of data we need.
What Is Google Analytics Bad At?
While Google Analytics can tell you what is happening and how it is happening, it cannot begin to explain why something is happening. That is qualitative data, and it is just as important to understand how to improve your website, thereby improving the customer journey.
To get the answer to the “why” question, you need to go beyond Google Analytics.
Sources of Qualitative Data
Once you have used Google Analytics to examine where your users are having trouble, you will want to know why. You can look at the pages that they exit from with the smartest minds in your company, and each one of them will come up with a reason that answers the “why” question.
This is where most companies stop, deciding to listen to the person in the room with the most authority and design solutions that solve their chosen “why”. But your company is smarter than that. So what do you do to go further?
Surveys – whether you are surveying users as they move through your site or sending them a follow up email, surveys allow you to ask questions about their behavior that go beyond analytics. You can ask them why they chose to visit the site, what they were looking for, and why they did or did not end up completing a purchase.
Focus Groups – getting a bunch of your customers/users in a room together and asking them questions about why they shop with you, and what they like or dislike about the experience of using your website, is a great way to get ideas about how to improve from the very mouths of your user base.
Interviews – one on one conversations with different customers combine the best of surveys and focus groups, giving folks a prominent voice and asking them to explain their behavior in depth.
When Does A/B Testing Come In?
A/B testing is another way to generate great quantitative data, after incorporating solutions derived from the qualitative sources above. You can get very close to defining why your users are behaving in a certain way, because you asked them. Then you took those answers back to your designers, developers, and product teams, and they created new experiences meant to solve any and all issues that people are having on your website.
That is where A/B testing comes in. You apply their changes and test them against the current website, to see if the applied solutions end up improving activity on the website.
You can do this on the live website, with all of your users as a test group, or in a more controlled-way, observing how individual users interact with the different versions of your site and asking them for feedback directly.