Articles in the Analytics 101 – The Basics Category

June 30 2008

U-Haul’s Shopping Cart System is a model of Excellence.


In about three weeks, I will be moving into a brand new two-level apartment across town. The apartment has a huge patio area, great location, a very nice and long bike / running trail, and a fireplace! I’ve never had a fireplace before, but again I’ve lived in South Florida for 9/10ths of my life, which begs the question “Why does an apartment in Boca Raton need a fireplace?”

Anyway, I have only used one moving service in my entire life – U-Haul. Normally when I am booking my truck reservation online, I am not paying attention to the functionality of the website or the load time of any of the pages – I’m looking for the biggest truck and most amount of supplies for the cheapest dollar amount. I had already booked a U-Haul truck a month ago, but all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I did not want to ruin my perfectly new king-size mattress and box spring set by dragging it across the moving truck’s rusty floor. So, I went to U-Haul’s website and ordered a set of King-size mattress bags.

It wasn’t until well after I had purchased these items when it struck me like a bolt of lightning: “That was a great shopping experience!”. I went back and traced my steps, and sure enough, I was right! Starting with the individual product page for the King-Size Mattress Bag, each step in the Shopping Process was smooth, easy, efficient, and effective. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a few days, so I’d like to share with you an image of the U-Haul Shopping Basket Page, and why I think it’s so awesome: (Click on image for a full-sized picture)

U-Haul's Shopping Basket

I like this so much because:

  1. Clean Site Architecture – The framework of the website is simple, easy, and clean.
  2. Item and Subtotal Review – I like the single-line review at the very top of this basket
  3. Shopping Cart Items Table – Look how clean and simple that is! You can update quantities easily, remove items at will, and a clear breakdown of the price of each item.
  4. Second Sub-Total Figure – I can’t explain it, but it makes me feel “safer” by having a second sub-total amount on the page…as if the cart is verifying itself.
  5. Action Buttons – The silver “Continue Shopping”, “Update Subtotal”, and “Checkout” buttons don’t clash with the page or seem obtrusive. They are sleek and neat.
  6. Free Shipping on orders over $25 – That’s a nice statement to have at the bottom of your shopping cart, where there would normally be white space. $25 is a very attainable amount, by the way.

Other notes from the shopping system (not pictured):

  1. Log-In Screen – A log-in screen follows this page. Normally, I dislike “create your account” steps in a shopping cart, but this one is so neat and effective that it wasn’t a problem. You enter in your email address and password, and you continue. I also like the fact that, if you’ve already created an account before, you can enter in your information in the ‘New Account’ area, and it’s smart enough to keep you moving forward, instead of serving up a “This account already exists” type of error. Very nice.
  2. Thank You Page – The order confirmation / “Thank You” page follows the same format as the rest of the cart, but it doesn’t leave you hanging. There are links to continue shopping and pictures of other stuff that I may be interested in.
  3. The Other Cart Pages – Shipping / Billing Info, Shipping Options, and the Review Your Order pages carry out the momentum that started at the shopping basket page. None of these pages are cluttered or lack pertinent information when you expected it. They also don’t refresh annoyingly when you update a cart item or change a shipping options – they have buttons that you click on to let you know when the page is going to refresh.
  4. Individual Item Pages – I’m also liking what I see with the individual item pages. Clean descriptions, well-written copy, and high-resolution images really do make a difference, folks.
  5. All Pages – In general, all pages are quick to load, they are all functional, and they have given me a very good experience – and left a very good impression with a very picky and observant customer. 🙂

I can go on and on about U-Haul until I move into my new apartment. So I’ll close this post by giving two thumbs up to U-Haul’s web development and analytics personnel for a job well done on their entire Ecommerce platform. You’ve definitely earned yourselves a returning customer, and I’ll definitely be recommending U-Haul to anyone who will listen to me. Now, let’s just hope the moving truck doesn’t break down on while on the road! 🙂

June 23 2008

Your “Thank You” page should not end the customer experience on your site.


There’s a joke in the Web Analytics community: “Your “Thank You” page should be your highest exited page” (which means that the highest percentage of people that leave your website are leaving at your “Thank You” page – which of course means that those people have all contacted you, requested more information, or probably bought something from your site).

I disagree. In fact, I think that it doesn’t matter what page your visitors leave your website from. For all you WWE wrestling fans out there, you will remember that some years ago, The Rock used to ask someone for their name, only to interrupt the person mid-answer with “It doesn’t matter what your name is!”, to a roaring ovation from the crowd. That’s how I feel about exit pages – “It doesn’t matter what page you leave from!”.

People have to leave your website eventually – it’s just a fact of life

Death, Taxes, and Website Exits – they all occur eventually. Visitors to your website can’t stay on your site forever, as much as we’d like for them to, they eventually have to go to work, to sleep, or walk the dog. However, quite a number of folks exert a tremendously unnecessary amount of energy into finite studies of their top exit pages, only to wind up right back where they originally started their analysis. Save yourself the trouble and anguish and understand that people, no matter how good your website is, will need to log-off at some point, unless they are attempting to set a Guinness Book of World Records feat by having the longest uninterrupted internet user-session.

…but it doesn’t have to be the “Thank You” page of your website!

So, a visitor comes to your website, likes what he or she sees, and contacts your for more information or purchases an item from your store. Fantastic! However, don’t send them home quite yet. Don’t serve them up a cold, one-line “Thank you for your order” or “We’ll get back to you ASAP” type of message, that doesn’t include your website’s framework or anywhere else for them to go. As I’ve mentioned a few times already on our blog, get creative with your “Thank You” page. Add some more information for them, a PDF for them to download, or even additional items that they may be interested in purchasing at a later date. Keep them “hanging around”, much like a store owner would want customers to continue to hang around their shop, shooting the breeze, talking about products or related industry info – giving the appearance of a busy store to everyone else.

Definitely don’t have a page with one short sentence, or something that quickly re-directs back to the homepage appear. You just converted them – why treat them like yesterday’s news? Keep them “hanging around”, keep it friendly and informative, and you will probably win yourself some returning customers.

June 17 2008

The difference between Landing Pages and Top Content Pages


It’s been a while since I’ve written a “The difference between…” post, but since this blog has received a lot of brand new subscribers over the past few days (welcome everyone!), I felt like one of my traditional blog posts would be in order. Oh, and tell everyone you know to subscribe to our Site Intelligence / Web Analytics blog – thanks, I appreciate it 🙂

I’ve written the following “The difference between…” blog posts so far:

The difference between Landing Pages and Top Content or Most Viewed Pages is actually a very easy difference to understand, but I have seen that quite a number of folks sometimes get the two confused or mixed up, so let’s clear the air, shall we?

The Top Content / Top Pages / Most Viewed Pages type of report
Whether you’re using Omniture SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics, or anything in between, a report like this is simply attempting to show you visits and pageviews to the many different pages on your website. They may show you the bounce rate of each page, but they are usually very simple reports by default, designed to give you a sense of how popular your website’s pages are. It doesn’t take into consideration where they came from or if they’ve been there before – again, its main objective is to collect visits, pageviews, and time on site metrics (and depending on your analytics package, bounce rate as well).

Top Landing Pages / Top Entry Pages type of report
This report is designed with one metric in mind – the bounce rate that we analysts love so very much. This report is specifically designed to show you what pages were used by your visitors as entry pages to your website, and what each page’s bounce rate is. In Google Analytics, this is a very simple but very effective and strong report – if you see a popular page on your website with a very high bounce rate, you may want to investigate as to why so many people are landing and leaving right away (or, without visiting any other page on your site).

Pretty simple, right? Whenever you see “Entry Page” or “Landing Page” as the name of your report, just know that this isn’t counting every page of your website – only pages that were used as entrance pages.

…and, in case you were wondering what the heck I’m talking about when I say “bounce rate”, check out my post on it from some months ago, and you’ll be all caught up! 🙂

Thank you for reading – and again, welcome all new subscribers!

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