Irate customers, missing shipments, damaged products, returns, chargebacks… Oh wait, did you check your Google Analytics data today?

No. No you didn’t.

It’s ok. No one’s judging you. As an eCommerce owner you’re always running to put out fires or handle things that require immediate attention. You wear many hats and rarely do you have time to sift through the day’s numbers. To be honest, as a business owner there are probably only a few really important metrics you care about anyway.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for that. It’s called Custom Alerts, a very nifty Google Analytics feature that is rarely used. That’s surprising because setting up custom alerts in Google Analytics can save you a lot of time and help you manage your store a lot better.

In this post, we’ll look at how to set up custom alerts in your Google Analytics dashboard, and the most important alerts that any eCommerce business owner needs to set up. While you read this, fire up Google Analytics and set up the alerts in parallel. It’s really simple and the whole thing will only take 5 minutes (7 if you’re sipping some hot coffee simultaneously).

What Are Custom Alerts

So Google Analytics has this section in the Reporting tab called ‘Intelligence Events’. It sounds like a division of the CIA, but it’s really not that cool. Intelligence Events is just an intelligent-sounding name for alerts.

Google analytics eCommerce custom alerts

Even though you’ve never used this feature before, don’t be surprised to find that there are already some alerts set up. These are Automatic Alerts that are pre-built into Google Analytics. What we’re interested in are the Custom Alerts which are right next to the automatic ones.

Now, of course, you won’t have any custom alerts to start with so to set one up you’ll need to hit ‘Create a Custom Alert’. You can also hit ‘Manage Custom Alerts’ which will take you into the Admin section and let you create them from there. Either way, you’ll see a screen like this –

Google analytics eCommerce custom alerts

You give the alert a name, pick an alert period (daily, weekly, or monthly) and then set up the conditions. We’ll go into more detail about the conditions soon. The really cool thing about custom alerts is that you can receive an email or text message when your conditions are met, so don’t forget to set that up before saving the alert.

Ok, so now that you know the basics of setting up custom alerts, let’s look at some important ones for eCommerce businesses. Obviously you don’t want to be receiving alerts for every single event happening on your store, so we’ll be very selective.

Traffic

Traffic related alerts will give you a broad picture of the state of your website. These are typically daily alerts because you’ll want to know if anything major is happening on your site that needs your attention.

Sudden Spike In Traffic

A spike in traffic could indicate your new campaign is working, or that some big news site has covered you. You’ll need an alert immediately so that you can capitalize on this. For example, if an influential blogger has linked to your store, you can create a personalized CTA and welcome those visitors with a special discount.

These are the settings:

  • Period: Day
  • This applies to: All traffic
  • Alert me when: Sessions
  • Condition: % increases by more than
  • Value: Depends on how much your traffic varies on a daily basis. Enter a value that’s not too small to trigger an alert every day, but not abnormally large either. Around 50% should be fine.
  • Compared to: Previous Day

GA custom alerts

Sudden Drop In Traffic

Conversely, a drop in traffic means something bad is happening. It could be as simple as a problem with your Google Analytics connection, or something as catastrophic as your site going down. This can happen if you host your eCommerce store on your own servers. You might want to consider moving to a cloud hosted platform with a high uptime guarantee.

Related posts:  9 Paid eCommerce Tools for Serious Online Stores

For a drop in traffic, you can simply do the opposite of what you did in the previous alert, and set the condition to ‘% decreases by more than’, rather than ‘% increases by more than’. There’s also a special case for your site going down where your sessions will drop to 0. If you want to set that up, it will look like this:

  • Period: Day
  • This applies to: All traffic
  • Alert me when: Sessions
  • Condition: is less than
  • Value: 1

Drop In Engagement

Another disaster alert is when there’s a big drop in engagement on your site. That means the average time spent per visitor has suddenly gone down. This could be because some of your pages are extremely slow or unresponsive, or maybe your site has stopped loading properly on certain devices or browsers. In this case you’ll still see traffic, but they’ll only stick around for a few seconds before they leave.

To set this up, you want to get alerted when ‘Average Session Duration’ is less than the previous day by a large amount (if you want a comparative alert), or less than, say, 10 seconds (if you want an absolute alert).

GA custom alerts

Sales and Conversion Rates

Ok, it’s time for the real money stuff. Sales and conversion rate alerts can help you identify if you’re suddenly making a killing, or your business is tanking.

Spike In Revenue

More revenue is always great, but if there’s a sudden spike, you want to know immediately so that you can figure out what’s causing it and replicate it in the future. Maybe you created a new promotion that day. If so, you can create an annotation in your Google Analytics to indicate when this happened.

The settings are simple:

  • Period: Day
  • This applies to: All traffic
  • Alert me when: Revenue
  • Condition: % increases by more than
  • Value: Depends on how much your revenue varies on a daily basis.
  • Compared to: Previous Day

Drop In Conversion Rate

A large drop in conversion rates is definitely bad news. This could imply something has gone wrong with your checkout funnel. If you have set up a cart abandonment funnel in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see exactly where it has gone wrong.

If you’ve followed our cart abandonment guide, you would have set up a goal to track successful purchases. You can use that when creating this alert:

  • Period: Day
  • This applies to: All traffic
  • Alert me when: Goal Conversion Rate
  • Condition: % decreases by more than
  • Value: 50%
  • Compared to: Same day in previous week

GA custom alerts

Spike In Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is when someone visits a page on your site from an external source and then leaves that page without visiting any others. You can set alerts for the bounce rates for landing pages like your homepage, or any of your most visited product pages.

GA custom alerts

Stay Alert

The truth is you can set up alerts for almost everything. You can set up an alert for decreases in average order value for everyone purchasing from an iPhone, or an increase in unique orders for anyone from Russia. However, it’s important that you understand what your main business goals and metrics are before you set up alerts. As a business owner, you need to know what matters to you most, and get other people to deal with everything else.

And if you just want to see some nice graphs about your business instead of the mess that is Google Analytics, take a look at some of the reporting we have in LemonStand. We have a built-in integration with Google Analytics that pulls your numbers in and shows you the most important ones in easy to understand charts.

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