What Google Analytics can tell you about COVID-19

Consumer behaviour has changed as a result of COVID-19. McKinsey1 report that people are spending more time online – and forming new shopping habits. At AWA, our analysts have noticed an influx of new visitors to many websites, often accompanied by dramatic changes in purchase patterns.

Companies with a well-developed analytics function have performed significantly better than competitors who do not have such capabilities. Clearly, the more you know about changes in customer behaviour that can impact your business, the better you are able to respond.

Google Analytics (GA) is a great source of this behavioural data. Unfortunately, there is so much of it that it can be overwhelming. Analysis paralysis happens when you spend hours digging through data without taking any action.

If you don’t have a mature analytics function, here is a useful approach to understand the changes in your business. Frame your analysis by looking for answers to these questions:

  1. Where do your visitors come from?
  2. What do they do on the site?
  3. Where are the conversion blocks?

Compare post-lockdown with the period immediately before, as well as the same time last year. Analysis doesn’t have to be any more complex than looking for changes in patterns i.e.:

  • What’s different?
  • What’s similar?

Do this on an aggregate level, where all the data is rolled up, but also for the top three or so segments.

For each of the three questions above, here are some of the reports and techniques we’ve found useful as we’ve analysed the shifts in behaviour for our clients.

Where do your visitors come from?

1. Acquisition channels

Some companies have cut marketing to the bone, but this may actually present an opportunity for you to increase share of voice at a lower cost. The Acquisition report (acquisition> all traffic> channels) gives you an idea of the effect of your marketing.

Metrics to look at:

  • Conversion rate and how it is has changed
  • Cost of acquisition (you may have to import this from other sources)
  • Calculate your cost per acquisition/ return on ad spend

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • Get a perspective on what are the most effective channels for you
  • Although you may not spend directly on organic search, remember to attribute relevant costs to SEO e.g. content creation
  • Optimise your spend to concentrate on the channels which are driving you the best traffic at the best price

What do they do on the site?

1. How people are interacting with your site

Start with the topline view (in the audience> overview report)

Metrics to look at:

  • Time on site
  • Pages per session
  • Sessions per user

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • How many pages are they viewing? How many sessions are they using to find these?
  • You may find, for example, that your visitors are spending longer than before. Why could that be? Is the answer perhaps in a certain segment like new visitors? In GA, it’s easy to drill deeper to build up layers of your understanding.
  • Get a perspective of visitor interest in your content and offering. The lower any of these signals are, the more you might need to promo and/or change your merchandising. In terms of promotion and merchandising it isn’t just what you promote, but how you do it. Are you using the right promotional areas? Are you showing large and alluring pictures (and the right pictures in your copy)?

2. Day parting

Around lockdown we noticed changes in daytime visiting patterns. As lockdown was being relaxed, this was still the case. Do you spot any changes in time of day people are visiting your site? If you segment by mobile vs desktop at this time you should also be able to understand how the behaviour between platforms has changed.

Things to note:

  • Different patterns of use during the daytime or evening, influenced by remote working
  • Weekend vs weekday use
  • Different uses of mobile vs desktop in either/both of these times

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • How patterns of usage that have developed in this new work from home era
  • Which platforms are getting more focus
  • Which platform (desktop vs mobile) to look at situating your promos
  • Look at site search browsers vs buyers

3. Look at site search emerging searches and patterns

Look at the difference between searchers and browsers (behaviour > site search > usage). This report gives you the difference between site searchers and those that don’t search. We know that site searchers have a higher intent to purchase (they’re actively looking for something as opposed to non-site searchers/browsers). The interesting thing is to note how the difference in conversion between site search users and browsers changes over time.

Metrics to look at:

  • % of site search users
  • Site search conversion and non-site conversion (and the difference between this before and after)

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • Has site search become more or less important?
  • If less people are using site search does that mean that there are more browsers and less demand for specific products (this can speak to less advertising upstream potentially by brands)
  • Has browsing become more popular? (It probably will have as more people have concerns about purchasing non-essential items). This speaks to the importance of merchandising relevant products and the efforts you use to sell these.

How are search patterns changing? What insights does this give you about your merchandising? If you look at the search terms report (behaviour> site search> search terms) you’ll get a perspective about what people are searching for. It’s helpful to look at least the top 50 terms and compare their performance.

Metrics to look at:

  • Search terms and how they’ve changed over time
  • Analyse the top search terms and annotate whether they’re brands, own branded products or products

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • Which products have become more (and less) important over time. This can help you direct your merchandising and promo efforts
  • Are people buying brands (e.g. Nike) or products (e.g. football boots) or own branded products (e.g. Asda football boots). As you look at these, these will give clues as to people’s objectives and their disposable income and what they’d like to spend money on. Again these can be used to aid merchandising, cross sell, email and homepage marketing.

Revenue makeup. All revenue is not created equal. Some people are purchasing full price high margin items, others are buying discounted low margin items. It’s good to understand what is happening to your revenue so you can understand what is motivating your visitors. Also, in terms of merchandising it can be interesting to look at popular products (conversions> ecommerce> product performance)

Metrics to look at:

  • Look at products that have been comparatively more / less successful
  • Search in the search box to understand revenue on specific brands
  • Don’t look at high revenue items only, click on the “quantity” column to search for lower cost high volume sales

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • Which brands and products need to be prioritised to be sold and merchandised
  • There can be other products of a lower cost which could be great cross/up sell opportunities

Where are the conversion blocks?

  1. Look at your funnel

Start by looking at differences between buying vs browsing behaviour. The easiest way to do this is to look at your shopping behaviour report (Conversions > Ecommerce > Shopping report).

If you haven’t got this set up properly, and you have your site pages tagged by category (e.g. pdp or basket), then look at these pages in the site content report.

It’s also interesting looking at the checkout report (right below the shopping behaviour report).

Things to note:

  • What is the use of product listings pages, PDPs and basket pages and how this has changed
  • How does this change when they’re in the basket and progressing further down the funnel

What this will tell you and how to use it:

  • This will tell you how people are using the site, are they browsing and looking at many products? Are they dropping off at a certain stage? Are they looking at fewer products per person?
  • Once you have a perspective of how their behaviour has changed you can look at your merchandising and how you are using this to aid progressions further down the funnel using promos, usually bought with, bestsellers in this category or current favourites
  • What we’re seeing with some of our clients is a decrease in shopping behaviour (so more browsing, but less adding to basket), when they do add products to their basket, they tend to progress further to conversion, but fewer customers are proceeding to purchase

Having the data at your fingertips is only the start. If you’ve observed key changes, how should you respond to that? If a KPI is significantly down, what can be done to recover? For each opportunity, formulate a hypothesis – a theory about how you might improve that. Don’t commit to any interventions without A/B-testing it first. That is the best way to consistently improve the performance of your site.

If you have any questions or need help with A/B testing, contact us.



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Posted in: Google Analytics

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