Reducing checkout errors using event tracking

Big hat tip to Joe Megibow for providing the inspiration for this post. At the recent eMetrics conference Joe talked about how Expedia is listening to their customers and using web analytics and monitoring techniques to fix problems with their site, particularly in the checkout process. Especially for online retailers fixing and reducing checkout problems means higher conversion rates and money in the bank.

Of course the first step to fixing something is knowing that there is a problem in the first place, and customers may not always be kind enough to tell you about it. As it happens, event tracking is ideally suited to tackle this issue and track error messages that customers see as they progress through the checkout pages. All we have to do is fire off events when these various errors messages are displayed on the page. Event tracking is very flexible in that I don't have to know the actual error message ahead of time; we just send the error message itself as an action. The additional benefit of event tracking is that it is completely separate from the traditional web analytics pageview model. Just say no to fake pageviews!

Anyway, here is an example of a Yahoo! Store checkout page, but you should be able to do this in other platforms.

(Click for larger)

Not only are we seeing the various error messages (there are probably more than a dozen) that can happen, but two of them are already standing out. I will not attempt an analysis here, but the point is that we can start asking the right questions by seeing this type of data.

Since event tracking is still in beta and implementation of this technique depends on how error messages are displayed on the page I won't try to detail the steps involved, but anyone interested to learn more, feel free to contact me or ping me on Twitter/monitus and I will send you in the right direction.