Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Tim Leighton-Boyce
I help make ecommerce sites better for people who use them & people who own them.
I help make ecommerce sites better for people who use them & people who own them.

Tim's posts

Post has attachment
This is a great demonstration of how even Customer ID based tracking may not be telling you what, at first glance, appears to be the case.

I've seen some fascinating examples in my own use of ID tracking. Sometimes it's useful to dig into one ID just to see how unexpected the detailed data may be.

For example: one ID on one ecommerce site in one evening, placing an order:

A customer appears as 9 different sessions in GA.

She used 4 different devices - Android Tablet and Mac most of the time (the order was on the Mac) but also an iPad and a Windows machine.

On the Android Tablet she used two different browsers: Chrome and one built in to an app (I think)

On the Mac she used two browsers: Chrome and Firefox. The purchase was on Mac Chrome.

So that makes 6 different device/browser combinations.

She maybe used 4 different PPC ads to get to the site and also a lot of organic search.

So that makes 8 different device/browser/channel combinations (each of which = a new session in GA terms). The 9th session may have been because she closed the browser on Windows Chrome.

The real life session lasted from 20:39 until 22:21 although there was a 20 minute break right near the start. The purchase was completed at 21:25 after 51 page views -- call that 45 minutes.

After purchasing she looked at 50 more pages over the next hour.

Of the 9 sessions, 5 were reported as "new sessions" in GA and 4 were "returning".

What was going on? Was the site broken for some browser/device combinations.


When I say "she" was there just one person involved. This was in the evening. The site sells products for children. Was it two (or more!) people looking at various options before placing the order, all of them on devices which were kept signed in for convenience to the one account?

We just don't know. In fact this seems to be a classic example of the saying "them more we learn, the less we know" -- the more data we get and the more details we get, the less secure our old assumptions become. I haven't yet looked at the pages viewed during those hours. Of course that would give yet more illumination, especially about all that 'post purchase' activity. But who was actually behind all those cookies, and what were they thinking -- we're still guessing.

Post has attachment
Strange find of the day. I was in the German military cemetery in Annoeuillin when I came across this, complete with 'per ardua ad astra' inscription. It's the grave of British WWI flying ace, Albert Ball VC, set amongst trees (which are themselves circled by simple German crosses). There's also a monument marking where his plane came down in a nearby field. Very, very different from the 'big' memorials such as the Canadian one at Vimy. I found both of them very moving. 

Post has attachment
Peace garden at Imperial War Museum. But traffic noise drowns out the birdsong. 

Post has attachment
This is mesmerising. Part of the BBC's 'slow tv' project. No commentary, no music, just the meditative focus of people doing something very skilled. 

Post has attachment
Sitting on her bench in soft rain, I can see why perhaps this was the view which Beryl Fifield loved. 

Post has attachment
Four benches in a neglected corner - three on the path, one off.

Beryl Fifield 2002
Who loved this view

Trees block the view from the bench here. I suspect Beryl loved the bigger views round the corner, but without the new skyscrapers poking up into the horizon's sweep.

5 Photos - View album

Post has attachment
A dismal post-storm morning. But someone has left a basket of flowers, adding a poignant note. I've added a couple of ceramic rocks. I wonder how long each will last?

Post has shared content
If you're working on an ecommerce site and wonder how the 'sessions' point Simo is making here affects you, here's a GA segment which might illustrate the effect:

The segment shows sessions where the number of sessions to transaction is more than one (so 'returning' visitors making a purchase, in theory) and where the days to transaction is zero (the sessions were actually on the same day). Many of these orders were probably part of single 'real life' visit which was split by the standard sessionisation schema.

The segment works well on the 'Sessions to Transaction' tab of the 'Time to Purchase' report.
The Schema Conspiracy

Behind the dramatic title is a rant I've made so very, very often in workshops, trainings, and consultation work. 

Have you ever actually stopped to consider just what metrics you are optimizing against when using a web analytics platform? Google Analytics, for example, stitches the raw hit-level data coming in from the website into Sessions and Users. The latter has some grounding in the real world (all hits shared by a single clientId), but the former is completely arbitrary, artificial, and irrelevant.

Never mind the vague description of what constitutes a session in Google Analytics, because it rarely has anything to do with the thing we're really trying to convert against: a user with some specific intent. Intent is tricky, since it can span across many "Sessions", devices, days, weeks, and even websites. But that's what we should be interested in.

Conversion Rate, for example, is an inherently flawed metric, as it's bound to the concept of Sessions. Change the definition of a session even a little bit, by e.g. increasing or decreasing session timeout, and Conversion Rate will change.

I wrote this article to vent, but I have found that many seem to forget what I consider the basic tenet of data collection and processing: the numbers you see in reports make sense only if you understand and accept the underlying schema.

So this is more a call for critical thinking than a request to change how these tools work (though I do rant a bit about this as well).

Post has shared content
Fascinating and frightening post on analysis of ecommerce returns showing a double whammy. Some types of campaign are leading to orders which have an above average returns rate. On top of that, those returns are coming from customers who are likely to be lost as a result. Although the actual numbers are not revealed, I certainly trust the source.

Post has attachment
The Endless Suck of Best Practice and Optimisation Experts — Medium

Craig Sullivan lets rip on an important theme: most of the best practice advice you read is not wrong, but it's not 'right' for you either. The more time I spend working on sites, the more I see his point confirmed. 
Wait while more posts are being loaded