How Happy Herbivore Used Google Analytics to Acquire New Customers

It seems every blog post I write is a "draft" and nothing gets published. So I've taken Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman's challenge to heart which challenges you to write to one person.

Several times in the past year, Justin Jackson has tweeted his frustration with using analytics to effectively make business decisions.

After his tweet, I emailed him because I wanted to better understand his frustrations. Justin said

Any information that gets presented to me has to answer the question: "How do we get more customers?"

I can certainly relate to this frustration. However, we've been able to use Google Analytics to find real answers that help us make actionable decisions.

I run a business my wife start called Happy Herbivore where we sell digital products and cookbooks to consumers. Social media has always been an important part of how we engage with our customers.

When planning our goals for 2014 we certainly asked: "How can get more customers from Facebook?"

Now, we have always considered the Happy Herbivore Facebook page one of the two most important ways to generated sales.

For years, my standard report was to look at the Google Analytics Referral page with eCommerce data included. In the chart below, we generated $3,960 in gross revenue from customers using Facebook website and mobile. We share this information with the team on a weekly basis.

Google Analytics Referrals report

Since about January, we've been trying to increase Facebook sales but we've not been able to increase direct referral sales in the period. In fact, we've sold less directly in the last three months than we did in the first three months of the year. No matter how much time we spend engaging customers, posting memes, or sharing content.

Direct sales dropped.

But overall Facebook revenue increased.


In November of last year, we started using retargeting to bring back lost customers and it worked really well. As I started to learn more about retargeting and I became slowly more aware of how important branding is and how you might need dozens of interactions with a customer before they make a purchase.

How many purchases do you make the first time you see a product?

I know for myself it's rare they I don't do at least a small amount of research.

Retargeting had started to teach me that it's ok if people don't click your ads but still buy later. Interactions with ads works to reinforce your brand message and how you are trying to help your customers.

In February, we also started to run Facebook Ads promoting a email course. By this time we knew that we would have trouble generating more sales from Facebook with trying to find new customers. With Facebook ads we are able to target related Pages to attract new customers.

At Microconf, this year Annie Cushing introduced me to Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel reports. This report connects those previous "dozens of interactions with a customer" and combines your customers sales in a new column called "Assisted Conversion Value".

So I can see that Facebook was responsible for $X,000 of dollars in direct sales but Facebook assisted in almost 2X more sales.

This blew my mind. I'd seen the report before but I'd not made the connection at the time.

Here is what the report looks like when you first see grouped by marketing channel type.

Default Multi-Channel Report screen

The Multi-Channel Funnel report is a direct example of how engagement and branding result in sales. It shows you how your customers as a whole interact with your brand before a purchase.

Google Analytics Assisted Conversions

Over this period, Facebook is responsible for $11,150 in assisted conversion value and $6,082 of direct (last click) revenue. This means in this period, Facebook is responsible for $17,232 in sales which is fantastic! Compare that to the referral report where you are only getting the last click value over that same period of $3,960.

One question you might have is why doesn't last click value between the two reports match: $3,960 vs. $6,082. The short answer is they use different attribution models. You can read about attribution models.

How are Assisted Conversions values assigned? Here's Google's explanation.

Further reading on Google Multi-Channel Funnels.

The end result is that we got more customers not directly growing our Facebook page but by engaging new customers across the best medium; email. We also retarget customers on Facebook and the web and it has also played a huge part in our sales growth.

Without having the Google Analytic's Multi-Channel Funnel report it would be much harder for use to analyze the cumulative effect Ads, Email Courses, and Facebook activity had on our bottom line.

One of Justin's frustrations is that analytics tools should be simple and give you the answers your business needs.

My answer to that is that the bigger your business gets and the more complex a questions you start to ask. The more likely you will find value in a complex tool but you might need to learn it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

We think of our business very differently then we did even a year ago and we ask different questions. More often then not the questions are more complex. A year ago we did no advertising, did not use marketing automation, had no financial analytics, and no complex subscription dunning.

If you are only using referrals to understand the value of a marketing channel you will drastically under or over estimating that channels value. Putting your employees time and energy in the wrong place will effect your bottom line.


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Tags: Automation, Conversions, Marketing, Retargeting, Writing

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