This article explains a solution for high bounce rates, low pageviews per session, and low ecommerce conversion rates in your Google Analytics User ID view. Chances are, you’re giving single users multiple User IDs.
Google Analytics’ User ID feature purports to identify and then match up all sessions and onsite interactions for a single user across devices.
Unfortunately the documentation from Google on the User ID is not great and is more suited towards simple implementations. I work with multinational enterprise retailers and often find unexpected behaviour.
For instance, I have had User ID live on one retailer for around one month. Reviewing the data for the User ID view in comparison to the main GA view, I can see that:
- Pages per session are far lower for the User ID view
- Bounce rate is far higher for the User ID view
- Transactions and Conversion Rates are far lower for the User ID view
Digging around a little further I can see some odd behaviour. The Landing Pages report is a great place to start.
According to the User ID view, no session starting on the homepage lead to a transaction. Not one! Compare that to the main view and the thousands of transactions I can see there. Something is amiss.
The Landing Pages report also shows me that some of the most popular landing pages are in the account details and order summary pages – those pages users see just after they’ve logged in.
So the obvious place to start looking is the login area. Remember that only hits that have a User ID value (or those earlier in the session, with session unification turned on) are recorded by your User ID view. Something is obviously happening with the User ID around logging in. Are they losing their User ID?
I then test a number of different scenarios:
- A new user, visiting the site, adding some products to basket, creating an account and checking out.
- A returning user, not logged in, visiting the site, adding some products to basket, logging in and checking out.
- A returning user, logged in, visiting the site, adding some products to basket and checking out.
In each case I have the inspector open and am querying the contents of the data layer (via the command ‘dataLayer’).
What I can see tells me exactly what has happened. Why the bounce rates are high, pages per session are low, and conversion rates and transactions are low for the User ID view.
It all comes down to how the persistent basket – the functionality that keeps products in your bag from visit to visit – works.
On some platforms, as soon as a user adds something to the basket they get assigned an ID. This is for your back end systems – and is likely the value you are using for your User ID.
In scenario 1, the user gets assigned the next available ID within the back end system. This is kept as their ID when they create their account and checkout. That’s fine.
In scenario 3, the user has their ID available in the data layer from landing on the site all the way through to checkout. That’s also fine.
Scenario 2 creates problems though. The user comes to the site and isn’t logged in. Maybe they’re using a new computer or phone, or borrowing a friend’s tablet to browse. They add a product to their bag. This triggers the persistent basket functionality and the back end assigns the next-available ID to that user. This is picked up by GA and used as the User ID. Session unification assigns their earlier pageviews to this specific User ID.
Then that user has to log in to complete their checkout. They already have an account from registering earlier in the year and so login. Upon logging in, the back end pushes their original ID to the data layer – the ID of the account they’d created earlier in the year, a different ID to the next-available ID necessitated by the back end system.
This new ID is picked up and used by GA as the User ID. To Google Analytics, a new, unique user has visited the site, landing on the ‘Order Summary’ page. And the previous user, who landed on the homepage and added products to his bag, has left.
- High bounce and exit rates
- Low ecommerce transactions and conversion rates
- Low time on site metrics
But, most importantly, the single individual has been seen as two different users by the GA report that promises to stop this happening.
The solution is not particularly difficult. Depending on your platform and setup, it is just a simple matter of configuring the User ID (&uid) field or variable to be set only on certain pages – or, more simply, to not be populated on the adding to bag/persistent basket functionality. Depending on the platform, you could also configure it to not create, or push to data layer, an account number upon add to bag. The GA session cookie should still persist throughout this so you should not see an increase in sessions per user or other such metrics.