Analytics

How to Use Custom Sequence Segments in Google Analytics

Learn how to build multi-step segments that combine key user actions to help you visualize how UX impacts conversions.

How to Use Custom Sequence Segments in Google Analytics

Have you ever wondered how a particular feature or banner on your site affects conversions? Of course you have!

You may look at data from:

  • Custom events: Unique event clicks and conversion rates for sessions that triggered a particular event
  • Page value: The amount of revenue generated from sessions that view a particular page (i.e. sale/promo page)
  • Custom metrics: The roll up of event data into numeric values that you can compare in bulk across pages
  • 3rd party heatmap/click tracking tools like Hotjar, Crazyegg, etc
  • Custom goals: Destination or event based goals based on user behavior

These are all valid ways to analyze and I’ve previously demonstrated how to use event data like this in post deployment feature analysis.

But how about analyzing multiple features/banners and how they work together in affecting conversions? I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that a single banner or feature, alone, is not likely to be the sole driver of conversions.

Lets take a look at a few examples.

Example # 1: Sitewide Promotion Messaging

A user sees a banner on your homepage or a sitewide promo bar showcasing a 30% off sale => then browses category pages and maybe sees a sale product flag => then visits a product that interests them. Now they see urgency messaging about the limited time sale (e.g. only xx hours left!) and limited inventory (e.g. only 2 remaining!!), etc.

Sales are a huge driver in many eCommerce businesses but are all of these UX gimmicks helping or hurting conversions when included in the same path to conversion for a user?

Understanding how your sitewide promotion and urgency messaging resonates with users will help improve conversions, future UX updates, marketing, and a/b testing hypothesis.

Example # 2: Cross/Up Sells in Shopping Carts

You’ve done the hard work getting a user to discover and add a product to their shopping cart. Now they are in the cart and you’re following the “grocery line” concept. Lets see if that user will add more items to their cart so we can boost the overall AOV. You might try to accomplish this through:

  • Free shipping threshold (e.g. “Add $15 more to your cart and get FREE SHIPPING!”)
  • Discount thresholds (e.g. “Add $35 more to your cart and get 20% OFF!”)
  • Cross-sell products: Show the user products that might be a good fit based on what they have in their cart (e.g. matching pants with your shirt)

These examples can be extremely fruitful to boosting your AOV and thus revenuer per user (RPV). But you also risk sending that customer back into your shopping funnel searching for more products where they ultimately end up exiting because they couldn’t find any additional products to add, encounter friction, etc.

So – how can you analyze examples like these using advanced custom segments in Google Analytics? Using Sequence Filters as part of your segment.

What is a Sequence Segment in Google Analytics?

A sequence segment in Google Analytics allows you to combine one or more behaviors (e.g. clicked or viewed something) and/or traits (e.g. from mobile device or geo location), from users or sessions, into a custom filter that you can apply to your standard reports.

In short, you can see how your website conversion and engagement metrics differ after users complete multiple actions on your website within a defined sequence.

Enough definitions – lets see how to create a segment using example # 2 above!

How to Create a Sequence Segment in Google Analytics

Within any Google Analytics report click on +Add Segment at the top and click New Segment in red once the segment list is expanded:

add new segment in google analytics

Now we’re ready to build this sequence segment out. Using example # 2 above, I will presume the following steps taken by a user:

  1. They’ve viewed the cart page (/cart) after adding an item to their shopping cart
  2. While on the cart, they’ve seen a free shipping threshold notice (see example below) which leads them back to shopping where they add another item to the cart
  3. They then view the cart page (/cart) a 2nd time after adding to cart

free shipping threshold in cart

There are actually a few different segments we can create from this example:

  1. The happy path where a user makes it back to the cart a 2nd time after adding another product to cart
  2. The kind-of-happy path where a user makes it back to the cart a 2nd time but without adding a new product
  3. The not-so-happy path where a user exits before making it back to the cart a 2nd time

Lets take the happy path while creating this new segment.

  1. Click on “Sequences” under the Advanced option where you’ll see STEP 1
  2. Your first step configuration should be like this: “Include > Sessions > Sequence start: Any user interaction”
  3. Then select “Page” in the dropdown which is where you’ll select your cart page URL. In this example, I’m using a Shopify cart page URL however yours may be different. You can type into the text field to see a list of all URLs that contain cart in them:

step 1 sequence segment in ga

Once you’ve created this first step then it’s time to move on to the add to cart event step. If you have enhanced eCommerce implemented then this should be easy for you otherwise you can use custom events that you might have setup for add to cart actions.

So for STEP 2, click the “And” button to the right and keep the “is followed by” option selected (instead of is immediately followed by). Then select Event Action and include your event name for add to cart actions. Again using Shopify as an example – “Added Product” – is a native event that triggers on add to carts. This will likely be very similar for Magento and other platforms as well.

step 2 sequence segment

And finally we need our last STEP 3 where we’ll again click the “And” button to the right and keep “is followed by” option selected. This step should mirror STEP 1 where the user is viewing the cart page.

So our final sequence looks like this:

how to create sequence segment in google analytics

If you’ve set this up correctly then you should see a summary to the right that shows how many users fit this sequence. Once you’re satisfied click SAVE and you now have a fancy new sequence segment!

How to Analyze Sequence Segments

The first place you’ll want to go in search of insights is how this segment compares to the all users segment for conversion metrics:

multi cart viewer google analytics segment

But to really unlock how your cart promotion features perform you might want to compare this segment to a segment of cart pageviews only:

cart segment comparison

Or how about how many users view their cart => add to cart => but DON’T make it back to the cart:

sequence segment without 2nd cart pageview

YIKES! Over 4,000 users are leaving the cart, adding another item, but never make it back! And this is almost the same % of users that do make it back to the cart (i.e. 50% of users don’t make it back to their cart).

There are certainly some takeaways with this example – if 50% of users don’t make it back to the shopping cart should you consider a/b testing the free shipping threshold to hopefully see if users continue to checkout without leaving their cart on the first view?

Wrapping Up

Sequence segments in Google Analytics provide a level of analysis that require stretching your imagination and a solid understanding of your onsite custom behavior events to unlock these new data nuggets :). But the questions that you can answer via sequence analysis is truly amazing.

Here are additional ways that you can customize your own sequence segment setup:

  1. Create include or exclude sequence filters
  2. Create segments based on sessions or users
  3. Select a sequence start condition of “Any User Interaction” or “First User Interaction”; where first user interaction means this is the first interaction as part of the user session
  4. Select options when adding multiple steps to have a step “Immediately followed by” which means the next step has to follow in exact sequence OR “Followed by” which means this step happens at any point after the first step

Give it a try for yourself and let us know how your own segment creation works for you in the comments below.

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Brad Redding

Brad, co-founder of Elevar, has lived in eCommerce for over 12 years. He's helped design, build, and optimize over 100 websites in his career. From new retail startups to well-known brands like Le Creuset, Signature Hardware, Rebecca Minkoff, Char-Broil and more, he specializes in data analytics and conversion optimization to help achieve business goals.

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