Interview with Simo Ahava: E-commerce isn’t just about transactions

simo-ahava-speaker-gpec-summit-2015Our GPeC Team interviewed Simo Ahavaan expert in customized web analytics solutions and tag management in e-commerce, specialized in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager and named Developer Expert for Google Analytics in 2014-2015 by Google. Simo is dedicated to the interface between marketing and development and his main focus is data management. He is currently the Production Director of NetBooster. Simo has been doing web development and SEO since 1997, web analytics since the early days of JavaScript tagging, Google Analytics since the library was urchin.js and Google Tag Manager since its release.

You can meet Simo for the first time in Romania at GPeC Summit (Bucharest, May 11-12-13 2015)! He will deliver both a keynote speech on May 11 and a workshop on Enhanced E-Commerce on May 12. It’s a must-attend for all those who want to make more out of their data!



We all love e-commerce and the web because they are so easy to measure. However, we’ve been saying that for years, but things have gotten more and more complicated and now it seems more and more difficult to realize what is is you should be measuring. How can online shops realize what the main KPIs they should focus on are?

I actually disagree. eCommerce and web have never been easy to measure, but our tools for measurement have improved and made it more manageable. The big illusion is that “data is easy”, but it isn’t. Growing a business with data is difficult in a competitive market where everyone else is working smart with data as well.

Understanding key business objectives for an eCommerce site is key to implementing a good measurement plan. It’s not simply about getting more revenue, but about reaching new audiences, optimizing visitor flow, making sure funnels are nice and fat in the bottom end as well, and so forth.

There are lots of tools for benchmarking, and Google Analytics has released benchmark reports as well. These combined with an agile implementation system, such as Google Tag Manager, will help data organizations adopt an agile approach to improving eCommerce measurement. It’s never just about setting KPIs and then watching the data flow in. You have to get your hands dirty and tune the measurement method over and over again.

On your blog and in your keynotes you talk a lot about tag management systems and especially Google Tag Manager. What are the pros and cons of tag management for e-commerce? When and why should an online shop install a tag management system?

I don’t really think of in terms of pros and cons, but in terms of “do it now!” and “what are you waiting for!” :) Tag management solutions aren’t really an optional course of action; they’re the logical next step in the evolution of tag-based measurement. There’s nothing about a TMS that should be avoided in some website. Some tag management solutions have more refined features for different purposes, but they key thing about any TMS is that they help make measurement more manageable, again.

I think for ANY website / digital property where tracking is important to implement well, with agility, and with all the latest features of the measurement platform you’re tracking to (e.g. Google Analytics, DoubleClick, etc.), a tag management solution is a logical step to take. There’s a slight learning curve, especially if you’re a non-developer, but once you understand the terminology, it becomes such a time-saver for all stakeholders in a data organization.

Just don’t forget one thing: it does NOT replace IT / web developer involvement. You’ll still need to trust your developer colleagues, and you’ll still need their help with implementing eCommerce tracking and a proper data layer. But a TMS streamlines everything about on-site tracking, and you’ll find yourself attacking your KPIs with newfound excitement in no time.

At GPeC Summit you’ll be delivering a speech on Enhanced E-Commerce, the new Google Universal Analytics feature. What’s so cool about it in a few words?

It’s a perfect way to analyze your site through funnels. e-commerce isn’t just about transactions. It’s also about optimizing visitor flow, and optimizing product exposure to visitors. With Enhanced Ecommerce, you can follow both visitors AND products through the key funnel stages of your webstore.

Things like buy-to-detail and cart-to-detail ratios tell you directly if you have problems in your funnel, or if some products are vastly underperforming. This type of “missed opportunity optimization” is an incredible asset to have when designing the shopping flow of your webstore.

Enhanced Ecommerce won’t work with all the stores in the web. It does require a quite specific, albeit very common, store type with a clearly defined set of actions.

Regardless of whether you adopt Enhanced E-commerce or not, I like to think of it as foreshadowing what’s coming up in Google Analytics. Funnel-based measurement is just so incredibly useful compared to the last-step measurement of traditional, receipt-page eCommerce.

How do you see the feature of web analytics? What’s next?

I hope we’ll solve the problem of cookies and cross-device, person-centric measurement soon, without compromising privacy. I also hope that data export, integration, and import features become mainstay in all analytics platforms. It’s very short-sighted to measure your business only within a single platform. True insight is achieved when integrating web analytics data with all the other customer data you have available in your backend infrastructure.

I think the Internet of Things will change everything we know about measurement, and its implications on combining offline and online data are huge. Just imagine if you can follow a customer’s entire journey from initial exposure to a display ad, to purchasing online, to purchasing offline, to becoming a loyalty member, to recommending your business to others. And measure it all in a funnel!

Could you please tell us some other digital & e-commerce marketing gurus that you are following and that you would also recommend to GPeC’s audience?

My favorite big thinkers in the field are: Stéphane Hamel, Avinash Kaushik, and Brian Clifton. Other, very active people in web analytics you might want to follow are Doug Hall, Julien Coquet, Matt Gershoff, and Carmen Mardiros.

GPeC Summit, 11-12-13 May 2015, Bucharest

GPeC is the most important E-Commerce Event in Romania and South Eastern Europe. The first major event from this year is GPeC Summit where you can meet honorable international speakers like Neil Patel, Craig Sullivan, Chris Goward, Simo Ahava and many more. Get your early bird ticket until Friday, 10th April 2015!