As you know, Screen Pages are GAACs -- Google Analytics Authorised Consultants. Last week Google hosted a four day summit at which they introduced the consultants to new features in Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics. This post provides a very brief overview of what's coming in the next few weeks. Some of it is already live....
We've tried to draw attention to the parts which will be of most significance to you. (Here's a Google video with its own summary:
The most prominent of the new features from a Screen Pages/e-commerce perspective is a new part of the system, called "Analytics Intelligence" which will automatically scan through your data and spot changes which it calculates as being beyond the limits of normal variations for that data. This function will be applied retrospectively, so you will be able to look back through your existing data to see if it spots anything which you should have noticed. This will also allow you to get a feel for how it works. You can adjust the 'sensitivity' of the reporting (in effect, the threshold cutoff on the standard deviations of the changed data). We'll all need to play with this. Our feeling is that it will be most powerful for spotting things which you would not normally have noticed because they are buried in the data -- NOT for noticing that the overall conversion rate has changed. This will be for the things your KPIs would not tell you.
On a closely related subject: GA can now send you email alerts if something changes dramatically. Try setting these up for 'checkout funnel abandon rate' 'bounce rate' 'conversion rate' and 'pageviews of the "page not found" error page' as a start! I'm sure you can think of others.
There are some very useful improvements in the reporting interface itself. You can now cut and dice the data on screen in many, many more ways. This should be great for looking into things on the fly -- deep dive forensics / "wonder why" enquiries and fishing for new ideas.
We also see huge potential in 'Multiple Custom Variables'. This a new powerful feature set which will require extra custom coding from Screen Pages. You will now be able to track more custom information (but never personally identifiable information) about visits and visitors. The first example which comes to my mind would be which type of checkout route customers used and whether they used any special functions on your site. No doubt other ideas will emerge as people start to get to grips with the potential of this new function. But working with extra new data will involve doing the work to send it to Google in the first place, so there will be choices to be made and costs involved.
Finally, here's a link to Google's own summary on its Analytics Blog.