Finding Your Path in Report Builder
by Eric Hansen
posted on 06-17-2014
I love to ski. From my very first experience with the sport, I was hooked on the speed, adrenaline, and exciting ways to get down the mountain. As I gained experience and grew older, I found more and more opportunities to leave the trail, get off the beaten path, and start going through the backcountry. Skiing through fresh, untouched powder where few have ever gone before exhilarates me to a whole new level, but I also need to plan my path with greater care.
When you are working with analytics, one of the most interesting perspectives of this data is surfaced via pathing. Most Web analysts think of following user paths from page to page, but this same concept applies to different granularities—such as site sections. Furthermore, conceptual pathing on custom variables applies this technology to changing user states, tracking multivariate test exposures, and many other use cases. Just as I enjoy skiing on groomed trails as well as making my own paths, I am pleased to announce you can now capture pathing insights any way you like with the power of report builder.
What Types of Pathing Information Can I Get in Report Builder?
With this latest release, there are two components of pathing functionality that are exposed in report builder: Fallout reporting and Pathfinder analysis. With these two features alone, the client applications team can offer virtually every path report currently available on the Web today (the only exception being the Full Paths report).
Report builder Fallout reports surfaces the visit attrition and conversion rates between each checkpoint you define. Steps are arranged top to bottom with raw visit instances returned in the result. Unlike the Web-based Fallout report, report builder does not automatically calculate the fallout percentages between each step or provide any sort of visualization out of the box because these features are better provided by the Excel environment. To access this report, drill down the Paths report folder (in Step 1 of the Request Wizard) to the traffic variable you wish to analyze, select the Fallout report option, and finally define between three and eight checkpoints.
Understanding the fallout percentages between critical steps in your Web or app experience can provide significant direction in where you should focus your experience optimization resources and efforts. This simple report can ensure your organization is providing the highest work-to-value ratio possible.
By dissecting the full paths through your site or app, this report reveals valuable navigational patterns. Using the Pathfinder, you can analyze path fragments, including paths that begin with a certain page, end with a certain page, contain a certain page, or even ones that begin with one page and end with another. This is useful in examining patterns of behavior as it relates to campaign conversions, bounces, or checkout processes. The first step in obtaining this valuable information is selecting a type of pattern you wish to apply. After selecting the “Paths” report option in Step 1 of the Wizard, clicking into the Filter option in Step 2 reveals a dropdown menu with all of the Pathfinder patterns found in the Web version of the report, along with a few additional patterns not provided online. Using the canvas in this same window, you can also customize the pattern filter for very specific items and anchor points. By default and in most Adobe Analytics implementations, your pattern can contain up to three elements.
Other Pathing Options
What about Next Page Flow, Single Page Visits, or any of the other popular path reports you are used to working with? Never fear. These are all still accessible from the Pattern selector in the Paths report, as well as from the right-click context menu from any supported traffic data block. For example, starting from a standard top pages report, you can select one or more pages, right-click and add a path dependent request such as Next Page. This massively flexible functionality allows you to recreate and customize the Next Page Flow report (and most other standard path reports) to a greater extent than what is possible on the Web today.
Now, because report builder focuses on the core data and leaves the visualization work to Excel, there are some important distinctions to understand with generating pathing reports. As I implied previously, not all the menu path options you find in Reports & Analytics on the Web will be shown in report builder, but every type or path report can be recreated with the exception of Full Paths for the time being. It is also important to understand that any visualization re-creation would be left up to the Excel graphical libraries as opposed to anything the tool would provide. This additional flexibility can actually be a great boon to your reporting needs, allowing you to custom tailor your reports for your specific business needs.
As with skiing, when you apply these new report options to different data types and use cases, you may notice users taking unexpected paths from the expected course. Try to embrace the dynamic nature of the Web as you consider all the different approaches your users take with your site or app. Bookmarks, tabs, and browser plug-ins can manipulate path data in unexpected ways, so keep an open mind and open expectations when you analyze user behavior in this manner.
With the increased flexibility in pulling data that report builder offers and with a little effort, you can now create path reports that go wider and deeper than anything you could achieve in the Web. Go check out this latest version of the tool, and keep on the lookout for even more changes to your analytics experience in Excel this year!