August 7, 2013

5 metrics every online retailer should monitor

If you sell online, understanding your website analytics data and knowing what to do with it can help in increasing your online sales.

I speak to to online retailers often and it seems that the majority of them login to their Website Analytics program to check only the most popular metrics such as No. of visits,  search terms or URLs that generated the visits and perhaps,  which other websites are linking to them.  This is all good, however, this data set won’t tell you anything about a potential shopper’s behaviour – what they did once they arrived at your website, which is much more important to the bottom line.

Here are 5 other metrics that can will give you a more accurate measure of your ecommerce website’s performance and what you can do to improve each. Your other marketing efforts, online or offline, will also have a bearing on these which can help you understand what works for your customers and what doesnt.

Note: The availability of these metrics will depend on your website analytics program (Google Analytics provides most of them listed below). Also, you must have ecommerce goals set within your analytics.

  1. Average order value – You may already know this but using your analytics program to monitor this can give you insights into the average order value trend of your product over a period of time. You can also uncover the effect of any other changes you may have made to your website which has a direct impact to the average order value. For example, last year we ran a few tests for an online retailer where we found that the average order value had gone up by 6% after the introduction of a VeriSign SSL Security seal on their website.  Another example is for an online fashion store which experienced increase in the average order value after their clothes were featured in some fashion magazines. By comparing your average order value against any website changes, you can uncover what works and what doesnt.
  2. Conversion rate of new visitors -Most visitors don’t buy on the first visit.  However, this will vary from one site to another depending on other factors such as user friendliness of your site, availability of alternatives, how long visitors usually spend on research before they buy the product you sell and so on.  Your goal should be to do everything you can to encourage visitors to buy on the first visit because not every visitor will return to your site. Time bound offers work well to increase first time visitor conversions. Another strategy you could try is introducing a “impulse purchase” version of your product (a toned-down, less expensive version) – this may not always be possible and yes, that does potentially mean less revenue. However, once you have converted a visitor into a customer, there’s a better chance of selling to them again in the future.
  3. Conversion rate of returning visitors – This is the group most likely to buy from you. Once you know what your average number for this group is, you should monitor it each month to make sure that any of your other marketing efforts does not have a negative impact on this. A certain percentage of your returning visitors will also be previous customers. Unfortunately, differentiaging between the two is possible in only the most advanced analytics programs. However, you can get hold of this data by doing a little bit of research (manually determining whether an order is from an old or new customer) and using this info to try out new offers. For example, if you find that a high percentage of customers visit your site often and buy from you again, you could have a Special Offer for previous customers only. Not only is this uncommon (most businesses advertise offers for new customers only) but it can encourage new visitors to buy from you as you clearly seem to be unlike other retailers hunting high and low for new customers.
  4. Items per order – Similar to the average order value, you should know the average number of items per order. In some ways, this can give you indications into the quality and price competitivness of your product.  For example, if you find that the average no. of items per order has gone up without any changes to the price,  then over a period of time, this can mean that customers find your proudct priced competitively and of good quality. Ofcourse, you should validate this data by surveys or personal contact. You can also use cross selling tools to increase the average no. of items per order (For more on cross selling, see related post – What most online retailers can learn from
  5. Abandonment rates – This is one of the biggest challenges for any online retailer – reducing the rate of visitors who add an item to cart but never complete the order (by making the payment).  This is an extremely key metric to monitor because you may be doing everything right elsewhere on your website but if the checkout process is cumbersome, a majority of your marketing efforts may be going to waste. Abaondment during checkout can happen at various stages – after adding an item to cart,  after entering the shipping info, before making payment and so on. First step is knowing the abandonment rates for the various steps during checkout.  Next, you should consider making changes or improvements to one step at a time and monitor its effect. This can help you perfect your checkout process via a series of trial and error.

For more related posts on improving the performance of your ecommerce website, see

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About Shirish Agarwal

Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.