To grow and evolve your retail business, you first need to be able to understand current performance and identify areas for improvement.

Two people looking at a computer screen

This requires data that you can analyse and interrogate – the availability of which has exploded with the rise of digital systems and touchpoints, the increasing sophistication of analytics tools, and the exponential growth of ecommerce development.

While this provides online retailers with a wealth of potentially valuable information, it can be difficult to find the actionable insight among the vanity metrics and other ‘noise’.

Of course, there are the top ecommerce metrics most people are aware of, which tend to form the basis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for ecommerce platforms. These include:

  • Conversion rate: the percentage of visitors to your site that ‘convert’ – in an ecommerce setting this will most likely be completing a purchase, but it could also include claiming a promotion code, pre-ordering a product, signing up to a newsletter, or anything else (for more information, read our introductory guide to conversion rate optimisation).
  • Product performance: the popularity of products on offer, including high-growth lines, seasonal trends, items that are commonly bought together, and other considerations.
  • Basket / checkout abandonment: the percentage of visitors that complete a purchase after adding something to their basket or beginning the checkout process.
  • Order volume / value: how much revenue is being delivered to your business in a certain period of time.
  • Average order value: the worth of each purchase on your site – your business may be built on a high volume of low-value orders, fewer higher-value orders, or a mix of the two.

To maximise the performance of your ecommerce platform however, you need to consider the end-to-end journey – from the user searching for your product to them receiving it. At each stage of this journey, there are a number of useful metrics and KPIs to track:

Finding your site / product (off-site)

Before prospective customers can buy from you, they first need to find you and, for new customers, this journey will most likely begin away from your site. Metrics to track here include:

  • SEO performance: the majority of online experiences begin with a search engine, where your brand will be one among many trying to stand out on the results page. It’s important to track visibility and rankings against your key search terms – both product and brand – and assess how well your site is set up to support elements such as region-specific content and structured data markup.
  • Core Web Vitals (CWV): site performance has become a major ranking factor in organic search, with Google prioritising a set of metrics known as Core Web Vitals. Catch up with highlights from our CWV webinar to learn more.
  • Marketing campaign performance: you should be tracking returns from each of the marketing activities you undertake – including email campaigns, affiliates, Google shopping, and social promotion – to guide future investment.

Close up of person browsing online shopping on a phone

Discovering a product (on-site)

If customers come to your brand directly or via a generic product search (e.g. ‘kitchenware’, ‘scarves’, ‘second-hand cars’), they’ll want to get to the products that are most relevant to them, as quickly as possible. Here are some key metrics to help track the discoverability of your products once prospective customers land on your site:

  • Navigation clicks: accessed via the ‘content drilldown’ reports in Google Analytics, this metric measures how quickly your website users can get to a specific product – and generally, the smaller the number of clicks, the better.
  • Product position: understanding where products appear in the listings can help you identify trends about which positions perform best, and use this information to better promote items of particular value or interest.
  • Promotions: many retailers select certain products for enhanced promotion by labelling them as ‘trending’, ‘top picks’, ‘flash sale’ or similar. This is a simple and straightforward experiment that you can conduct to assess the impact on click-through to product pages.
  • Onsite search performance: measuring the participative conversion rate of your search feature – that is, how many people who search go on to click through to a result – can be useful to understand whether you’re providing relevant results. Low conversion rates could indicate that the results aren’t relevant, or that your results page has usability issues (to be confirmed with user testing).

Product pages

How your product pages perform plays a key role in driving the success of your wider ecommerce platform, and metrics to cover here include:

  • Views: as I mentioned at the start of this piece, understanding what your most popular products are is a key metric to measure, and by tracking views specifically you’ll also be able to combine it with…
  • ‘Add to basket’ clicks: looking at both views and add to basket clicks will give you two key measures of product performance, and also help you understand opportunities for improvement. For example, a product that gets a high volume of views and limited clicks is an ideal candidate for optimisation, while a product with a high click rate could benefit from more prominent placing to gain more views.
  • Exits: combined with views, this metric can provide valuable insight to improve the attractiveness of your product proposition. For example, products with a high proportion of exits may suffer from a lack of high-quality visuals, poor product information, or pricing that’s not competitive.
  • Interactions with other elements: your product pages may include links to other relevant products through features such as ‘frequently bought together’ blocks. Analysing how often these blocks are interacted with can help shape how they are rolled out to other products, as can measuring impact on KPIs such as average order value.
  • Page load: with the launch of Google’s Core Web Vitals, measuring (and improving) page speed across your site is more important than ever. This is particularly true for your Product Detail Pages (PDPs), where potential customers will be making a purchasing decision, and which are often the first page they will land on from a referral or online search.

Basket

Person putting an item into a grocery basket

If visitors are adding products to the basket, that’s a clear indicator of interest and intent. Capturing and analysing the following metrics can give you valuable insight to help you make your basket experience the best it can be:

  • Basket abandonment: I mentioned this previously as a core ecommerce KPI, and it is crucial to understand how many people who put items in their basket then go on to complete a purchase, to identify actions (for example follow-up emails) that can convert more visitors into customers.
  • Basket changes (e.g. quantities): this is an interesting metric to measure if you’re looking to make incremental improvements to your site, as if customers are regularly changing quantities within the basket then reflecting this in the product page options could remove an unnecessary action, helping encourage purchases.
  • Interactions with other elements: as with your product pages, the basket page provides a good opportunity to direct customers to additional relevant products or enhanced offerings (such as insurance cover, or a gift wrapping service) – all of which offer valuable data points for your business.
  • Returns to basket page: it may be that your customers leave items in their basket before returning to checkout. Understanding the length of your browsing / purchase cycle can help you plan activity, and identify opportunities to support current behaviours such as nudge mechanisms and wish lists.
  • Back to shopping links: if prospective customers are navigating between the basket and the store, there may be more efficient ways to present them with the information, products and services they need (for example by introducing related products and cross-selling elements, as mentioned earlier).

Checkout

Arguably the most critical element of your ecommerce platform, a streamlined checkout journey can make or break your site. Here are some metrics to help you understand and improve the performance of your checkout process, and deliver maximum value back to your business:

  • Checkout abandonment: it’s crucial to assess the end-to-end checkout journey for patterns in behaviour and interaction. Common drop-off points may indicate usability issues that need to be addressed (and tested), or show that the value of your offering isn’t being communicated as well as it could be.
  • Back to shopping links: at the point of checkout you don’t really want to distract users from their primary task of completing a purchase (and a lot of sites actually strip out any links back to the shop on checkout). If you do have this option available it would be worth measuring – if it is being clicked by users who don’t then convert, you will want to review whether it should be on the checkout at all.
  • Payment / delivery methods: by understanding the preferences of your audience, you can better tailor your offering for increased satisfaction, interaction and purchases. For example, if certain payment methods are more common across different regions these could be prioritised by default, or if you’re seeing a rise in click and collect delivery options you may want to further expand the choice for customers here.

Close up of person holding payment card and using laptop

Cancellations and refunds

It’s important to remember that a customer’s interaction with your brand doesn’t end with the purchase. To deliver a successful experience that encourages repeat visits and recommendations you need to think about the whole journey, including post-purchase considerations such as:

  • Time to cancellation: how quickly cancellations are made after purchase can help you better understand customer motivations and behaviours. A super fast time to cancel could indicate an impulse purchase they now regret, but if it’s longer it may indicate that customers have shopped around and found a better deal (something you’d want to validate with user research and feedback). It could also indicate a sub-optimal post-purchase experience, for example delays in getting a confirmation email that can erode customer trust.
  • Refund rate for products: if you find that people are asking for refunds for certain products more frequently than for others, it may be an indication that these aren’t particularly well represented on your site (of course, it’s a good idea to also give customers an option to provide direct feedback, to validate any analytics).

Optimising ecommerce performance metrics

There is a huge volume and variety of insight to be gained from analysing key performance indicators and metrics across your ecommerce site – enabling you to make informed decisions about the future of your platform, and be confident in the improvement actions you take. At Box UK we’re experienced in helping online retailers make the most of their data, working with organisations such as OKdo and RS Components to grow orders and revenue, and ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Find out more about how we’ve helped clients in the past, and get in touch with a member of our team to discuss what we can do for you.

About the Author

Allie Brock

Allie Brock is Lead Business Analyst and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) at Box UK. Most recently, Allie acted as Product Owner on delivering an ecommerce platform and underlying technology ecosystem for OKdo, which serves seven country sites in six languages from a single installation.