Have an online store? How well are you monitoring performance?
Many online business owners may be persuaded to spend money on advertising and marketing activities; however, without monitoring the impact of marketing, the investment is akin to a stab in the dark. The current financial analysis methodologies have been developed for conventional brick and mortar business models, however, the underlying concepts can be adapted to suit online businesses.
What Metrics Should Be Monitored?
Metrics are the standards or factors of measurement, which the performance of the business is measured against. The term Metrics is commonly used interchangeably with Key Performance Indicators; however, both terms refer to the same notion.
In every business, the customer comes first. Online stores are no different, and assessing the business’ clientele is the leading priority. When people visit the webpage, the analysis must extend beyond merely how many ‘clicks’ the business has received in a week.
- Are those clicks from returning users or new users?
- Are these figures increasing or decreasing?
- How many users are returning compared to how many are new?
These questions provide a more accurate reflection of the online store’s performance, as returning users indicate that people are interested in, and are engaging with, the business. New users are important as they expand the business’ clientele.
The sources of the business’ clientele are the next major factor to consider. Online customers can be directed to an online business from multiple sources, some better than others. The common range of sources is summarised as:
This is when a person searches for keywords or the business name in a search engine and is directed to the online store. Organically sourced clients are the best way to reach a large audience.
When a customer clicks on a link and it redirects to the online store, this is known as a referral. Referrals are not as good as organically sources; however, if a blog and the online store are coupled together as part of a lead generation strategy, then referrals are equally as good as organic sourced clients.
This is simply when a person types the URL directly into their browser.
Email marketing is common, and when a subscriber clicks an email link to the online store, the client is sourced via email.
This is when a client links into the online store from a social media platform.
When a person clicks on a pop-up ad or banner ad, which is featured on another website, they are sources via paid traffic.
The amount of time a client spends viewing a specific webpage or browsing the website is a fundamental consideration. When a person visits a webpage, they either read the content or leave immediately. Clicks are meaningless if potential customers are leaving without reading the content. The higher the average time spent on a webpage, the better.
The last cardinal metric an online store must consider is the Conversion Rate. This is how many customers are actually making purchases from the website, what products they’re purchasing, and how often new or returning customers are buying.
The Accuracy of Data Collection
Analytics packages offer data collection and analysis, but a proper analysis can only be accomplished if the data is accurate. Packages, such as Google Analytics, collect data from a range of sources, including first-party cookies and tracking codes.
When a user is linked to a webpage, they request data and their browser sends out information to the host server, including the URL, Browser Type, Viewport, and Location. Analytical packages simply collect the information which is sent to the host server.
Packages can also create “Cookies” which are pieces of information that are sent along with the website data. A cookie is then stored on the client’s computer via their web browser and the browser sends the cookie information back to the host server with every exchange of information. Cookies can be customised by packages to collect specific pieces of information.
The information collected by packages is directly from the user’s computer and browsing session. Hence, the data cannot be easily manipulated, constituting accurate data. The only way a user can manipulate the data is by changing the specific details their computer sends when requesting a webpage, or by manually modifying any cookies. Only an experienced IT expert would be able to do this.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Always avoid technical issues.
Broken links or slow loading times are dissuading, and are the easiest way to lose customers. If customers are not viewing pages, or are leaving, ensure that the page is working correctly before modifying any content; it shall save time and effort.
Consider what device customers are browsing on. If customers are primarily using mobile phones, then the webpages need to be optimised to suit mobile phones, so customers are not discouraged from making a purchase due to an incorrect page format or slow loading time.
Hints and Tips
To properly assess the performance of an online store, the “user’s journey” ought to form part of the overall analysis. Consider the major metrics in conjunction with each other, and visualise the user’s experience from initial contact to end sale. Advertise where there is a weak point in the journey. If sales are low, create clearer calls to action. If the return rate is low, push returns, and so on.
Always be careful to assess and address the cause of a problem, and do not assume a correlation implies causation.
Warning Signs – When is Action Required?
For all warning signs, the required action shall depend entirely on what the cause of the problem is. The action could be as simple as implementing a more appealing layout, or adding in a more obvious call to action.
The main warning signs are bounce rate and average read time. If people are leaving a page without viewing other pages, they are either uninterested in the online store, or something is amiss. Generally, if 70% of users are leaving the homepage or landing-page without viewing other pages, the bounce rate is too high.
If, however, users continue to view other pages, but spend a minuscule amount of time reading the page, it is even worse. Specific figures depend on industry-specific details, however, generally, for an online store, users spend approximately 15 seconds on the webpage before deciding whether to leave or stay. If the average read time is 15 seconds or less, action is required.
If traffic sources are primarily from passive sources, such as a social media link, paid advertising, users are not actively searching for the online store, nor its’ contents. If organic sources, referrals, or direct traffic are low, and passive sources are high, action is required. Although industry-specific figures may vary, generally:
- Organic sources should account for approximately 51% of all traffic;
- Referrals, Direct Traffic, and Email Links combined ought to account for 34%;
- Paid advertising should be below 10%; and
- Social media links ought to be equal to or below 5%.
If part of the overall marketing strategy is utilising social media, then social media links can be higher; by how much, however, is a matter of personal preference. Paid advertising should never exceed 10% of lead generation.
If customers are not returning to make future purchases, the store is not doing enough to retain its’ clientele. On average, over 8 weeks, approximately 20% of views should be from returning customers. If customer retention is below 20%, the online store needs to address why customers aren’t returning.
Lastly, conversion rates must not be too low. Industry-specific averages must be considered, however, generally, conversion rates for ecommerce stores are between 1 – 5%. If users are viewing the webpages and engaging with the website, yet are not making purchases, a change needed.
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