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Performance should inform business decisions and KPIs should drive actions. 

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are like milestones on the road to online retail success. Monitoring them will help ecommerce entrepreneurs identify progress toward sales, marketing, and customer service goals. 

A performance indicator is simply a quantifiable measurement or data point used to gauge performance relative to some goal. As an example, it may be a goal for some online retailers to increase site traffic 50 % in the next year. Relative to this goal, a performance indicator might be the number of unique visitors the site receives daily or which traffic sources send visitors (pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, brand or display advertising, or a YouTube video).

For some goals there could be many performance indicators — often too many — so often people narrow it down to just two or three impactful data points known as key performance indicators. KPIs are those measurements that most accurately and succinctly show whether or not a business in progressing toward its goal.

Setting Goals and Identifiying KPIs

Selecting KPIs begins with clearly stating goals and understanding what areas of business impact those goals. Of course, KPIs can and should differ for each of an online retailer's goals, whether those are related to boosting sales, streamlining marketing, or improving customer service.

Here are a few examples of goals and associated KPIs:

  • GOAL 1 — Boost sales 10% in the next quarter. KPIs include daily sales, conversion rate, site traffic.
  • GOAL 2 — Increase conversion rate 2% in the next year. KPIs include conversion rate, shopping cart abandonment rate, associated shipping rate trends, competitive price trends.
  • GOAL 3 — Grow site traffic 20 percent in the next year. KPIs include site traffic, traffic sources, promotional click-through rates, social shares, bounce rates.
  • GOAL 4 — Reduce customer service calls by half in the next 6 months. KPIs include service call classification, identify of page visited immediately before the call, event that lead to the call.

It should be easy to see that there are many performance indicators, and the value of those indicators is directly tied to the goal progress measured. Monitoring which page someone visited before initiating a customer service call makes sense as a KPI for GOAL 4 since it could help identify areas of confusion that when corrected would reduce customer service calls, but that same performance indicator would be almost useless for GOAL 3. 

With the idea that KPIs should differ based on the goal being measured, it's possible to consider a set of common performance indicators for ecommerce. Here are 32 common ecommerce key performance indicators. Just remember that the performance indicators listed below is in no way exhaustive. 

32 Key Performance Indicators

Sales Key Performance Indicators:

  • Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual sales
  • Average order size (sometimes called average market basket)
  • Average margin
  • Conversion rate
  • Shopping cart abandonment rate
  • New customer orders versus returning customer sales
  • Cost of goods sold
  • Total available market relative to a retailer's share of market
  • Product affinity (which products are purchased together)
  • Product relationship (which products are viewed consecutively)
  • Inventory levels
  • Competitive pricing

Marketing Key Performance Indicators: 

  • Site traffic
  • Unique visitors versus returning visitors
  • Time on site
  • Page views per visit
  • Traffic source
  • Day part monitoring (when site visitors come)
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Texting subscribers
  • Chat sessions initiated
  • Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest followers or fans
  • Pay-per-click traffic volume
  • Blog traffic
  • Number and quality of product reviews
  • Brand or display advertising click-through rates
  • Affiliate performance rates

Customer Service Key Performance Indicators:

  • Customer service email count
  • Customer service phone call count
  • Customer service chat count
  • Average resolution time
  • Concern classification

Once you have set goals and selected KPIs, monitoring those indicators should become an everyday exercise. And most importantly: Performance should inform business decisions, and you should use KPIs to drive actions.