laptop open to an ecommerce page for a furniture store
PHOTO: Igor Miske

The mantra for success in commerce used to be location, location, location. This still holds true in today's ecommerce landscape, but now the location runs the gamut from Google search results to Amazon to countless other ecommerce and social media sites. 

Ecommerce sits at the center of the digital landscape. Not only does it require a totally digital experience, it’s also highly competitive marketplace that is much bigger than the local landscape. Whether you’re selling a product or a service, your ecommerce store can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of your wide reach, a curse because of the effort and expertise it takes to do it well. 

Related Article: 5 Reasons Why Ecommerce Fails

How Do We Measure Ecommerce Success?

We all know the retail space is in flux, which makes a business's ecommerce strategy so important. But ecommerce is not relegated to only B2C, in recent years the B2B space has been playing catchup in ecommerce. Whether you are selling a part to another manufacturer or an end product to a customer, selling is selling, and doing it online is the most efficient way. 

Ecommerce professionals have no shortage of things to measure. At its most basic, how much money you make is a pretty important measurement — but it’s not the only one. After all you can’t drive more sales without understanding the story behind how you got the sales you currently do or don’t have. So, let’s look at the narrative behind ecommerce success — whether you’re selling clothes, machine parts, or even services — and how to use it to drive success.

Profit

Sometimes it’s just easier to work backward. Since profit is the ultimate measurement in business, start where you currently are then figure out how to do better. When you know how much you are selling and your margins it’s a lot easier to calculate the ROI of your ecommerce investment. 

Regional Popularity / Personalization Data

With the ability to target audiences according to geography, it’s important to see what is selling where and to take action on that knowledge. Depending on your business it’s likely that much of this will be intuitive: rainwear is obviously more popular in the Pacific Northwest than in Arizona, or if you sell auto parts, you know Michigan might be a good place to target. But, there will likely be subtleties as well that if you notice can help you not only drive more sales, but also could help you know which part of the country to store different products for shorter delivery times. 

A slew of data falls into this category that you should be measuring for personalization. Beyond the obvious — age, gender, location — you should be looking at bounce rates, engagement, page history and more. Most digital marketers are already watching this, except not with an eye to analyze the data for product pages and to convert a more specific audience.  

Related Article: Fundamental Ecommerce Factors You Can't Ignore

Retention

How many of your customers are repeat buyers? We’ve all seen the data points showing the higher cost of obtaining customers vs. retaining them, which is one of the reasons why CX is such an important focus. Your retention metric can also be extrapolated to your customer experience. By utilizing this data you can also target people with the right coupons and offers. As they continue to purchase from you, you get to truly know them and their habits so that you’re right there every time they’re about to make a purchase. 

Upsells

Before someone checks out, are you offering them something to complement their purchase? By studying this measurement you know if you are a) profiting by doing this and b) learning whether or not you are offering the right item for the upsell. 

Returns

It's estimated that over $400 billion in inventory is returned every year. The costs associated with returns could cripple a small ecommerce store. Measuring your return rate is fairly intuitive, but what might not be is how you have to recalculate your other data based on the returns. Your profit margin and inventory are constantly in flux because you don’t know if a sale is final until your 30-day policy, or whatever it may be, is up. Which means your data is constantly lagging.  

Rather than looking at returns as just a number, look to see if there are commonalities about what is returned and fix the problem at the source. A quality issue might have more at stake than an online description that doesn’t quite hit the mark, since the latter is easily fixable. 

Related Article: Get Off the Ecommerce Sidelines

Successful Channels

Where are your products selling the most? Are you doing better with organic traffic or paid? Do channels such as Amazon and Walmart sell a bulk of your products?  Measuring this data is tantamount to understanding where, when and how to syndicate your product content. 

Community

How are your social media metrics? Social media is a practical way for brands to display products and engage with the community that is actively using them and may potentially advocate for you. This metric is a bit different than if you were investing in influencer marketing, in which case an ROI would be necessary. Your community measurement could go beyond social media to reviews and word of mouth. While keeping track of your entire community might be difficult, finding a way to measure its growth and impact is important.

These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring success in ecommerce and identifying areas that could be more impactful. Figure out what’s important to your business and use the tools to form the narrative that will allow you to succeed.