The Metrics That Really Matter in E-Commerce Marketing

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The Metrics That Really Matter in E-Commerce Marketing
The Metrics That Really Matter in E-Commerce Marketing

Today's e-commerce marketers spend significant time and money attracting users to their sites and, ideally, converting those visitors to customers. For marketers looking to maximize their e-commerce marketing budget and link their efforts to real results, a strategy focused on site performance and user engagement is the key to measurable success.

Why engagement matters

Research has shown that the more engaged a user is, the more likely he or she is to make a purchase and return to your site. Conversely, a one second delay in page load time decreases customer satisfaction by 16% and conversion rate by 7%. Forty two percent of bounced visitors will never return to your site.

To understand how website performance impacts user engagement, marketers must gain insight and visibility into user activities and how those translate into engagement. In thinking about the typical visitor, most marketers would agree that users want their e-commerce experience to be:

  • Fast: From the landing page through the purchase process, speed matters.
  • Dynamic. Users want personalization, videos, and interactive content.
  • Responsive. The website should respond to each user's individual actions.
  • Contextual. Content should match users' context, device, etc.

To achieve these goals, marketers must look beyond traditional tactics and tools—many of which actually detract from the user experience—and instead start thinking about how well their e-commerce sites perform to meet user expectations.

The relationship between site speed and marketing

Traditionally, Web performance has been IT's area, while things like site content, landing page optimization, and SEO live in the marketer's domain. But what is becoming clearer with time is that the two don't exist separately. In fact, site speed has a direct, measurable impact on user engagement.

What does this mean for e-commerce? As marketers begin to understand the connection between site speed and user engagement, their focus is increasingly on engagement-specific metrics such as time to interact, time on site, and conversion rate. These performance-driven metrics are individually important, but combined they're indicative of the overall quality of the user experience and engagement with the site.

The user engagement metrics that matter

When thinking about user engagement metrics, consider the various points of interaction that every user has with your e-commerce site.

Below are 10 key user engagement metrics and why they matter:              (Click the image below to enlarge.) 

Time to start rendering                                                   

What it is: Elapsed time between the browser's request for the page and the first moment visible content appears.

Why it matters: It allows you to initiate engagement immediately and lets the customer know that the site is working and page content is coming. A one-second delay has been shown to increase potential bounce rates by 65%!

Time to display

What it is: Elapsed time until a user can meaningfully engage with the page.

Why it matters: Improving this metric means improving perceived usability of the page and capturing users' attention sooner.

Time to interact

What it is: This is the elapsed time until the user has complete control of the page.

Why it matters: This metric is about perceived quality and impacts a user's overall experience. The average site takes five seconds to reach time to interact—a full three seconds longer than users expect.

Bounce rate

What it is: Bounce rate is the percentage of users that visit only one page before leaving your site.

Why it matters: Bounce rate is a key indicator that users aren't getting what they want from your site.

Time on site

What it is: This measures the duration of a visitor session.

Why it matters: Generally, the longer a user stays on your site, the more they're engaging with it. If they leave quickly, this may indicate bigger problems with design, content, and performance.

Pages per visit

What it is: This metric measures the number of pages a user visits during a single session.

Why it matters: A high number of pages per visit indicates that your website is successfully engaging and maintaining user focus.

Conversion rate

What it is: Conversion rate is defined as the percentage of visitors that complete an activity to become a lead or customer.

Why it matters: Conversion is the end goal for most marketers. Influenced by a number of factors including content, products, and price, high conversion rates are also directly linked to site performance.

Abandonment rate

What it is: This is the percentage of visitors that initiated an activity on a website, but never completed it.

Why it matters: Abandonment rate indicates the perceived difficulty and amount of effort to compete a task. Cart abandonment costs businesses $3 billion annually due solely to slow sites!

Order value

What it is: This measures the average monetary value for customers who make a purchase or who transact on a site.

Why it matters: Order value is an important indicator of how well your site convinces users to make a purchase. Low order value may signal poor usability or performance.


What it is: The holy grail for e-commerce sites.

Why it matters: Revenue generated by converted orders is the primary measure of a successful site.

When it comes to improvement potential, marketers should look at these metrics holistically to understand the cause-and-effect of various actions, as well as the expectations of today's empowered online consumer. By optimizing for on-site performance and marketing metrics, e-commerce marketers can drive better user engagement, which has a domino effect on conversion and revenues.

Coach Wei is CEP and cofounder of Boston-based Yottaa. His favorite activity is explaining what yottaa-scale computing means. His favorite word is "yottaarific.”

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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