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From the CEO

How to Boost Your Retail or e-Commerce Business with the Right KPIs

March 17, 2020
Nick Amabile

For retail and e-commerce companies, your crucial KPIs link to orders, customers, and website visitor behavior. Use your data better to do better business.

The world of online sales is growing exponentially, with new technology, services, and marketing approaches flooding the market almost daily. As the owner of a retail or e-commerce business, you're used to this fast pace. You've learned to hustle better than anyone. But outpacing your competitors means constant evolution. You have to keep your teams agile and continually hone your strategy for making faster, better, smarter decisions. Because, as you know all too well, success in this space is all about one thing: data.

Specifically, it’s about analyzing and leveraging the data and key performance indicators (KPIs) at your disposal. For retail and e-commerce businesses, the most useful KPIs relate to orders, customers, and website activity. A literal wealth of data exists within these three subgroups—vital information that, when utilized correctly, can tell you everything you need to know about the health and outlook of your business.

Sales teams can use this data to better monitor changes in revenue. Finance departments can use it to more effectively forecast budgets and determine profitability. It can help marketers and product managers make adjustments to optimize website performance. And your operations teams can use it to evaluate fulfillment rates, shipping efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Indeed, the sky’s the limit when you have the right analytics strategy in place.

But let’s back up momentarily because none of the aforementioned can happen unless all of your data is aggregated in a centralized, easy-to-access location.

Centralizing Your Data is Step One–and It's Easier than You Think

These days, the online world is simply no place for bloated, inflexible, outdated database solutions. But while effective data management might seem like the bare minimum for running a business, too many companies are still relying on siloed, segmented data streams trickling in from internal systems, digital platforms, and third-party data vendors.

And that opens the door for serious problems.

For starters, in the maze of all these crisscrossing data solutions, it's impossible to relate, say, shipment datasets to marketing datasets. That disconnect likely means neither group is getting an accurate picture of customer behavior and business operations.

Centralization, on the other hand, offers everyone in your organization a customizable, 360-degree view across marketing, sales, customer service, and product data spectrums. The result is a trusted, consistent, and reliable big picture, even for users with distinct goals and measurement needs. With everything stored neatly in a central location, companies can then create a single source of truth that gives their teams detailed, self-service, and customized reports that enable them to make better decisions.

Modern data warehouse and ELT (exact, load, transform) tools have made it easier than ever for online retailers to centralize their data. In some cases, companies can connect their data to common sources in a matter of minutes. Transforming data beforehand is no longer a requirement. In the old days, the process required an IT department dedicated solely to managing servers and storage arrays. But now business users can easily layer on BI tools customized for their end use while maintaining a standardized set of business-wide data for analysis.

The Next Step: Empower Domain Experts to Boost Self-sufficiency

With your retail and e-commerce data aggregated and centralized, you can start empowering team members who posses the most expertise in marketing, sales, customer service, operations, and fulfillment.

In the past, these domain experts would have been at the mercy of an (often bottlenecked) analytics team to fulfill their reporting requests. Now they have the flexibility and freedom to customize their own reports from a streamlined database without resorting to their own error-prone and time consuming retrieval methods. Even those without a strong coding or IT background can infer the right questions to ask and get the information they need to perform their jobs at the pace of online business. 

KPIs: The Metrics that Matter Most

It's true that knowledge is power, but knowing how to use that power can be another issue altogether—especially in the world of retail and e-commerce where being “data rich but information poor” is an all-too-common phenomenon.

The good news is we live and work in an era of unprecedented access to information. Today's tools give business owners an incredibly reliable roadmap for leveraging data to its fullest advantage. And if KPIs are the signposts on that roadmap, owners can decide which measurements will glean the best actionable insights to meet each of their teams' respective needs.

Here are some of the most common KPIs of interest to retail and e-commerce business owners, related to orders, customers, and website activity:  

  1. Order & Items | Measurable data in this KPI group can include:
    - Total customers
    - Total orders
    - Average order value (AOV)
    - Contribution profit
    - Discount and promo codes
    - Product/item dimensions including category hierarchy, item name, SKU, brand, cost, price, quantity, and supplier
    - Shipping dimensions including shipping location, shipped date, carrier info, shipped from location, and shipping amount
    - Cancellations and refunds
    - Order platform/device type
    - Attributed marketing channel
    - Period-over-period comparisons
  2. Customers & Cohorts | These KPIs provide vital information related to:
    - Monthly active customers
    - Weekly active customers
    - Monthly/weekly customer retention
    - Monthly/weekly cohort spend/units/orders
    - Cumulative customer trend metrics including spend, units. orders
    - Average revenue and contribution profit per user
    - First 30-day metrics including spend, units, and orders
    - Most recent 30-day metrics including spend. units, and orders
    - First activity dates (first website visit, first cart add, first order date)
    - Customer acquisition channel
    - Customer acquisition cost
    - Customer lifetime totals including units, spend, orders, visits, AOV, and contribution profit
    - First/last/most frequent dimensions including shipping location, category, marketing channel, platform, and device
    - Days between first visit and first purchase
    - First order dimensions including discount amount, order value, and contribution profit
    - Months/weeks since last/first order
  3. Clickstream | In measuring the number and activities of visitors on your website, as well as how they are finding your website in the first place, funnel analysis can uncover narratives related to:
    - Visits
    - Sessions
    - Unique users
    - Pageviews
    - Cart adds
    - Conversion rate and conversion funnel metrics
    - User pathing
    - Feature use
    - A/B test splits and conversions
    - Marketing campaign attribution for visits, sessions, orders, and add-to-carts including first touch, last touch, and multi touch attribution (MTA)
    - Time between visits, pageviews, and conversions
    - Bounced and bounce rate
    - Visit and session referrer
    - Landing page performance
    - Exit pages
    - Session and visit length, average session length, and duration including time on site
    - Sessions per user
    - Monthly active users (MAU), weekly active users (WAU), and daily active users (DAU)
    - Active user ratios (DAU/WAU, WAU/DAU)

It's undeniably true that KPIs are valuable, objective measurements that offer a clear understanding of your business so that you can make increasingly informed, strategic decisions.

But at the end of the day, data points are only as valuable as the means you have in place for tracking and interpreting them. The process can be time-consuming and at times even frustrating, but it’s an effort that pays off many times over. Centralizing and optimizing your KPI data will result in useful, actionable insights to help you achieve your retail and e-commerce business goals.

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