13 vital ecommerce KPIs you need to track today
In the fast-paced world of ecommerce, you need to keep a close eye on how every aspect of your business is performing. If you don’t, you risk letting the competition creep up on you! As well as overall profits, you must track things like average order value, return on ad spend, and customer satisfaction—otherwise known as key performance indicators (KPIs).
This post will explain exactly what KPIs are and what they do. We’ve also picked out 13 essential KPIs to measure key elements of your business. And we’ll show you how Ve’s tools can help you track and improve your metrics.
Here’s the list of contents so you can skip ahead if you need to—but we recommend settling in for the full read.
What is a key performance indicator?
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, exist to help you improve the way your business runs.
They work by letting you track, measure, and understand how your business is doing with regards to particular metrics. In other words, KPIs “grade” your business’ performance against a set of criteria. Then they show you how you can improve and, going with the grade comparison, help you earn an A+ in every important category.
KPIs arm you with information. They pinpoint your strong and weak points, which show you where you can improve going forward.
Something very helpful about KPIs is that they necessarily compare your business’ progress with that of your competitors. That means that “doing well” isn’t some abstract thing—it literally means that you’re crushing the competition.
We’re going to get more into why that’s such a useful part of KPIs in the next section.
All of that is a long way to say that KPIs are a method people use to quantify their business’ success. They’re super helpful for anyone in the business sector; especially ecommerce companies. KPIs let ecommerce businesses turn their site visitors into customers more easily, by displaying where improvements can be made in CX, customer service, and more.
Are KPIs different from metrics?
Yes, but that isn’t the whole story.
Metrics can show you how your business is doing in relation to predetermined benchmarks. For example, if you’re hoping to acquire 15 new customers in a given amount of time, metrics could tell you how close you get to meeting or exceeding that goal.
In other words, metrics on their own are more or less just measurements. They’re helpful, sure, but they’re passive.
KPIs take that measured data and use it actively. They don’t just tell you “yes/no, you’ve succeeded/failed at acquiring those new customers”, they show you how you can get more customers, where your strategies were more and less effective, and so forth.
In other words, KPIs are actionable. They drive action, improvement, and change.
You can think of KPIs and metrics as a funnel:
Metrics take care of turning raw data into measures of aptitude. KPIs then take those measures and show you how to become more adept at just about anything.
Let’s look at a more detailed example.
If your goal is to increase the total number of people who click on your ecommerce website, a metric would show you just that: x number of people clicked on your ecommerce site. That doesn’t tell you how long they stayed, whether they purchased anything, what drove them to your site, or whether they came back and how often.
A relevant KPI here could, for instance, show you which areas of your site drew the most visitors. It would indicate how you can capitalise on your site’s best features, and where you can optimise your SEO (search engine optimisation) to bring more visitors to your site.
So, in short, KPIs rely on metrics. At the same time, metrics on their own can’t drive meaningful change for your company—that’s what KPIs are for.
What are ecommerce KPIs?
Ecommerce KPIs are actionable quantifiers of an ecommerce business’ success. Since they’re specific to the field of ecommerce, they’re tailored to the world of online business and digital marketing.
Growing your business, boosting the number of visitors to your website, and increasing your conversion rate are all examples of areas KPIs can inform you on.
Broadly speaking, ecommerce KPIs may overlap with other types of KPIs. There are some things (such as widening profit margins, for example) that are just useful for any business.
At the same time, your average supermarket isn’t going to need to worry about whether they’re getting enough orders from a variety of different countries. That sort of thing is usually more specific to ecommerce (unless, of course, you’re running the world’s most successful ecommerce supermarket).
Why are ecommerce KPIs important?
The short answer here is quite simple: KPIs let you do so much more than even the most important metric can on its own. A helpful way to visualise the importance of ecommerce KPIs is this:
Metrics help your business keep track of its affairs. KPIs help your business thrive.
After all, in today’s environment, a business needs to grow in order to thrive. Keeping a static number of customers invested in your products isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to keep improving your business on a continuous basis, drawing in more customers, expanding your reach, and getting more value out of each customer transaction with every year that passes.
It’s important to sell more products and support customers as well as possible, and with these ambitious business goals comes hard work.
Ecommerce KPIs are there to make that workload manageable. They can show you where you’ve got to put in the work, which means you get to skip out on poring over your strategy for hours and hours, searching for the weak points.
It also helps that ecommerce KPIs put all your metrics into perspective. You’ve got to know whether you’re outperforming your competition, after all, and there’s no better way to be sure you’re doing that than to use KPIs to create comparisons. That way, you’ll have an easier time edging out the competition and earning customer loyalty while you’re at it.
How to choose which KPIs to track
It might be tempting to only track the areas your business aims to excel in, so that you can keep making strides towards your goals. However, it’s just as important to track the KPIs in which you’re already performing well, especially if there’s a chance your competition could catch up at some point.
In the rapidly-changing, ever-evolving world of ecommerce, the competition is always growing too. By tracking the areas in which you’re ahead of them, you can see to it that you stay ahead.
One of the most important ecommerce metrics (and, of course, KPIs) to keep an eye on is page views. As you can see below, page views tie into lots of other vital parts of any ecommerce business:
The more page views you get, the more people can engage with your content. This pushes your reputation into better and better areas, which in turn helps drive conversions.
These are the sorts of considerations you’ve got to keep in mind as you’re selecting which KPIs to track. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the most useful KPIs for any ecommerce business to track that will help you pave your path to success.
13 essential ecommerce KPIs to track
1. Conversion rate
How many of the people who visit your site stay there long enough to become customers? And which of your marketing campaigns are directly responsible for creating the greatest number of new customers?
The answers to these questions go a long way to showing you what your conversion rate looks like.
Of course, the ideal solution is to continuously increase your conversion rate. More conversions mean more sales, which means your bottom line gets a bump. But conversion rates don’t exist in a vacuum. One thing to keep in mind is that they actually vary greatly depending on your industry.
In other words, if you’re an online retailer focused on selling clothes, a conversion rate of just over 2% is pretty fantastic. The same rate would be a cause for concern to any arts and crafts ecommerce business.
You’ve also got to bear in mind that conversions don’t just happen. Something has to push visitors to try your products, and by finding out what that something is, you can improve the way you approach conversions. KPIs help you identify those factors.
This is one KPI that will always be relevant to every ecommerce business. No one’s got a 100% conversion rate (wouldn’t that be neat, if everyone who saw your site was immediately interested in buying anything you’ve got to offer?), which means you can always work to push yours higher.
2. Customer lifetime value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value, or CLV, shows you the average amount of money a given customer spends on your business across their lifetime buying from you. It’s calculated by subtracting acquisition and servicing costs from the profit that the average customer brings you.
To put that more plainly, CLV tells you how profitable customers will be to you over time. It’s used to assess the value that repeat customers (and their repeat purchases) hold for your ecommerce business.
Just over half of a business’ average customers are going to be profitable in the long term, with the remainder being either non-profitable or very profitable.
Unfortunately, non-profitable customers are difficult to avoid altogether. Never fear, though; they tend to make up less than one-quarter of all your repeat customers.
KPIs can help you both pinpoint what’s stopping the non-profitable customers from bringing more CLV to the table, and figure out how to increase the other customers’ CLV.
Increasing the average amount of CLV your customers offer is beneficial for a few reasons. Perhaps the most important one is the impact that CLV has on acquisition. The more CLV a newly acquired customer promises in the future, the more worthwhile it is to invest in customer acquisition.
At the same time, CLV can be a kind of litmus test that shows you how well you’re doing in other areas. After all, no customer wants to stay with a company that isn’t meeting their needs. More CLV means more happy customers, which means your quality of service is high.
3. Average order value (AOV)
It’s very helpful to know how much your customers are spending when they make purchases in your online store. That’s what average order value (AOV) is for. This KPI exists to show you the average amount that gets spent anytime you make an online sale.
Your first thought might be that you’d want to push your AOV up as high as it’ll go. However, that’s not necessarily always the case. Not every customer wants to make huge purchases all the time, and often, the ones that do tend to buy in bulk.
Still, a bigger order automatically equals more profits for your company. It’s still pretty great to know that someone’s spent their time (and money) on a large number of your products.
So how do you drive your AOV upwards? Well, there are a few different ways. You can use Guided Selling, for example, to nudge your customers towards products that are likely to suit them.
You can also use KPIs to track where your AOV varies, and which factors influence it. For example, if your biggest orders tend to be made by people in a particular age group, then it would probably be a good idea to invest in marketing towards that group. The same is true for any demographic.
4. Shopping cart abandonment rate
Does the image of a half-full shopping cart left all alone make you sad? If you run an ecommerce business, it probably should.
Every online store can benefit from monitoring their shopping cart abandonment rate. Abandonment happens for all kinds of reasons. Customers might be put off by seeing high shipping costs, struggling with the checkout process, or even just hardware problems on their end.
It’s clear that a lot of things affect your cart abandonment rate. So why would you need to pay attention to this KPI?
Well, let’s take a look at the top few factors in the graphic above. If your customers are intimidated by extra costs, you can mitigate that by incorporating some of them into the product price, or by offering special discounts.
You can easily offer a guest checkout option for customers who don’t want to create an account. Complicated checkout processes can be streamlined to cut them down to as few steps as possible.
Just like that, we’ve addressed some of the top reasons why your customers’ carts aren’t making it past the checkout stages. By tracking this KPI, you can learn which aspects of your ecommerce website need to be addressed.
Plus, abandoned carts can provide you with a unique opportunity. Clearly the customers in question were interested in the product they chose. Why not send them a quick email to let them know just how many great benefits they’re missing out on by not making that purchase? Smart email remarketing can be a godsend for any ecommerce brand.
5. Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
Every ecommerce business needs to think about where they’re going to get their next batch of new customers. Unfortunately, they don’t tend to come free, which is why you’ve got to track your average customer acquisition cost (CAC).
There’s a large discrepancy in average CAC depending on which industry you operate within. Just look at the difference between online retailers’ and higher education’s CAC:
Thankfully, most ecommerce businesses aren’t in the education sector.
Even though digital retail is comparatively less expensive when it comes to CAC, you’ll still want to look at ways to bring it down. A great way to use KPIs to do this is by comparing your ad spend to the number of conversions per click each ad is generating.
At the same time, it’s not a good idea to try to lower your CAC too far. Acquisition is all about smart spending. Putting enough resources into your social media strategy, for example, drives the social media engagement you’ll see as a result. If you’re too stingy here, no one will want to interact with your social media accounts, which makes them a waste of your company’s time.
The trick is to try and find a sweet spot. Spending the right amount of money on ad campaigns, email marketing, and SEO optimisation means investing in the future and hopefully guaranteeing new subscribers for your email list and ultimately, customers.
6. Cost per acquisition (CPA)
CPA, or cost per acquisition, connects directly to CAC. It measures the cost of acquiring all new leads, including the ones that eventually turn into non-paying customers.
CPA can be split into the customers that find your ecommerce site through organic searches and those that are acquired inorganically (through marketing efforts on your part). Just like CAC, it varies greatly by industry.
Something to keep in mind about CPA is that your goal is to get new customers, but not at the cost of your business’ vitality. A thousand leads don’t mean much if all of them turn into non-paying customers who lurk on your website but never buy anything.
In other words, your income has to outweigh the cost per acquisition, and your customers, on average, have to bring more value to the company than you had to invest to get them.
If some groups of customers have lower CPAs, then you should figure out what makes them easier to acquire and capitalise on those factors. KPIs are hugely helpful in determining this.
7. Costs of goods sold (COGS)
Another KPI that every ecommerce business has to take into account is their cost of goods sold (COGS). This one refers to, well, exactly what it says on the label.
You can’t create goods for free. It’s a shame, too, because producing free products would be fantastic for just about every business. As it stands, every business needs to consider how much it’s going to cost to produce their products.
Another unfortunate truth about COGS is that it doesn’t tend to be a static value. Even without accounting for inflation (which, let’s face it, is going to remain a factor for the foreseeable future), the cost of crafting and selling goods is on the rise.
This graph of Spotify’s COGS from 2012 to last year goes a long way to illustrate just how drastic that rise in cost can be, even for an established brand.
When you track this KPI, you get to stay ahead of the game.
If a specific point on your supply chain jumps in price, for example, you’ll be able to pinpoint it right away. That way, you get to make informed decisions before increased COGS has the chance to negatively affect your business.
8. Gross profit margin
A business that can’t turn a profit isn’t much of a business at all. Or, at least, it won’t be one for long. That’s why an ecommerce company that’s looking for the right KPIs to focus on should definitely include their gross profit margin on that list.
In case you haven’t encountered this term before, a gross profit margin is a representation of how much money a business is actually earning. It shows you the difference between your total revenue and your profit, in the form of a percentage.
Naturally, the end goal is to increase your company’s gross profit margin.
KPIs help you do this by showing you which products have the biggest profit margins. They can also let you know which customers prefer those products, meaning that gross profit margin KPIs can help guide your marketing strategies. That makes them pretty useful to marketers.
The wider the profit margin, the more profitable a particular product is to sell. That means that aside from marketers, this KPI also helps your decision-makers choose which products to push.
9. Net profit
Your net profit tells you how much money you’ll have left over at the end of the day. It’s found by subtracting your total expenses from your total revenue.
This KPI is a really big one for startups, and stays relevant for any small business. That’s because net profits reveal the exact moment your startup moves into the green and starts making its own money. In the case of small businesses, the total number of sales made each month tends to be lower, which makes any amount of profit all the more important to track.
That doesn’t mean net profits are irrelevant to larger companies. They might have a larger number of orders each month, on average, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more profitable.
By monitoring their net profit, larger companies can figure out whether they’re investing too much money, or whether their business is doing well overall.
Net profits are another kind of litmus test. They show how healthy your business is on the whole, since a company that’s left with more profits each month must be doing well in other areas as well for that to happen.
10. Return on ad spend (ROAS)
This would be one of the factors that gets subtracted from total revenue when you’re calculating your net profits. Return on ad spend (ROAS for short) tells you whether your ads are worth the money you paid to create and distribute them.
ROAS KPIs might, for example, focus on showing you whether you’re getting new customers from specific ads. They can also highlight a link between ads and conversions.
Put simply, this KPI lets you know whether ads are doing their jobs like they should. Not all ads are equally successful—and you need to know how the ones you’ve invested in are performing.
Ads that aren’t drawing in new customers aren’t providing the return on investment you expect. That means you’ve got to change something about your approach to those ones.
It’s also a good idea to consider whether your ROAS differs across platforms. Are your Facebook ads performing very well, while your YouTube ads aren’t getting any clicks? That can be a good indicator of the fact that more of your target audience uses Facebook—and that you should be focusing more of your attention over there.
11. Bounce rate
Bounce rate is a great example of a KPI you’ll want to keep as low as possible. It describes the number of people who go to your website, then leave without buying anything or clicking any links.
Knowing how many people just aren’t tempted by your content is very helpful when it comes to improving that content. When your bounce rate lowers, that’s a great indicator of the fact that you’re successfully boosting your customer retention (and acquisition).
It’s also helpful to have a clear idea of which parts of your website are generating that bounce rate. Are your customers more impressed by your landing pages than your product pages? That means you’ve got the skills to make your products look desirable, and it tells you it’s time to overhaul those product pages to put those skills to good use.
In other words, having a deep understanding of your bounce rate makes it easier to optimise your website.
12. Net promoter score (NPS)
Your net promoter score, or NPS for short, is a great indicator of the kind of customer experience your ecommerce business offers.
To find your NPS, you’ve got to ask your customers whether they’d recommend you to others. The results of a survey asking just this question might look like this:
As you can see above, NPS divides customers into two categories—promoters and detractors. There’s also a neutral category, but it can mostly be disregarded. Promoters are very likely to recommend you to the people in their lives. That makes them a valuable asset to your marketing strategies.
Detractors, on the other hand, are unhappy or only moderately satisfied with your service. Hopefully, they’ll make up only a small percentage of your total number of customers.
By monitoring this KPI, you get a lot of valuable insight into the overall satisfaction levels of your customers. It’s always a good idea to boost those levels. Happy customers stay with the company that’s making them happy and, what’s more, they often give that business free word-of-mouth promotion.
NPS is an example of zero-party data, which is information that customers voluntarily give to a business via things like surveys and sign-ups. It helps companies provide more personalised experiences while maintaining transparency and compliance.
13. Customer satisfaction
Having seen how useful NPS is for ecommerce businesses, it’s no surprise that customer satisfaction also makes the list of important KPIs for ecommerce companies. The vast majority of businesses consider customer satisfaction very important:
Of course, the greater your total number of customers, the harder it is to keep all of them completely happy. Still - that’s no reason to let your customer churn rate increase.
Customer satisfaction can make or break a business. The happier your customers are, the better their reviews will be. Reviews are particularly important to ecommerce businesses, which rely on good ones to keep customers coming to their websites.
Putting in the work to raise customer satisfaction levels means your customers stay with you, and that they’ll bring in new customers over time.
The more you know about what’s making your customers buy from you and what’s making them leave your site or unsubscribe from your list, the easier it is to keep them happy on the whole. That’s why this KPI is absolutely crucial to track.
How can Ve help in tracking and improving ecommerce KPIs?
Ve offers useful tools that can improve the way you run your ecommerce business. That’s because we directly (and positively) impact a few different KPIs.
We’ve seen how important it is to boost your conversion rate as much as possible—as well as how difficult it can be to do just that. Unless you’re working with Ve, that is. With Ve, you can increase your average conversion rate by at least 10%, and up to 88%, a staggering feat that AfB can attest to.
Ve’s Digital Assistant also helps you collect vital zero-party data, thanks to engagement through unobtrusive onsite technology. It can offer to save cart history or target customers with email remarketing. All of which boosts sales—and improves customer satisfaction metrics.
If you’ve followed along this far, you’ll remember that a higher AOV means your business gets to reap more benefits from a single purchase. That’s why it’s very helpful that Ve can push your AOV score up by anywhere between 5 and 31%.
Last, but certainly not least, Ve can increase your average revenue—and by 14-76%, no less. That means your net profits get to go up without you having to adjust your pricing at all.
The long and short of it is that tracking KPIs helps you ensure that your business is performing as well as it can.
By tracking and monitoring KPIs, you get to continuously improve the way you handle customers, as well as boosting the amount of money you make and the number of people who visit your website.
One of the best things about KPIs is that they revolve around a model of constant, ongoing growth. It’s not about pushing your business to measure up to specific goals, then needing to start over. Instead, it’s all about improving over and over again.
KPIs promise a better future for your business. That’s because they’re going to keep raising the bar as your company continues to do better. They’re never static, they’re always adapting and evolving, just like your business.
To sweeten the deal, they also make it much easier to outperform your competition. When you’re constantly growing and getting better, it’s harder for other companies to keep up. It also helps that your chosen KPIs compare your progress to that of relevant competitors, ensuring that you come out on top every time.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What are ecommerce KPIs?
An ecommerce business is one that’s based online and KPIs are key performance indicators. KPIs are like more advanced metrics—they show you how your ecommerce company’s performing, and then they show you how it can improve its performance.
Literally speaking, ecommerce KPIs are just KPIs that an online business uses.
There’s a lot of broad overlap between ecommerce KPIs and the kinds of KPIs that other businesses use. Any business will want to improve its customer satisfaction scores, for example.
At the same time, there are also plenty of KPIs that are more specific to ecommerce.
Any KPIs that deal with the number of clicks a website gets are going to be particularly useful to an ecommerce business. For example, measuring a website’s click-through rate (CTR) tells you how many visitors are navigating your website—which is an ecommerce company’s very lifeblood.
How do you create a KPI?
You’ve first got to know what you’re trying to measure and improve if you want to create a KPI. For example, if your goal is to assess your conversion rate, you’d want to put a number to your site visitors and overall sales.
KPIs often measure the relationship between multiple metrics, like in the example above. You’ll want to pick more complex aspects of your business to turn into KPIs.
How do you track KPIs?
Tracking KPIs is easy. All you need to do is record the way you score against your chosen KPIs at set intervals, such as once per month or week.
Which ecommerce KPIs are the most important?
The 13 KPIs listed above are the most important ones for any ecommerce business to monitor. These are: Conversion rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), average order value (AOV), shopping cart abandonment rate, customer acquisition cost (CAC), cost per acquisition (CPA), costs of goods sold (COGS), gross profit margin, net profit, return on ad spend (ROAS), bounce rate, net promoter score (NPS), and customer satisfaction.