Welcome to Ask Shopify, a series where ecommerce experts tackle real questions and challenges from store owners who are trying to launch, build, and scale their stores. We’re here to help with every aspect of your store, from marketing to HR to accounting.
Who’s we? We’re the ecommerce experts both inside and outside of Shopify. Between our team, who spend all day immersed in the world of ecommerce (and who sometimes run stores themselves!) our squad of Shopify Experts, and our amazing customers, we have access to world-class expertise—and now you do too. So let’s dig in and get to your questions, because they’re good ones.
It’s easy to fall into a love-hate relationship with metrics when you’re trying to grow your ecommerce store.
You love that there’s a number for everything, and you can clearly see your progress on just about any variable—but you hate that you could spend a full week just pouring over data trying to make sense of it all.
Luckily, digital data about your business is something that can scale with you. There’s no need to dive into the deep end when you’re just getting started, and those custom Google Analytics reports will be there for you when you’re ready.
As a new ecommerce store owner, there are a few numbers you’ll want to make sure you keep an eye on to grow your business, says Shannon Gallagher, Product Manager for Merchant Analytics. She narrowed it down to five key metrics that provide actionable, concrete information to help you grow your store.
“Your key metrics are the ones that help you understand every step a customer takes on their way to a sale,” said Shannon.
“First and foremost, you want to understand your traffic,” says Shannon. “It’s important to monitor the number of visitors that you're getting to your shop.”
The high-level overview of how many visitors you’re driving to your store in total is undeniably important, but there are key metrics hidden within your total traffic that can be even more useful for spotting opportunities for growth.
“It’s about understanding your visitors. Where are they coming from, and how many are there? That might be in terms marketing channels, which tells you how they found your store, but it’s also where in the world they’re living. Those two pieces of information can help you plan and target your advertising.”
Once you’ve got a solid understanding of how people find your store today, and where they’re coming from, you can make better decisions about everything from which channels seem to be working, to the importance of international shipping to your business.
“Your store’s conversion rate is important to keep an eye on because it shows you whether or not your visitors are converting to customers,” says Shannon.
There’s not just one conversion rate you should be looking at, however. There are three numbers in particular which you should track closely: how many people add items to their cart, how many people reach the checkout, and how many people then go on to purchase. Each stage can provide useful information about how your store is performing.
“Watching your conversion rates can help you understand if you’re converting a meaningful number of visitors into customers, or if you need to optimize.”
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a discipline unto itself, and how you go about it depends on your industry, your customers and your product. While there will always be some customization based on your store’s specific traits, these articles can help you navigate your first steps into CRO if you’re keen to get started.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
- 19 Growth and CRO Experts on Increasing Revenue Without Increasing Traffic
- Content Optimization: How to Turn Readers Into Revenue
- The Beginner's Guide to Simple A/B Testing
We couldn’t talk about core metrics without mentioning total sales. After all, this is a make-or-break number for your store, and one you’re sure to have your eye on with or without our advice.
“When you’re looking at total sales, you want to really understand what influences your sales numbers and why. This includes how each of your sales channels is performing, and how your sales are trending over time,” says Shannon.
To get a deeper understanding of how everything works together, you can start by looking at a few months of sales data, broken down by day. Are you seeing any trends as to when people are buying more from your store? If yes, ask yourself if you know why that’s the case, and how you might be able to build sales on other days, increase the amount of sales on popular days, or both.
As an example, if you notice a spike in sales on Monday, and you’re not sure why it’s a consistently popular day, you can link that information to your traffic. How are people finding your store on Mondays? Is it different than other days of the week? This could be a great starting point for new campaign ideas and optimization efforts.
Average order value
“You should also keep an eye on your average order value, which will depend on the mix of your products, your discount strategy, and more. In an ideal world, you’d want to see your average order value going up,” said Shannon.
Your average order value (AOV) shows you how much the average customer spends in a single transaction on your store, and it directly influences important aspects of your business, such as your margins or your ability to absorb shipping costs. Increasing your AOV can boost your revenue without needing to find new sources of traffic or ways to improve your conversion rates, which makes it a powerful metric to track and optimize.
If your AOV isn’t where you want it to be, Corey Ferreira, who works on Merchant Education here at Shopify, has five strategies you can use to increase it.
New vs. returning customers
Another metric that came up in conversation as an important measure of your store’s performance is the mix of new versus returning customers. You’ll ideally see a balance between new customers and returning customers, and what constitutes a good percentage of new customers may change over time.
As a general rule, it’s both easier and cheaper to convert an existing customer than it is to find and convert a new one. Then again, everyone’s a new customer at some point. You’ll want to keep a certain percentage of new customers in order to keep growing your business.
So what’s next?
Ok, sigh of relief time. You don’t need to keep tabs on every number under the sun to grow your store, and you now have five numbers to track that will help you build a plan and measure it. (And they're all available in your dashboard in Shopify.)
As you grow more comfortable understanding your business through the lens of these metrics, you can take steps into more detailed, nuanced numbers as you need them. When you have questions about your business that your core metrics can’t answer, you’ll be ready to add new information to your analysis, and we’ll be here for you when that time comes.
Do you have questions you’d like to Ask Shopify? We’d love to hear them. Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!