The 5 most overlooked metrics

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The aim of this article is to give you a moment in which to think outside the box. I'm going to cover five metrics that are not always given the attention they deserve. Many people never look at them at all. I hope I can prompt you to think again about them and maybe discover something new about your site(s). The five metrics are checkout success, landing page conversions, visits to purchase, rise of mobile, and page speed. These are mainly for e-commerce sites, but you'll still find some of these metrics of interest even if you don't sell online. 

The 5 most overlooked metrics  

Checkout success

No matter what a site sells or how it's designed, every sale requires a checkout process. The performance of the checkout process is therefore fundamental to the overall sales performance of the site, yet rarely given close attention.

Online checkout is not about processing payments; it's about closing the sale. To make a sale, the site needs to get the customer's money. In the real world, this is a simple process: You tell the customer the price, they give you the money -- it's done. No big deal. In the online world, it's very different. Completing a checkout on a website involves several forms. These are going to obtain names, addresses and credit card details, offer shipping and tax options, compute total prices, conduct secure encrypted transactions, and pull in the electronic resources of a bank or other credit card processing authority. Getting the customer from shopping cart to finished sale can require some careful design and coding, but rarely gets any. The process is made more difficult by the fact that customer behavior around shopping carts is more complex than in traditional retail. Online customers may not know the final price until they enter the checkout process, when tax and shipping costs can be calculated. This means that, unlike in a physical store, when they get to the cash register, you've still got to keep selling. It means that you can still lose business even though you're now inside the checkout process itself. Just because they've clicked "checkout" doesn't mean you've got a sale.

This makes it essential to keep watch on your checkout success. What percentage of the people who commenced your checkout process completed it? These are the only visits that count as a success. These are the only people who constitute your customers.   

If you're using Google Analytics, you'll have to create a report for it yourself via "events" or "custom reports" as Google needs to know the URLs for the beginning and end of the checkout process. The benchmark has been 60 percent for the last fifteen years. Twenty percent of those who put stuff into a cart have no intention of purchasing; they're just trying to determine the final cost once shipping and taxes are added. The other 20 percent is lost because of something in the design of the checkout process. The checkout process is only ever a few pages long, so it doesn't take much work to improve it. Nevertheless, since every sale goes through the checkout process, the impact is large. By improving only one or two pages, you increase total site revenue. No pages are more important than your checkout pages, and no pages reward the attention so well.

Most sites are well below the 60 percent benchmark because few put much design effort into the checkout process itself. Checkout success rates are often as low as 20 percent. If you're below benchmark, the potential for improvement represents a goldmine. It's not uncommon to triple or quadruple turnover the first time analytic-driven design is applied to the checkout process.

To improve, you'll need to drill down inside the individual steps someone walks through on your site when checking out. You'll have to watch how many people who enter a step make it through to the other side. You'll be looking for places where an unusually large amount of people exit. You can expect to lose 3 percent every time they have to move to a new form, it's just the nature of the web. Anything above that becomes something to look at. Why are people dropping out? Is it something you can address? As well as improving the checkout process, many sites introduce steps to retain the sale after abandonment. Offering to retain the cart and any checkout data for later is the most common strategy.

Remember, you haven't got a sale until you've got their money. Paying attention to the checkout success rate usually provides a better return for your effort than anything else you can do on the site.