How Do Your Analytics Stack Up?

Nancy Joyce

Updated · Oct 22, 2003

So, you're using analytics. But how are you really doing? Have you set your own benchmarks? Are you improving against them? Great first step. But how do you know how you're performing against your industry?

A strong Web analytics partner can play an important role in establishing industry benchmarks to enable Web sites to measure themselves against other companies in their industry, as well as to highlight differences in performance, revealing site-specific opportunities for optimization.

As part of a new quarterly benchmark series, my organization gathered data across 13 million visitors; 19.5 million visits; 153 million page views; 1.7 million shopping carts and $207 million in sales to examine 30 Web site metrics, and 870 relationships between metrics. At press time, the data represent a one-month period. It's specific to the retail industry.

In terms of overall site usage, the average visitor looks at 10 pages and spends five minutes on the site. This average of 30 seconds per page is not a lot of time to get a message or product display across, so bear in mind opportunities will be lost if pages are poorly organized or not intuitive.

You may suspect the home page is critical and considerable effort should be spent to optimize it. You're right! Our study shows one out of every two visits begins on the home page, and one of every 10 page views ends up there. Moreover, approximately 34 percent of users drop off the home page without going any farther into the site. Even if your marketing campaigns drop visitors onto a different landing page, remember: When they come back, they'll come to the home page. If you optimize any one page on your site, make it the home page.

How important is your site's search function (as opposed to navigating through set menus)? It's fairly well used; one in five visitors use search on a site to find products or other content. Three in 20 sales orders include products found via search. That's 15 percent of sales. Note that a purchased item from search is approximately 40 percent less expensive than an average item ($60 vs. $104). This may suggest items found through search are not highly considered purchases. Consider how you can incentivize search users to spend more time on the site to increase that sale amount.

What about considered purchases? We know customers often leave a shopping cart with items in it, but they sometimes do return. Our data reveal items carted from a previous visit account for a significant proportion of sales (one in four purchases have items carted from previous visits) and these items are approximately 15 percent more expensive than an average purchased item ($119 vs. $104). The lesson here: don't despair if visitors leave items behind. Just make sure you do your best to remarket to them. Remember, they're most likely considering the purchase. Make sure you remind them to come back and complete the sale.

Finally, abandoned shopping carts offer an opportunity to increase sales five times over. If you don't remember any other statistic, remember this one. For every $1 purchased, $4 dollars are left abandoned. Repeat that and translate what it means in opportunity costs. We all know visitors sometimes use cart functionality to check out shipping costs or to see an outfit together. Even if that browsing segment is eliminated, it's still a tremendous opportunity to increase sales.

Other interesting facts: For every cart picked up by a user, there's roughly one other that's abandoned. More significant is that abandoned carts are much larger. They contain on average not only more items than converted carts (2.6 vs. 2.2) but merchandise worth 60 percent more than the average converted cart ($290 vs. $178). Individual items are approximately 30 percent more expensive ($138 vs. $104).

A recap of the lessons learned by these eye-opening statistics:

  • Optimize your home page. Make content both relevant to the target audience and a reflection of the image and purpose of the Web site.
  • Experiment with ways to keep search users on the site and adding products to their cart.
  • Retarget e-mail to visitors with abandoned carts.
  • The opportunity is large ($4 abandoned for every $1 converted).
  • Visitors have a clear interest to buy.
  • Visitors may abandon a cart for various reasons, but they still need to be reminded to keep you top of mind as they consider their purchase.

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