This sponsored post is produced by Mozu.

The rise of advanced analytics has given ecommerce companies more insight than ever into the performance of their sites. And the analytics tools aren’t stopping there — text analytics tools alone are expected to be a $6.5 billion-dollar market by 2020 according to Allied Research.

While these new tools add tremendous value to the ecommerce industry, we’ve become too dependent on them to design high-performing sites. The result is a fixation on KPIs like average order size and cart abandonment, as well as a preponderance of short-term thinking. Put simply, the art of ecommerce is taking a back seat to the science, and we’re missing enormous opportunity as a result.

This does not mean we shouldn’t measure things. To some degree, Pearson’s Law still applies. But we’ve collectively been marching towards the same handful of KPIs for over a decade.

Here are a few ideas for KPIs that might balance the art and science in your strategy.

A new twist on loyalty

Most retailers measure loyalty by how frequently someone returns to the site after a session in which they made a purchase. But we need to expand the definition of loyalty to include engagement with the brand — from Twitter to Facebook, mobile to desktop, and beyond.

While it might be impossible to measure if you’re the first stop for a given shopper, loyalty is more accurately gauged when you consider how much time and attention the shopper invests in your brand — think: attention minutes.

A blended metric that incorporates all forms of engagement with a retailer would give a more accurate sense of potential future revenue from a given customer. Stop worrying about whether or not a shopper returns to your site in  two days. Instead, worry about whether or not they’re going to give you many chances for repeat business over the next two years.

A customer that engages with you on social media or signs up for a newsletter is giving you a radically disproportionate amount of their attention compared to the millions of other shopping sites on the Web. That’s a massive amount of leverage for any retailer.

And it’s for that very reason that digital loyalty is anchored by attention and engagement, not sale volume and repeat visits.

Surprise and delight as a service

Every brand aims to exceed the expectations of their shoppers. But when you optimize sites for conversion and other standard metrics, you often try to streamline the experience to push shoppers straight to the checkout cart. A lot of ecommerce sites look the same for precisely this reason. Best practice has a funny way of achieving that.

These experiences lose most any sense of art and emotion as a result. Customers know when they’re being shoved into the proverbial funnel. Once they sniff a funnel, the odds that they’ll return just for fun, or to check out what’s new, drop precipitously.

Instead of optimizing your size to get visitors into the shopping cart faster, you should set KPIs for an acceptable level of tangents and detours. Are visitors exploring your site? Are they indulging in some content? Are they going on an adventure as much as they’re making a purchase?

The KPI for surprise and delight would, of course, vary widely depending on the brand. Sigma Beauty is a great example of a retailer that has designed a curated experience infused with surprise and delight.

Using a product they built called “Face Charts” they helped customers to shop a look by playing with different brushes and cosmetic colors. It visually showcased their cosmetics on a virtual face in a playful, fun experience. The result was more of an art exhibition than a standard shopping experience — it was personalized, surprising, and delightful. All the elements were present to make the shopper feel in control while exposing them to new products and uses in the process.

If you were to look at their analytics, you’d probably see an unusually long time-on-site result. But the insight embedded in that metric is that most visitors were likely to play with at least one product and face chart before a purchase was made. That ratio — the plays per purchase ratio — might make for the ideal surprise and delight KPI.

The inspiration factor

Rather than merely tracking average order size, what if you started paying attention to whether or not your site inspired someone to purchase a product that they didn’t expect to during that visit?

For example, someone might be shopping for place settings for Thanksgiving dinner, but also end up buying a new coat rack.

While it might be imprecise, you could at least associate the first products someone searched for with a theme or concept, and then track how frequently they go on to buy a product unrelated to that theme in the same session.

Many retailers might think average order size covers this behavior, but it doesn’t tell you cause and effect.

What if you knew what types of promotions and campaigns are most effective in getting someone to make impulse purchases outside the scope of their needs during that visit?

The “inspiration” KPI would measure how well your site motivated someone to make an impulse purchase during the visit, or even if it inspired exploration of a new product line and a future purchase. You could track which content and promotions a visitor consumes and then cross-check that with their purchases over the next 30 or 60 days.

In theory, sites with a high percentage of visitors exhibiting this behavior would also have ample opportunity to boost their loyalty metrics. But most importantly, they’d be building a remarkably engaged audience.

If nothing else, you wouldn’t have to worry so much about always showing shoppers “similar items.”

The art of the experience

I want to be careful, in closing, to point out that the “sacred” KPIs of ecommerce are still relevant and valuable. But we shouldn’t stop there.

Retail has always been a deeper, more emotional experience. Whether it is shopping malls, kiosks, websites, apps, or augmented reality, shopping experiences are a deeply embedded element of our culture and social lives. In that sense, art has always been at the center.

Balancing your goals and KPIs to measure the impact of both the art and science of your site will yield compounding returns for your business. Most importantly, those returns will be realized in both the short and long-term.

If you believe art is forever, then you know the value of long-term perspective. Try baking that into your KPIs and you won’t be disappointed.

Jason is the CTO at Mozu with a strong passion for crafting technology and software that drives business growth. Mozu, the cloud commerce platform, gives innovative brands the power to create rich ecommerce experiences. Request a demo at

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