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In Between the Numbers: Measuring E-Commerce:As shopping behavior evolves, so must our metrics

August 10, 2011
at 3:43 pm PST

 Thinking about the intersection of the internet and the store, the mash-up of retail’s virtual and physical worlds.

 And wondering if something as out-of-sight as the industry’s performance metrics will get in the way of progress.

 When e-commerce entered retail life in the mid-1990s, it was understandably regarded as just another channel of distribution – indeed, as just one more store.   With this perspective, the key performance metric was (and generally remains to this day) site revenue.  Conversion, another key metric, was defined as site transactions as a percent of site visits.

 This still makes sense – but at a narrow, misleading level, because e-commerce no longer defines the connected world for retail. 

 In this age of Google and Facebook,  the primary value today of the Internet to the shopper – and to your brand – is less about transactions, and more about search.  On the PC, on the tablet, on the mobile devices, amidst the aisles.

 The Internet – and the search function of the ever-mobile Internet – is now the front door of the entire brand. 

 In this past January, according to comScore, Americans conducted 18.6 billion total search queries (roughly 11.9 billion on Google alone).  That’s 81 searches per month for every one of the 231 million  Americans said to be  accessing the Internet on a regular basis.  Last year, the search market grew by 12% – the sum of a 4% increase in searchers, and 8% growth in searches per person.

 According to comScore’s February 2011 study, 58% of US consumers begin their shopping journey with search.   According to the Pew Research Center’s 2010 research, a typical day finds 21% of American adults searching for product information – up from 15% just three years earlier.

 Given that online transactions total just 7% of US annual retail revenue, much of that online search opens the door to a store-based transaction.

 Which suggests a new set of metrics to complement the old. 

 Do the math.  

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