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Using your e-Commerce dashboard to improve performance

Check engine warning messages on a car dashboard

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Why read this? : Your e-Commerce dashboard helps you track your online sales performance. We share how to set one up and how to use it. Learn how to store, analyse and share the data. And learn how to use it to make decisions with our case study example. Read this to get more out of your e-Commerce dashboard. 

Part of managing an online store is tracking how it’s doing. Your profit and loss shows the sales, costs and profits. But those aren’t the only Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you need to look at.

You need to track other functions too. 

How are key marketing areas like your advertising and media doing for example?

What about your website and customer experience?

Are supply chain and customer service running the order to delivery system efficiently? 

You normally set up an e-Commerce dashboard to answer these sorts of questions. This report collates data, and shows how your store is doing against its KPIs. What’s going well. And where you’ve got issues. 

It’s updated and shared regularly. You, and the e-Commerce team add comments to explain the numbers and trends. The context of your store shapes what measures go into your e-Commerce dashboard. But to set one up, you’ll need to cover at least these 3 areas :-

  • storing, analysing and sharing data.
  • the dashboard owner and audience.
  • how the dashboard drives decision-making.

Storing, analysing and sharing data

First, you have to work out where to store your e-Commerce dashboard data.

Then, how you’ll analyse and share it. 

Storing data usually means a spreadsheet (Excel or Numbers). That’s also where you do the analysis. Then you share this analysis in a presentation style report. (Powerpoint or Keynote). The report makes the data easy to understand and communicates insights and actions. 

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are great for numerical and quantitative types of data.

No surprise that there’s a lot of numbers in e-Commerce. You use spreadsheets to organise this data and do calculations and run analyses.

That could be as simple as summing up your monthly sales for example. Or as complex as running a regression analysis on which customer experience factors influence sales the most.

Google Merchant Centre Screengrab

But spreadsheets can quickly become complex if you have a lot of data to manage. Clear labelling and organisation of the data is vital. Even with that though, many people still find spreadsheets visually off-putting. They can be hard to navigate, especially if it’s someone else’s spreadsheet. Qualitative data and commentary can get lost among all the numbers.

Presentations

To share your dashboard, you turn it into a presentation style report. This makes it easier to tell a story about the data, using for example :-

  • clear visuals like charts, tables and diagrams.
  • a logical sequence with added commentary and highlighted text. 
  • a simple one page overview slide.  

Presentation style reports of your e-Commerce dashboard break mass amounts of data into simpler, more meaningful chunks. (see more on info chunking in our design psychology article). 

Quantitative research results example

The downside is you can’t dig into the data if you have questions. You need to go back to the spreadsheet for that. Presentations usually take more time to put together too. You can speed things up by linking the data spreadsheet and presentation together so you can refresh the data automatically. But you you still need to manually add comments and check the visuals. 

That takes time.

Automated e-Commerce dashboards

More advanced stores often use automated dashboard tools. These speed up the process.

The most well known is Salesforce’s Marketing Intelligence (formerly known as Datorama). Companies like Google, Adobe and Oracle also offer similar tools. Though you usually need to buy their marketing technology to access them.

These automated dashboards use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to connect different data sources.

These are pieces of code that sit between programs to allow easy sharing of data. APIs mean your dashboard can pull data from many sources automatically. This saves you a lot of time and effort. 

For example, say your e-Commerce dashboard sources data from your :- 

It’s a lot of work to collect information from each of these sources and manually input it to your e-Commerce dashboard. With an automated system, you set it up once. Then the next time, you just hit refresh. 

These automated dashboards also often come with sophisticated analytical and data visualisation tools. Some even offer Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis of the data. It highlights trends and makes automated suggestions about what might be important.

There’s also tools like Tableau which help you with data visualisation. They make it easier to present the data, so you understand it faster. That means you find better, quicker answers.

The e-Commerce dashboard owner and audience

Once you work out “how” your e-Commerce dashboard will work, then you need to decide “who” is going to do the work. Who’s going to own it, and who’s going to use it to make decisions?

In a small business, that might be you. But usually, you’d hire an analyst, or outsource it to an agency.

The e-Commerce dashboard owner is responsible for making sure it’s produced, and sent out at the right time. They manage who it goes to, fix any issues, and check it for accuracy and clarity.

Woman on stage holding a piece of paper presenting to an audience in an auditorium with a sign saying product school in the background

The e-Commerce dashboard needs to meet 2 different business needs for its audience. It’s an information update on progress. And it’s a catalyst for decision-making.

Decision-making takes priority. You need to make decisions to manage your store. Think about what those might be. Make sure everyone involved in making decisions gets access to the e-Commerce dashboard. 

In simple terms, you do more of the things that work well, and change or eliminate the things that don’t. But these decisions can impact all the different functions of e-Commerce. Make it clear who’s responsible for decisions and actions in each area. 

How the e-Commerce dashboard drives decision-making

Usually, there’s a weekly or monthly performance review meeting. Key decision makers review the latest e-Commerce dashboard results and decide on actions.

When there’s an issue, you try to diagnose why it happened. You may need to ask questions and gather more information.  

Was it a competitor action for example? Or something changed in customers needs? Was there a problem in the customer experience process?

Business meeting round with a man presenting in front of a screen to 5 colleagues

Once you diagnose the cause, you work out a plan to fix it.

You ask the e-Commerce team to generate ideas and come up with solutions. They use their expertise to recommend how to fix the problem, how long it’ll take and how much it’ll cost. 

It’s helpful to plan ahead for likely issues. Some issues have obvious owners that need to fix them. Advertising issues go to the marketing team for example. High bounce rates go to your website team. And delivery complaints go to supply chain and customer service. Knowing these things could happen helps you prepare for them. 

You also need to be clear on how decision-making works. How much authority do teams have? When do you need to set up a cross-functional team to fix an issue? What happens when teams disagree? 

The more you agree this up front, the less time you waste fixing issues later. 

Case Study - example e-Commerce dashboard

All good in theory. But you only really learn the value of an e-Commerce dashboard when you start to use a real one. 

Real numbers bring it to life. They show you how many visitors you got. How much they spent. And what impact your activities had.

What your e-Commerce dashboard looks like depends on your business context. But to show what it could look like, we share this adapted example from an old D2C project.

This e-Commerce dashboard broke into 4 chunks :-

Managing and online store - example of a dashboard with four columns of data - campaigns, platforms, operations and sales
  • campaigns.
  • platforms.
  • operations.
  • sales.

Campaigns

Most online store campaigns prioritise digital media in the media plans.

There’s 3 key reasons for this :- 

Targeted reach

Firstly, digital media channels can be very targeted. You can identify specific online shopper segments based on their demographics and behaviours. 

For example, you can target on gender, age or location. Or on specific sites they visit, or other products they buy.

That means your digital media reach is more efficient. There’s less wastage compared to traditional channels. 

You also have more control over where and when these customers see your advertising. 

Instagram post saying No Network cables? Thank Dr John O'Sullivan and the team at CSIRO - with a picture of a woman wearing a T-shirt that shows a WiFi symbol and the words Australian Invention

For example, you can place adverts on sites where customers are researching the category. Or in response to relevant search terms. You can place adverts at times when you know shoppers are likely to be buying. So, specific days of the week, or times of the day. 

Engagement and call to action

Digital media is also good at driving engagement. There’s an immediate and clear call to action. Customers can click to visit the store website.

That interaction works in all digital formats – display adverts, boosted social posts and SEO.

If shoppers are ready to buy, digital media makes it easier for them to do so.

With social media, you can also interact with the customer via comments and enquiries. 

Woman wearing a grey sweatshirt and looking at her phone in a dark room

Test and learn

The last benefit of digital media is you can run a test and learn approach. You spend a little on many different versions of an advert at the start of a campaign (the test). And then then you invest more in the adverts that perform the best (the learn). 

It’s usually quick, cheap and easy to create digital adverts (compared to traditional adverts). You can easily test different headlines or different end frames for example. And you see the results quickly. You learn fast what works and what doesn’t. Which video, image or copy drives the most visits and sales. It’s fast customer feedback that helps you optimise the customer experience

Example reach and engagement KPIs

There are many ways to measure your digital media campaign, but these should always include measures of reach and engagement.

In our example, we used impressions and Click Through Rate (CTR) to do this. Impressions are how many times the advert was shown to people online. It shows reach. And Click Through Rate is how many people clicked on the advert. It shows engagement. 

Which measures you use depends on your objectives. 

There can be limits to how useful these are. Impressions don’t tell you how many people actually noticed the advert for example. Just that they were exposed to it online. 

But just remember it usually takes repeated viewings of an advert to make a customer want to buy. Those unclicked viewings might well lead to a sale at a later point. But you can’t measure this. You can only track when they click. So, you have to take care when you interpret this data. It may not be giving you a true view of your media performance. 

Working with campaign data

You should set KPIs and targets when you brief the agency who run your digital media.

Ask them to report on performance during and after each campaign they run.

If you use channels like Facebook Ads, or Google Ads, you can access that campaign data yourself.

You have instant access to live data about how your advertising is performing in these channels. You can quickly adjust your spend if you need to.

In addition, with adverts that run on social media, you should also measure responses to these posts. Likes, shares, comments, re-posts and re-tweets for example. Those are all measures of  customers engaging with your advertising.

Screenshot of Facebook Ads geographic targeting capability for Sydney Eastern Suburbs to show for a case study pizza shop

Platforms

Google Analytics is the usual choice to track what happens on websites. (See our digital data guide for more on Google Analytics).

It gives you a good base level of data to track how your online store website is doing. 

In an e-Commerce dashboard, you’d typically measure the number of visitors to your website. And how many of those convert to a sale. Like the CTR% on digital media this number is likely to be low – on average benchmark around only 2 -3%.

Mobile phone showing Google, with the word "analytics" in the search bar

On your website, you may have more specific measures you track separately like :-

  • bounce rate – how many people leave without interacting with the site.
  • time on site and number of pages visited.
  • visits to specific pages e.g. product pages.

Customer Feedback - Net Promoter Score

Any customer feedback measures you capture should also go on your e-Commerce dashboard. For example, Net Promoter Score (NPS) – is a common measure of customer satisfaction. 

With NPS, you ask, “On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend (your brand) to a friend?

The answers are collated and scored. All scores of 8 and above (promoters) get a score of +1. All scores between 5 and 7 (neutrals) score a 0. And, all scores 4 and below (detractors) score a -1. 

The model assumes only people who’re really positive (score 8 or more) will advocate your brand. Scores of 5 to 7 are neutral. And scores of 4 and below will be critical of your brand.

Your overall Net Promoter Score is the total number of promoters less the total number of detractors, expressed as a percentage.

A high NPS is clearly better than a low NPS. It means customers like what you’re doing and are likely to be telling others about it. 

Social media platforms

In this example, we didn’t include any social media “pull” KPIs. They weren’t relevant for this store. But we have used them on other e-Commerce dashboards. 

So for example, measuring the total number of followers or likes for pages and posts. If you include organic content, you can have KPIs relevant to response rates. For example, how many comments, shares, re-tweets and so on? 

If you share content on You Tube, you can include relevant video metrics like views and shares. 

You wouldn’t report on every social metric obviously. You only cover those which have the biggest impact on sales in your e-Commerce dashboard.

Operations

In our example, we included operational measures in our e-Commerce dashboard. These showed how the order to delivery process was performing.

You may not need have access to this type of data if you outsource it. Through marketplaces, print on demand or dropshipping for example. 

But, if you run a full D2C business, you’ll have direct access to payment and delivery data. You use this to measure the the operational side of your store. 

Some common operational KPIs include :-

Inside a courier delivery van, many different types of packages in cardboard boxes stacked up for delivery

Delivered In Full On Time (DIFOT)

Delivered In Full On Time (DIFOT) is a commonly used measure in supply chain teams. It shows you the percentage of products delivered in the right quantity and at the right time. Typically, most businesses would aim for over 95%. In some businesses, DIFOT can be over 99%.

Returns

The level of returns is another important KPI that should go on your e-Commerce dashboard. Every returned delivery adds cost. You need to keep a close eye on these costs. 

High return rates often mean problems with either the sales offer or the delivery. You need to investigate if returns starts to rise. 

In categories like online fashion for example, returns will be higher. That’s because shoppers can’t try the products before they buy. So fashion e-Commerce stores have to make returns easy for customers.

Returns are a pain for customers, and a pain for you. That’s why you track them in your e-Commerce dashboard to keep them as low as you can. 

Complaints

Your customer service team handle complaints. Complaint levels tell you how happy (or unhappy) customers are about their experience.

You want to avoid them obviously, but it’s almost impossible to have no complaints.

Someone, somewhere will always have an issue. It’s human nature to complain.

Use your dashboard to alert you if complaints rise above expected levels. 

Man in a suit sitting at a desk holding a phone and angrily shouting into the mouthpiece

Maybe there’s an issue with a specific part of your customer experience? The quicker you identify where the problem is, the quicker you can fix it.

Fraud and chargebacks

Fraud and chargebacks are another cost that’ll hit your profit and loss in your online store business model. That’s where people use stolen or forged credit card details and you need to refund customers. Again, you want to keep these low. 

Track the rates on your dashboard. Check that hackers and fraudsters aren’t deliberately targeting your site. You may need to adjust settings in your payment gateway to reduce your risk of fraud. For example, blocking customers who repeatedly claim refunds. 

Sales

Your dashboard should show how your total sales compares to your forecast and target. But it should also break down the performance of key categories or products that sit underneath the total. 

Look for the best and worst performers. Analyse why products over- or under-perform. Relate them back to the other measures you look at in your e-Commerce dashboard. 

For example, maybe some media campaigns work better than others? Or, a particular sales promotion or price discount is more effective?

Close up of woman's hands holding a bunch of dollar bills and in the process of counting them

Add comments to explain how your activities affected sales. 

Compare sales during low activity periods and high activity periods. The low activity periods give you a sales baseline. You can attribute the extra sales you get during high activity periods to your activities. 

Try also to cover external factors which impact sales. For example, competitor advertising and sales promotions. Check their websites and social media activity. Keep notes on what they do and when they do it. Look out for their customer comments which might tell you where they shop online, and what they buy.

Make sure you add comments to your e-Commerce dashboard on these external factors too.

Conclusion - using your e-Commerce dashboard

You wouldn’t drive your car without a dashboard. You wouldn’t know how fast you were going, or if something was wrong.

By the same measure, you need a dashboard to drive your e-Commerce store too.

It shows how much you’re selling, and where you may have issues. 

It gives you the information you need to make the right decisions to move your store forward. 

Check engine warning messages on a car dashboard

What measures you look at in your e-Commerce dashboard depends on the nature of your business. But there’s some obvious ones to prioritise. 

You need key financial measures from your profit and loss in the e-Commerce dashboard for example. But also measures of the actions that drive them. Your digital media that attracts visitors. Your CRM activity that drives loyalty. Key operational measures around payments and delivery costs. These KPIs help you make marketing decisions and prioritise actions. They help you keep your store on track. 

Check out our managing an online store guide for more on how the dashboard fits in with other e-Commerce processes. Or contact us, if you need help setting up and analysing an e-Commerce dashboard. 

Photo credits

Engine warning light : Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Marketing Dashboard : Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Woman presenting on stage : Photo by Product School on Unsplash

Business meeting : Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Woman looking at phone in dark room : Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash 

Google Analytics : Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Packages inside a courier van : Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Counting cash : Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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