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Benchmark comparisons based on industry averages are an important indicator of the health of a brand’s business. Knowing how you stack up against your peers can inform business decisions that help you compete more effectively. But there’s a downside: “average” metrics sometimes over-simplify the health of the system they represent.

Why? We all intuitively think that “average” is “mid-point” with data distributed evenly on either side. Especially when comparing our site’s performance with a peer group like same-vertical sites; i.e. a luxury brand benchmarking against other luxury brands.

While averages provide a good starting point, we should be looking at distribution of values over a range to understand and compare performance in a peer group of similar brands.

We analyzed data across more than 2,000 North American and European sites over a four-year period primarily in this manner. We found, not surprisingly, that the shopper journey has evolved, but that each step within that journey has evolved differently over the years for different verticals.

The ultimate goal of this exercise is to help you optimize your shopper’s journey to be as efficient as the best-in-class sites in your industry and, perhaps, to help prioritize investments to improve where you might be falling short.

In this, the first in a series of deep dives into the most important digital commerce KPIs, we examine Product Views Per Visit.

Product View Rate is defined as the average number of product pages viewed by a visitor, as seen in conjunction with non-product pages on the site. This is important because this is the first signal of true buying intent in a shopper’s journey. While one or two product views in a visit may not seem like a lot, it is indicative of a couple of trends in the industry – that shoppers are visiting more but spending less time with each visit, and with each visit they are satisfying their curiosity in a targeted manner, hence giving out clearer buying signals.

What this chart tells us

  • While Luxury and General Apparel have seen an overall increase in product view rates for each visits, other verticals are stagnating or sliding backwards. Accessory brands have seen a marked improvement, while a majority of the sites saw just over one product view per visit in 2014, they are seeing 1.5 product views in 2017.
  • Apparel retailers should put more effort in designing good product pages; shoppers reward you with more views if you do it right. Check out these tips from our UX design expert, who has helped dozens of global brands design PDPs that lead to more sales.
  • Home retailers may not want to place a lot of weight on industry averages. Unlike previous years, there is no one value where most sites’ values are clustered around.
  • Health & Beauty – here’s a vertical where averages make sense as a comparison exercise. Most sites are clustered around the one-product-view mark, and the values aren’t widely or unevenly distributed. One area of concern is that this range hasn’t improved much in four years. While sites in other verticals have progressed, as shown in the chart, Health & Beauty performance has stayed consistent.
  • Accessory sites have collectively improved the most dramatically over the years. Back in 2014, the majority of sites generated around 1.25 product views per visit. That number has improved to 1.5 in 2017. This is indicative of a couple of things: the sites are coalescing around effective standardized design practices for product pages, and they are collectively doing a better job of channeling visitors to these pages.

Product views are the first clear signal a shopper sends of her buying intent. As with any journey construct, this first step lays the foundation of their shopping experience on the site. Next week, we will look at another shopping signal that follows product views – adding a product to the shopping cart. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out our quarterly Shopping Index, which analyzes the shopping activity of hundreds of millions of global shoppers.