Vanity metrics are the numbers make you feel good but can also seriously mislead. Actionable metrics, on the other hand, help you react and take action.

Let’s take an online store as an example…

Typical vanity metrics:

  1. Total signups or total active users: That will automatically rise over time, almost entirely unrelated to what you do.
  2. Time spent on product site / number of pages and hits: If people spend time complaining on the support page or sorting through too many items on your page, those numbers say nothing about what to change.

Examples of actionable metrics:

  1. Average shopping cart size: The amount of money spent on a purchase. If shopping cart size averages £15 on a food ordering site, adding an extra £5 as delivery cost during web checkout could logically make people change their mind and abandon the order.
  2. The effectiveness of recommendation engines: How likely will a visitor add a recommended product to the shopping cart during checkout?
  3. Mailing list effectiveness: Measures click-through rates and the ability to make buyers return and buy.
  4. More sophisticated retailers care about other metrics such as the number of reviews written after buying a product or of those who considered it helpful.
  5. Abandon rate during each phase of the web checkout funnel: Does it occur while reviewing the cart or entering billing details? Something as simple as a button text change could have a big impact!

If you’re designing an online store (or, frankly, any type of product or service), make sure that you look at the right metrics.

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