Marketing Best Practices

6 Engagement Metrics that Matter for Retail Marketing Content

By Ashley Taylor Anderson May 12, 2015

When I first started my career in digital marketing, I focused solely on pageviews and unique visitors in terms of assessing whether my content did well. At the time, I was working for a brand with a large publishing outlet, and the editorial team was laser-focused on these two metrics because the bigger these numbers were, the more advertisers would pay. I assumed that the metrics they cared about on the editorial side were the same ones I should care about on the marketing side for my own content. #fail

Now, of course, I know better. Sure, the number of eyeballs that see your content is nice to know, but it’s much more interesting to look at metrics that tell you what the owners of those eyeballs do when they arrive at your site. Engagement metrics, as this family of stats is commonly called, provide quantitative data that helps answer the qualitative questions you’re really interested in, such as:

  • – Do people find the stuff I’m writing about valuable?
  • – Does this content help point people to other content on my site?
  • – Does this content help drive more visibility for my brand?
  • – Does this content drive more new and repeat purchases for my business?

For retail brands, there are all sorts of analytics you can look at when it comes to measuring the impact of your content. The ones that matter most for you will vary depending on your business objectives and internal benchmarks. That said, there are a few common engagement metrics that are useful for retail brands across the board. In this article, we’ll walk through 6 of them together.

Let’s get this party started!

Metric 1: Brand Lift

Brand lift is a metric that’s usually applied to advertising, but it can just as easily apply to content marketing campaigns as well. I like Anjali McKenzie’s definition of brand lift:

In a nutshell, brand lift is an increase in interaction with a brand as a result of a campaign, and is primarily used to identify a positive shift in customer awareness and perception. Brand lift metrics typically include: awareness (of the brand, product, or offering), attitude (opinion on quality, value and appeal), recall (ability to remember), favorability (likelihood to recommend), and intent (likelihood to purchase).

These metrics can be challenging to measure, given that they’re mostly qualitative in nature. A few ways you can get at brand lift indirectly are:

  • – Social interactions (likes, shares, comments, and mentions), which give you a sense of market awareness and attitude toward your brand.
  • – Repeat visits, which tell you that your brand is staying top of mind with individual consumers.
  • – Clickthroughs from your content to product pages, which indicate an intent to buy. (Retargeting these people is a no-brainer follow-up technique.)

Metric 2: Dwell Time

Dwell time is an interesting metric from an organic search perspective. It measures the amount of time between when a user clicks on a search result and when they come back to the search engine results page from your website. It’s a little like time on site, but also factors in bounce rates as well.

Pages with short dwell times signal to Google that the information on your site is either (1) irrelevant to the user’s search term, or (2) poor quality. Having several pages with short dwell times can hurt your overall domain authority in the long run. That’s one of many reasons why creating valuable content for your retail brand is so important. We all know that product pages won’t hold readers’ attentions for long—but a great article, infographic, or video will.

Metric 3: Exit Rate

Exit rate is the bounce rate for someone’s total session on your domain. This metric can give you a sense of whether your content is effectively driving readers into other pages on your site. If a piece of content has a high exit rate, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s it’s a bad piece of content—it just means that you need to more clearly define what the reader’s next step should be after they finish reading or watching.

For retail marketers, the most likely next step would be to point someone into specific product pages or collections that are related to the topic of your content. Michael Kors did this skillfully in their recent Mother’s Day spotlight article:

Mother's Day Article

When readers click the “Shop Our Perfect Presents for Mom” link, it takes them to a nicely organized product page of items covered in the article.

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Metric 4: Social Interactions

One super easy way to gauge engagement is to see what kind of social interactions your content is getting. This includes things like likes and shares, which can tell you generally whether your content is resonating with your audience, and also more meaningful metrics such as link clicks and comments.

Why are clicks and comments more useful than likes and shares? They indicate a real level of engagement that likes and shares don’t get at. It takes half a second to like or share a piece of content—but that doesn’t mean you interacted with it in any meaningful way. Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, backed up this anecdotal sentiment last year when he shared this Tweet:

Tony Haile Tweet

Additionally, clickthroughs to your domain can be tracked further down the funnel to give you insight into the kinds of people who find you on social and how likely they are to purchase. Comments give you concrete feedback that can help you shape your content in the future (ignoring any internet troll comments along the way).

Metric 5: Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

An important companion metric to exit rate is clickthrough rate—a metrics we all know and love. This is an interesting stat to track in terms of clicks from your content into a product page, but also in terms of how many of those people who clicked through from your content converted.

Gaining insight into all the steps in the purchase funnel will help you determine which pieces drove the most revenue for your business—and this information, in turn, can help drive your content strategy in the future. Once you know what works, you can come up with a replicable template to use for other campaigns.

Metric 6: Conversions

Last but not least: Conversions are the ultimate measure of engagement. If your content helps drive someone to make a purchase, that’s content marketing success in a nutshell!

One caveat: Given that the conversion funnel involves a few additional steps that have nothing to do with your content, evaluating your content purely on conversions can be misleading. In addition to conversions, you should also look at the Add to Cart and Cart Abandonment rates for consumers who come in through your content so you can understand exactly where they drop off and why.

Conversion Funnel

You can have the best content in the world, but if a large percentage of people are bouncing out during your checkout flow, your conversion rates will be less than optimal. Don’t let your content get blamed for poor performance if there’s actually a problem happening further down the funnel.

The Bottom Line

Judging your retail brand’s marketing content purely on views and visitors is a major disservice. To really understand what content is working and what’s simply contributing to internet white noise, you need to focus on engagement metrics that are meaningful for your marketing program and your business.

Before you go, I’d love to hear: Are there other engagement metrics you find valuable in your content reporting? Let me know in the comments!

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