Building an effective ecommerce experience for your customers is a journey that will undoubtedly create some exciting opportunities for your business, but it’s crucial to test and measure ecommerce performance, writes Susanne Adam, a principal solution manager at SAP for wholesale distribution.


Susanne Adam

Despite where you are in your ecommerce journey, the question of how to measure success comes into question. This measurement can be done in quantifiable terms such as click-through rates, completed transactions, or calculating the total revenue produced through online resources. However, there are additional qualitative ecommerce metrics that should be considered in your planning and ongoing evaluations.

Due to the very large number of products and services offered by wholesale distributors, managing product content is critical.

For those distributors who have implemented an ecommerce site, they had to go through a series of steps. Prior to the strategic decision to move into ecommerce, they calculated a business case and defined requirements. Next, they evaluated, selected, and implemented their ecommerce platform. Catalog content was created, and the ecommerce site integrated with the back-end systems. Once complete, the go-live process was initiated and integrated with the routine operations.

Metrics are then put into place to determine a few factors:

  • How successful is this new channel?
  • When will the break-even point be reached?
  • How many orders or new orders were received?

Although these questions can be answered with financial data, there are other areas that are more difficult to measure, such as:

  • Has the level of customer satisfaction increased?
  • Has it contributed to the brand’s reputation?

Unfortunately, these questions are “not directly quantifiable.” However, they have undisputed value as they contribute to a company’s overall success. When an online store is easy to find, easy to use, and contains high-quality content, customers will return because of a good experience.

In order for a distributor to assess whether they have met their objectives, here are a few ways to measure goals and expectations that are not as easily quantifiable.

Measuring brand equity

Today, an online store is table stakes, and without it the company will be considered outdated. In conjunction with having an online store, the company’s home page and social media presence creates visibility. Search engines can find products on the company’s store, which creates brand awareness and will attract new buyers.

Brand equity can be measured in a couple of ways based on economical and emotional data. Typical quantitative economic measures are market share and growth rate, while emotional measures are Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction score.


Measuring customer experience

Customer experience is largely influenced by the extent at which the wholesale distributor understands what their customers want and effectively delivers it throughout the buying experience. A recent McKinsey Report showed that many customers prefer remote non-human exchanges and digital self-services over traditional interactions.

With an online store, customers can purchase orders online and use several other self-services such as access to invoices, documentation and online tutorials. Such offerings not only reduce the burden on the customer service agents but also increase customer satisfaction. One way to measure customer experience is to gather feedback at the point of purchase or with follow-up surveys to implement continuous improvements. This can result in a higher Net Promotor Score as well as a higher adoption rate of the new online store.

Measuring ease of use

“Be easy to do business with” has been one of the key mantras for a long time. It relates to all touchpoints a customer can have with a company, from first contact when a customer is looking for information to purchasing on various channels and, later, receiving the service. To reach this goal, an online store needs to have easy navigation, personalized search, high-quality content, frictionless checkout and mobile-friendliness.

Some distributors test-market their online store with a small customer group, gather feedback, adjust accordingly, and only then open it up to their entire customer base. Ease of use can be measured with the Net Easy Score (ease of doing business with a company), basically, a KPI measured in a similar way as NPS.


Measuring quality of product content

Due to the very large number of products and services offered by wholesale distributors, managing product content is critical. Most companies use a product information management (PIM) system to manage the product content used in their sales channels. A PIM often exists before the ecommerce channel is added, as the sales teams need this information, too.

It’s important to ensure the content quality is consistent and complete. Additional content such as manuals, installation instructions, videos, reviews and buying guides may need to be added in order to create a great customer experience. Measuring the quality of product content is often done indirectly with metrics such as:

  1. Search engine traffic
  2. Content downloads
  3. Search abandonment (customers who leave a site before clicking on any search result)

Various factors undoubtedly influence these metrics; however, they are good indicators to help assess content quality. Another option is to conduct a customer survey to get direct feedback on the quality of the content.

Measuring customer retention and churn rate

To calculate customer retention rate (CRR), you simply take the number of customers you had at the end of the quarter or month and subtract the new customers you gained during the period. That leaves you with the number of customers you would have had if you hadn’t added any—in other words, the number of customers you retained out of what you started with. Then, you simply divide that number by what you started with and then simply multiply by 100 to get a percentage.


Churn rate is the percent of customers who leave a distributor over a given time period; it is the inverse of the customer retention formula. In other words, this is the number of customers lost divided by the number of customers at the start of a given period.

Machine learning models can help predict customer churn rate by identifying customers likely to turn away. If a distributor sees a decline in repeat purchases, reduced purchase amounts and low Net Promotor Score, this can be addressed using different instruments such as loyalty programs, discounts, or a direct assignment of a sales rep.

The final steps to be the go-to vendor

Building an effective ecommerce experience for your customers is a journey that will undoubtedly create some exciting opportunities for your business. Wholesale distributors will need the technical capabilities and the due diligence as well as the necessary skills to deliver the best possible customer experience from presentation to branding.

While on this journey, the distributor must conduct periodic evaluation and improvement, and it is crucial to measure performance in both quantifiable and qualitative terms to prove the effectiveness of your ecommerce presence. There is a lot of value in conducting a review of your metrics or KPIs from increased revenue to website stickiness as well as becoming the go-to vendor in your market.


It will be equally important for distributors to go beyond the standard quantitative measurements and stay in touch with their customers to get the best possible feedback as customer expectations evolve. In the end, as ecommerce becomes ever more important to your business, the value it brings to a distributor and its customers will be directly related to how well success can be measured.

Susanne Adam is a principal solution manager at SAP for wholesale distribution. She has worked with client companies on customer engagement strategy and various projects in the wholesale and retail industry. Follow her on Twitter @susanneadam3.