Ecommerce – Cart Sessions vs Transactions

ecommerceOnline Marketing covers such a wide swath when it comes to areas of focus, but not many can be as lucrative as your shopping cart.  A well planed shopping experience can make huge increases in revenue and that should be what is on the mind of any marketer and company.

Now with that said, there are several metrics that one should look at when it comes to testing the effectiveness of your cart. I am going to dive in to a couple of these metrics.


You are running a split test (50/50 traffic) that exposes people to one of  pages. The intention of this test is to clearly define a winning design that statistically sends more traffic from the entry page to the cart.

A/B TestNote: Essentially this means that someone enters a landing page and clicks buy now.

What is the primary metric of success? 

Simple enough, it’s the cart entrances (sessions).  This is not a terrible metric; in fact I think it could be considered as a step one metric to a greater overall user experience. After all, at the end of the day you want to see more traffic to your cart and in theory the more traffic you send to the cart, the better your chances of getting a sale.

As you run the test the tool that you are using has determined that the new design is sending more traffic to a cart session by the tune of an observed difference of 70%. Your tool has declared a winner and you feel good about increasing cart sessions. It is game over, and its time to move on to the next great thing, right?

Looks might be deceiving

While having an impressive spike in cart sessions by using the new design, what about transactions? How did they do, lets not pop the cork on the champagne bottle until you check what I find to be the most important metric that any online marketer with a shopping cart needs to look at.

So in this scenario, all split tests can be tracked in Google Analytics, including the transactional data. What we discovered was that during the test that had this incredible observed difference of 70% on the newly designed landing page there was a 41% decline transactions. Transactions in this case = revenue.

Because the test was really intended for cart sessions and not sales nobody would even consider looking at that. After all, if you send more traffic to the cart, you should get more sales, right?

Now we know that is not always right, but the takeaway from this is that everyone should always understand that the most important metric any anyone who is involved in an online business is sales.  Other metrics matter, but nothing as much as sales data that flows and feeds the company.

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