Which KPI Is Most Likely to be a Vanity Metric: How to Avoid Them in Ecommerce

Which kpi is most likely to be a vanity metric

In the KPI article, we saw that running a business without relevant and suitable KPIs is as dangerous as driving a car without a speedometer. But there is a more dangerous trap that businesses can easily fall in. The Vanity Metrics pit.

New ecommerce businesses know that they need KPIs and metrics to control their performance. We all heard it thousands of times. However, many of them due to their lack of experience, will jump out of the frying pan into the fire!

Some metrics might make you feel good, but they don’t necessarily reflect the true success of your business. These misleading metrics are known as vanity metrics.

Find out what is a vanity metric and how to avoid them in your Ecommerce business by reading this article.

Vanity Metrics Definition

The first question we need to answer is this: What is a vanity metric?
They are quantitative indicators that measure aspects of a business that are not directly related to its desired goals or outcomes. Vanity metrics are often used to create a positive impression of performance or progress, but they do not provide actionable insights or guidance for improvement. In other words, looking at them makes you feel good or make your business look good in the eyes of others, but It does not mean that your business is really doing good. 

Likes, shares, and page views are classic examples. While they may stroke the ego, they don’t necessarily lead to increased revenue or customer satisfaction.

Vanity Metrics Examples

Vanity Metrics Social Media

Vanity Metrics Social Media

Social media platforms are breeding grounds for vanity metrics. A large follower count might seem impressive, but it’s worthless if those followers aren’t engaged and converted into customers. Instead, concentrate on metrics like click-through rates, shares, and comments. These metrics showcase genuine engagement and interest.

The definition of vanity metrics totally depends on your Ecommerce business. For example, if you have an online store website, even the number of shares of your Instagram posts can be a vanity metric as long as it does not translate website traffic or higher conversion rates

Vanity Metrics In Digital Marketing

Vanity Metrics In Digital Marketing

In digital marketing, it’s easy to fall into a trap by obsessing over high traffic volumes. However, focusing on the sources of traffic, conversion rates, and return on investment (ROI) will provide a clearer picture of your marketing effectiveness. Impressions mean little if they don’t contribute to revenue.

However, this doesn’t imply that you should dismiss these metrics entirely. Rather, the key lies in being conscious of the distinction between vanity metrics and actionable metrics.

Other Examples of Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics can infiltrate various aspects of your ecommerce business.

  • Email open rates
  • app downloads
  • number of registered users

All of the following can be misleading if not contextualized within your overall strategy.

Which KPI Is Most Likely To Be A Vanity Metric?

Although there is no fixed rule about which KPI is a vanity metric, some metrics are more potential to become vanity in most e-commerce businesses.

  • Pageviews: This is the number of times a web page is viewed by visitors. It does not indicate how long or how engaged the visitors are, or whether they take any action on the page. Pageviews can be easily inflated by bots, spam, or multiple refreshes.
  • Running total of customers, purchases, or downloads: This is the cumulative number of customers, purchases, or downloads that a business has acquired over time. It does not reflect the current state of the business, such as customer retention, churn, revenue, or profitability. It also does not account for the cost of acquisition or the lifetime value of the customers.
  • Social media followers: This is the number of people who follow a brand or a person on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. It does not measure the quality, relevance, or engagement of the followers, or whether they are interested in the brand’s products or services. Social media followers can also be bought, faked, or inactive.
  • Number of new users gained per day: This is the number of new users who sign up for an app, software, service, or platform per day. It does not indicate how many of those users actually use the product, how often they use it, how satisfied they are with it, or how loyal they are to it. It also does not consider the user acquisition cost or the user lifetime value.
  • Traffic sources: This is the breakdown of where the visitors to a website come from, such as organic search, paid ads, social media, email, or referrals. It does not show how relevant, qualified, or interested those visitors are, or whether they convert into leads or customers. It also does not measure the effectiveness or return on investment of each traffic source

How To Avoid Vanity Metrics

How to avoid the false feeling of accomplishment? If the aim of your Ecommerce business is to achieve vanity metrics, you will probably achieve them. Then it will satisfy you and make you think you are on the right track, although it can be an illusion. In order to avoid them, first you need to Identify them, then control your temptation to use them, and finally try to be aware of them in your business.

Identify Vanity Metrics

The first step to avoid the vanity trap is to recognize them. Monitor the metrics you’re currently tracking. Are they directly tied to your business goals and growth? If they lack a clear connection, they might be vanity metrics. Remember, genuine KPIs should inform your decision-making and steer your efforts toward tangible results. You can use the examples and definitions of vanity metrics provided in this article to identify yours. 

Defeat The Temptation Of Using Them

Vanity metrics can be alluring. High numbers look impressive on paper and might even spark short-lived excitement. However, resist the urge to base your strategies solely on these numbers. Instead, focus on metrics that provide actionable insights. It’s far more valuable to identify the sources of your high-converting traffic rather than chasing after the sheer volume of clicks.

Be Aware of Vanity Metrics

Do we mean that metrics like the number of page views, likes or shares are useless and an Ecommerce business should not pay any attention to them? Absolutely not!

What we are emphasizing here is that you need to be aware of your Vanity Metrics and Actionable metrics. Sometimes it is good to pursue some KPIs that are assumed to be Vanity metrics, but it should not be your major goal.

Let us be more clear with an example. Imagine you are an E-retailer who sells shoes online. You also have an active Instagram business account for your shop. You are using your Instagram account as a source for your website traffic. As we said the number of likes of your post is not directly related to your main goal which is “selling more”. So if increasing the number of likes on Instagram becomes your goal, it means you fell into the trap of Vanity Metrics. 

However, If you understand that the more likes you get, the more people will probably see your page and it can increase the number of your prospects; then it is ok.

So what is the difference? When getting more likes becomes your goal, having more likes will satisfy you, and make you feel you are accomplishing new targets even if your total sales do not change. 

But when your main goal is to increase your revenue, you may try getting more likes, then you will check if your website’s traffic has been increasing and if this change has positive effects on your sales. In case of getting real positive results, you will continue otherwise after a while you will try to find a better way to increase your revenue. 

The more dangerous situation is when you try to use a digital marketing agency or choose the right channel for your advertisement. If you focus on Vanity Metrics, you will find yourself expend a lot of money without the measurable good results you hoped for. We will discuss this matter more. Late in this article, in the “Vanity Metrics In Digital Marketing” section.

Find And Implement Actionable Metrics

Shift your focus to actionable metrics—numbers that drive concrete, positive changes in your business. These metrics might include conversion rates, customer retention rates, and average order value. By understanding the behavior and preferences of your audience through actionable metrics, you can refine your strategies for improved outcomes.

Vanity Metrics Vs Actionable Metrics

Understanding the difference between vanity metrics and actionable metrics is crucial for sustainable growth. Vanity metrics offer momentary gratification, while actionable metrics pave the way for informed decisions and long-term success. It’s not about shunning all metrics with large numbers but rather about channeling your focus toward metrics that drive real progress.

Vanity Metrics: The Glamorous Illusion

Imagine attending a party where everyone seems to be admiring your outfit. Feels great, right? That’s the kind of attention vanity metrics can bring. These metrics make you feel good like you’re doing something right, but they can be a bit deceptive. Vanity metrics are often superficial indicators that might inflate your ego but won’t necessarily inflate your revenue. They’re like the glitter and sparkle that fade once the lights are turned on.

Examples of Vanity Metrics: Think of the number of likes on a social media post. It’s nice to see that number climb, but what’s more crucial is whether those likes lead to sales. Another example is the sheer volume of website visitors. It’s exciting, but it’s not as exciting if they’re just bouncing away without taking any meaningful action.

Actionable Metrics: Guiding the Way Forward

Now, let’s talk about the metrics that roll up their sleeves and get the real work done. Actionable metrics are your trustworthy companions. They’re the ones that directly correlate with your business goals. These metrics tell you what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly, what you need to do next. They’re the compass that guides your business strategy.

Examples of Actionable Metrics: Imagine you’re tracking the conversion rate—how many website visitors actually end up making a purchase. This metric gives you a clear insight into how effective your website is at turning visitors into customers. Another actionable metric is the customer retention rate. It helps you understand how well you’re keeping your existing customers happy and coming back for more.

The Real Difference: Chasing Success, Not Illusion

The distinction between vanity and actionable metrics boils down to one thing: the impact on your business. Vanity metrics can give you a fleeting sense of success, but they lack substance. Actionable metrics, on the other hand, guide your decisions and strategies based on real data. They’re your co-pilots on the journey to success.

So, next time you’re faced with a slew of metrics, remember to look beyond the shimmer and shine. Ask yourself: Is this metric just making me feel good, or is it actually moving the needle? Embrace the metrics that drive results, and let the others take a back seat. Because in the end, it’s not about the numbers you’re collecting; it’s about the numbers that are propelling your business forward.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vanity Metrics

What is a vanity metric?

Think of vanity metrics like shiny distractions. They’re numbers that seem impressive but don’t necessarily contribute much to your business’s real growth. They’re a bit like applause without substance – they make you feel good but might not lead to actual success.

Which KPI is a vanity metric? 

Not all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are created equal. Vanity metrics are the ones that often look good on the surface but don’t drive meaningful progress. For instance, focusing solely on the number of likes or page views can lead you down the vanity path.

What is the difference between KPI and vanity metrics? 

The difference lies in impact. KPIs are the metrics that directly affect your business goals and decisions. They guide your strategy. Vanity metrics, however, might make you smile momentarily, but they lack substance. They don’t necessarily lead to actions that grow your business.

What is a vanity metric example? 

Picture this: a social media post that gets tons of likes but doesn’t translate into more sales. The likes are the vanity metrics here – they’re great to have, but they don’t guarantee a boost in your bottom line. It’s all about focusing on what truly drives results.

Which KPI is a vanity metric? 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Any KPI can turn into a vanity metric if it’s not directly tied to your business goals. Metrics like follower counts or email open rates can become vanity if they’re not leading to actions that matter.

Is reach a vanity metric? 

It depends. Reach can be an essential metric if it’s aligned with your goals. If reaching more people directly contributes to your business growth, then it’s not a vanity. However, if a high reach doesn’t lead to engagement or conversions, it could be a shiny but empty number.

Image credit: Storyset on Freepik


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Seyed Morteza Mortazavi
Hi! I am Seyed Morteza, the content expert of the ECN company. I love to share my knowledge and expertise in the E-commerce field with curious businesses or individuals. Visit my LinkedIn profile to get in touch.