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The ecommerce conversion funnel explained

9 min read
From landing page to buy button, your ecommerce website visitors go through a journey that can help or hinder their chances of conversion. Here’s how to understand the ecommerce funnel and optimise it to your advantage.


What is the ecommerce conversion funnel?

‘Conversion funnel’ is a way of describing a specific kind of ecommerce customer journey. It maps how visitors move through an awareness and decision-making process to the point where they are ready to hit the Buy button.

Not every visitor to an ecommerce website is going to convert. For this reason, the ecommerce sales funnel is cone-shaped. The top of the funnel is wide, representing the total number of site visitors. The funnel narrows towards the bottom, where only a percentage of your visitors ultimately become paying customers.

Why is a conversion funnel important?

Conceptualising your online customers through a conversion funnel model is valuable because it allows you to target your marketing towards customers at different stages. You can have different messages for customers at each level, which provide them with the information they need and the appropriate guidance to help them make a purchase decision.

The goal for any ecommerce business is to minimise the difference between the top and the bottom of the funnel, and to get as many people as possible to successfully move through it and convert.

Conversion funnel stages

Typically, marketers think in terms of top of the funnel, mid-funnel and lower funnel stages.

Top of the funnel

Site visitors are exploring and discovering what’s on offer. They may not yet have a clear sense of their needs or goals. It’s likely that they’re looking in many other places as well as your site.

Mid-funnel

Visitors now have enough information to start narrowing down their search and discounting some options. They have spent time researching and learning about product categories and options, and are bought into the idea of eventually making a purchase.

Lower funnel

Before making a purchase, visitors are now looking in detail at the purchase process and the quality of your digital customer experience. They may be looking at reviews, guarantees and shipping rates, and any discounts or offers they can take advantage of that will help them choose where to spend their money.

Another way to look at the funnel stages is in terms of the customer’s mindset as they travel through it.

Awareness

The customer is gathering information and weighing up whether they have a need for the product.

Consideration

With the need established, the customer begins to look at what’s on the market and to favour or discount certain brands.

Intention

The customer has become emotionally engaged with the idea of buying and has started to imagine life with the product. There is a desire to buy.

Action

Conversion takes place and the customer makes a purchase.

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Ecommerce sales funnel optimisation

Ultimately, the customer is in control of whether they progress down the funnel and at what stage, if any, they drop out. But as a business there is a lot you can do to improve the chances of an ecommerce site visitor moving through the stages and deciding to buy

Whole-funnel appraisal

A wise first step is to look at the current funnel as a whole and note where you may currently be losing people. Pay attention to any sudden drop-off points or moments of customer confusion or frustration, and note any potential pain points that are shown up through customer feedback or support requests. Doing this may provide you with some early quick wins before you begin methodically working through each stage of the funnel.

Top of the funnel

Optimising the top of your funnel is all about bringing people to your site. You need to get your name known and make some noise about what you do and what you have to offer. This might involve:

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and paid search

Being visible in search engine results is a crucial part of getting users onto your site. A good SEO and SEM strategy will help make sure the people who arrive with you are good quality leads who are likely to end up converting.

Advertising on social media channels

Social media advertising allows you to target audiences and demographic groups who are most likely to convert.

Creating interesting content that will hook people in

Content marketing is a powerful way to establish your brand and draw people in to your site based on their interests. Think blogs and opinion pieces, videos and social posts.

Community engagement and influencer marketing

Many successful ecommerce brands actively engage with their target users on social media and online communities in order to build relationships and awareness and to establish trust. Paid exposure with compatible influencers amplifies your reach and also helps to establish your brand.

Mid-funnel

Your top-of-funnel efforts worked out, and visitors are arriving on your ecommerce site. At this stage, your job is to keep them there and convince them that you’re the right choice. This might mean:

Optimising your website user experience (UX)

Pave the way to conversions by making your site easy and enjoyable to use on desktop or mobile, and providing the best possible accessibility for all users.

Using content to showcase product features and benefits

Use video, images, infographics, blog posts and feature editorials to celebrate and showcase your products and help consumers understand them better.

Educating and supporting decision-making with reviews and buyers’ guides

At this stage, customers may not have a complete understanding of the options when buying a product. Offering explainer content and buyer’s guides will help them out and position you as authoritative and trustworthy.

Live chat on product pages

Adding a live chat feature to product pages means customers can conveniently ask any questions they may have.

Using social proof

Reviews and testimonials from happy customers can help build confidence in your business.

Bottom of the funnel

Almost there! You’ve developed a connection with the visitor and they’re fully aware of what you can offer. At this stage, it’s all about smoothing the path to conversion and preventing any last-minute drop-offs. To help with this, try:

Offering promotions and benefits

3 for 2 deals, percentage discounts, free shipping and other promotions can tip the odds in your favour.

Upsell and cross-sell

To improve the chances of conversion, use on-page personalised recommendations and upsell suggestions based on the products the visitor has shown an interest in.

Objection-handling

Churn can happen at the last moment when a customer is confronted with shipping charges, forms to fill in or a payment process that takes them off-page. Use contextual copy and tooltips to help offset this.

Remarketing

Remarketing campaigns, where a visitor sees your ads on other websites within your advertising network, can give you a second chance at conversion even after the customer leaves your ecommerce site.

Abandoned cart emails

If you have the customer’s contact details, you can set up abandoned cart emails that remind them they’ve left your site without finishing their purchase.

Turning ecommerce funnels into cycles

One sale is good, but multiple sales are so much better. Having successfully converted your customer, you’ll want to put some measures in place to help keep them coming back for more. Techniques include:

Offering rewards through loyalty programmes

When every purchase helps the customer to get closer to a bonus reward, there’s more incentive to come back to you rather than try out a competitor.

Tempting them with targeted offers

Show your customer you understand their tastes and can offer what they’re interested in by sending them targeted offer emails.

Referral marketing

With a referral scheme in place, loyal customers can earn or share a discount by referring friends and family.

Measuring performance

You can use specialised ecommerce funnel analytics and measurement software to track progress through a funnel according to your own definition. Using software that offers you a birds-eye view of your entire funnel and the components within it is a great way to keep track of performance.

Another valuable way to measure your sales conversion funnel’s success is to get experience-based feedback from users. This can help you to understand not only who is moving from the top of the funnel to the bottom, but why they choose to do so and how you can continue to make this happen.

eBook: The Digital Experience Playbook