“Timing is everything.” This was one of my dad’s favorite sayings. And as I entered the ecommerce industry, I was surprised by how crucial his advice turned out to be.
Convincing online shoppers to click ‘Buy’ isn’t only a matter of saying the right things, but saying the right things at the right times.
An ecommerce conversion funnel allows online stores to understand their visitor’s customer journey. It’s a series of stages that proceed through time.
The first step is learning how your website visitors move through your conversion funnel. Then you can see what you can optimize to make improvements.
That means more conversions, more repeat customers, and, ultimately, more revenue.
In this blog post, we’ll go over the basics of ecommerce conversion funnels, and look at some ecommerce sites that have used this approach.
Let’s have a look and get into the nitty-gritty of conversion funnel optimization!
What is an ecommerce sales funnel?
An ecommerce conversion funnel is a visual representation of the buyer’s journey. From starting as a potential customer to becoming a paying customer.
It’s shaped like a funnel because fewer and fewer people will move through each progressive step.
Here’s the typical ecommerce sales funnel and the four stages:
- Awareness Stage
- Consideration Stage
- Purchase Stage
- Retention Stage
It starts with potential customers becoming aware of your ecommerce brand. It’s followed by them going to your site and exploring product pages until they find something they like. Then, they complete the checkout process.
Customer retention is the final stage. Existing customers reenter the funnel again, as they begin considering their next purchase.
The largest number of people will become aware of your brand through your team’s marketing efforts. But increasingly smaller percentages will become site visitors, paying customers, and repeat customers.
We can’t expect 100% of people to move from one stage to the next.
But you can gather insights on customer behavior at each step. And it can rapidly (and consistently) increase your conversion rate.
In effect, start the ecommerce funnel by targeting a larger consumer population, so you can maximize the number of potential customers from one stage to the next.
The 4 ecommerce sales funnel stages
Now let’s discuss the four stages in more detail.
We’ll show you the different ways that prospective customers behave at each stage of an ecommerce sales funnel.
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage of the ecommerce funnel is all about brand awareness. You should establish your online store as a valid option in your niche product categories.
Maximize the traffic to your ecommerce store through both organic and paid channels. The better your marketing strategy, the healthier your ecommerce funnel will be from the start.
Stage 2: Consideration
Relationship-building shines in this stage.
Your prospective customers go beyond mere awareness. They learn about your site and what makes it special. They also start to consider your product or service more seriously.
This stage is perhaps the most delicate. It requires a lead-nurturing strategy that gives site visitors time to browse through your sales pages at their own pace.
Pushing customers to buy right now in this stage, probably won’t lead to more sales. They would likely just bounce because they are not ready yet.
The key here is to give them all the necessary information they need to move to the next stage.
Stage 3: Purchase
The purchase stage of the sales funnel directs customers to make those final few clicks.
You want them to go from your product pages to your checkout page and finish the purchase.
Stage 4: Retention
The final stage of ecommerce sales funnels is all about turning your existing customers into loyal customers.
The linchpin of the retention stage is the post-checkout thank you page. This is where you have the opportunity to keep customers in the fold.
For example, you can invite them to follow your social media accounts or sign up for an email marketing newsletter.
3 examples of ecommerce site sales funnels
We’ve covered the four stages of the funnel.
Now let’s take a look at 3 companies that figured out where to invest in their ecommerce funnels to get the greatest reward.
SEMrush is a software company that helps businesses and individuals with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is all about getting your website to show up on the results page when someone googles a relevant question or phrase.
For example, for a Chinese restaurant in New York City, good SEO means your business will show up at the top of the results when someone googles: ‘best NY Chinese restaurant.’
SEMrush conversion funnel starts with paid Facebook ads to reach potential customers.
These ads offer users access to free ebooks about SEO and digital marketing.
SEMrush focuses their efforts on the awareness stage by linking their social media ads and the future stages of their sales funnel.
They offer educational content that reinforces the need for their software. They’re also collecting names and emails at the same time.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of their strategy so you can leverage a sign-up form for your sales funnel goals too:
- SEMrush collects email addresses and keeps in touch with their audience from the very first stage.
- They keep offering free resources via emails until their targets are ready to try out a demo.
- And eventually, users do begin to pay for the service.
2. Swiss Watch Expo
Swiss Watch Expo sells pre-owned luxury watches. They had high incoming traffic, but the site’s owners were disappointed in their conversion rates.
Month after month, visitors spent lots of time looking at beautiful watches, but they rarely actually made a purchase.
It was time to optimize the purchase stage of their funnel and turn those window-shoppers into paying customers.
So they launched an OptiMonk popup to reduce cart abandonment.
They offered customers incentives like free shipping or $100 off their total purchase—if they completed their transaction within 15 minutes.
By increasing the urgency at the right time, Swiss Watch Expo created a more efficient sales funnel and increased their revenue by 25%.
Away is a luggage and travel brand that sells affordable, stylish products. The company’s marketing brings in lots of organic social media traffic, assisted by their aspirational lifestyle branding.
Away was unsatisfied with relying on a single channel, so they developed a referral program that simultaneously retained customers and brought in new leads.
They offered a $20 discount to both the referrer and the referee.
This kept a steady stream of high-quality leads entering Away’s ecommerce conversion funnel during the consideration stage.
How to build an optimized ecommerce conversion funnel
Now that you’ve seen some successful examples, we’ll show you how to create a unique sales funnel for your own ecommerce store.
Step 1: Understand your customer journey
It’s best if you fully understand your visitor’s buying journey before you create an ecommerce conversion funnel.
This means that you need a global understanding of how to market and operate your online store.
Here, it’s a good idea to physically map out all the possible routes a customer can take from awareness to purchase, and beyond.
Step 2: Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Once you have a visual representation of your customer journey, it’s time to start figuring out exactly where the leaks are.
Gather data on your:
- Traffic: See how many unique visitors come to your site from different channels.
- Bounce Rate: The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave the site after viewing just the landing page.
- Cart Abandonment: The number of people who leave the site after putting items in the cart.
- Sales: The amount of revenue from sales.
- Conversion rate: The proportion of site visits that result in a sale.
You can investigate and detect where customers are exiting your sales funnel. Then you can see where to start formulating strategies to improve the funnel flow.
Step 3: A/B test everything!
Once you’ve mapped out some optimization opportunities, it’s crucial to test out multiple versions of everything to find out what works best.
An analysis of your traffic might reveal that many people are viewing your product pages but leaving afterwards. A confusing or unappealing interface could be one of the main reasons behind your missed conversions.
A/B testing is the process of trying out different versions of whatever solutions you might have. So, some candidate solutions for a(fictional) interface problem might be:
- making the buy button bigger
- changing the color
- including more pictures
You should develop each of these solutions and show different combinations to different customers.
After measuring the conversion rate of each candidate solution, you’ll have a great idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Companies often see huge jumps in conversion rates after A/B testing. Bear Mattress, for example, saw a 16.5% increase after A/B testing on their home page. Hubstaff and ISM eCompany increased their conversions by 49% and 27%, respectively.
Without A/B testing, it’s impossible to know whether your conversions are as high as they could be. Check out this guide for a detailed overview.
7 strategies to optimize your ecommerce conversion funnel
Now that we’ve had a bird’s eye view of the process of optimizing a conversion funnel, it’s time to get into some specifics.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas to optimize your sales funnel, here are some strategies. They’ll guide your prospective customers towards completing a purchase.
Strategy #1: Content marketing
Producing content that consumers are interested in is a great way to bring in traffic. Provide real value to the people visiting your site by answering their important questions about your industry. Inputting time here will build a strong foundation for a long-lasting relationship.
Make sure not to neglect your SEO (Google Analytics is your friend for evaluating what’s working and what isn’t). Otherwise, nobody will find your great blog posts because they’re buried on the second or third results page.
With the right keywords, your content will shoot straight to the top.
Strategy #2: Paid traffic
Investing in Facebook ads and other types of online advertising can ensure a steady stream of incoming traffic. However, it’s not always guaranteed.
Aim for a good Facebook ad that makes your value proposition crystal clear. This will attract those consumers with an actual interest in the types of products you sell. Make sure to A/B test your ads so they are as effective as possible.
Strategy #1: Social proof
Putting online reviews and other user-generated content on your website helps build trust among your visitors.
It allows prospects to know what to expect from your products when they click “buy.”
And they won’t feel like they’re taking such a risk by buying an unseen product.
Strategy #2: Retargeting
Retargeting ads bring back visitors who left your site without buying anything. A well-timed email reminds visitors about your discounts and deals. It could save a purchase.
Strategy #1: Well-designed checkout page
Make sure the checkout process is as easy as possible to ensure a good conversion rate.
Customers often abandon their carts when they’re confronted with an unclear checkout page or surprising shipping charges.
Tip: Make sure to offer multiple payment options, as you don’t want to lose a customer who only uses PayPal.
Strategy #2: Popups
Popups are one of the best ways to give shoppers that final push towards making a purchase. Especially, when getting the timing and frequency right.
Strategy #1: Loyalty programs
Create a program that rewards loyal shoppers with store credit or other perks to show them some appreciation and incentivize them to return. Make sure to provide real value. Consumers will see right through any smokescreens.
You can combine programs like these with a referral marketing campaign (just like we saw with Away).
Figuring out your ecommerce conversion funnel can be a great feeling. There’s that moment when it clicks, and you’ll start to really see your users moving down your funnel towards a conversion.
Getting to that point takes a lot of introspection and research. Get into the mindset of your customer at each stage of the funnel and detect what changes will move them along. After that, there are lots of tweaks and redesigns and, of course, A/B testing.
All that hard work is for the sake of creating and maintaining a relationship with your customers. It’s a process that starts with awareness and ends with a thank you page.
That is, until they start considering their next purchase and reenter the funnel.
We hope that you found this ecommerce conversion funnel article helpful. Let us know how you optimize your sales funnel.