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eCommerce Sales Funnel: The Ultimate Guide To Optimizing Your eStore For Lead Generation, Engagement & Conversions

eCommerce sales funnel stat
The average conversion rate of eCommerce websites was 2.86% in 2020

On average, over 43.8% of eCommerce site visitors view a product page and only 3.3% make a purchase.

Another study has shown that, in 2020, the average conversion rate of eCommerce websites was 2.86%.

As an eCommerce owner and decision-maker, you’d obviously want your conversion figures to go higher than that. So, how do you do it?

By optimizing your eCommerce sales funnel.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What an eCommerce sales -or conversion- funnel is
  • What a buyer journey is
  • The stages of sales funnel and buyer journey, and what tactics to use in each
  • How to optimize your eCommerce site for higher conversions
  • What are the main key performance indicators (KPIs) for tracking the effectiveness of your eStore conversion funnel
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What Is An eCommerce Sales Funnel?

eCommerce sales funnel or, more accurately, conversion funnel, is an illustration of a users’ path from the moment they land on your eCommerce page to the point where they convert, i.e. perform the desired action.

Depending on the structure of the eCommerce website, every business will have a unique sales funnel – however, the fundamentals of eCommerce sales funnel staging are always basically the same.

Every stage of the funnel is designed to move the prospect closer towards the conversion point, which for eCommerce means a successfully completed purchase.

Conversion funnel in eCommerce also includes the post-conversion phases, such as customer retention, upselling and cross-selling.

What Is A Buyer Journey?

Buyer journey is the process your leads go through from becoming aware of your brand, to considering and evaluating a purchase, and deciding to buy your product.

This process should become the basis for your conversion funnel as it helps you understand what your users are looking for, what type of experience they expect and what type of information they need to complete the purchase.

Mapping the buyer journey matters because it helps you:

  • Identify the type of content users need in order to engage with your brand and convert
  • Plan marketing campaigns focused on the channels and resources users look for in their buyer journey, helping you generate more leads
  • Identify growth opportunities within your e-store
Buyer journey
Buyer journey maps your users’ process from discovery to purchase.

How A Defined Sales Funnel Benefits Your eCommerce Site?

Optimizing your sales funnel means helping the user find the information they need to evaluate your offering, as well as complete the desired action (convert) – be it a sign up, contact or purchase.

A well-defined and optimized sales funnel helps you attract and convert as many leads as possible; It also helps you increase repeat purchases and brand advocacy.

The benefits of sales funnel optimization include: 

  • Marketing opportunities: A sales funnel audit helps you identify the sources of your most valuable traffic and adjust your marketing strategy to maximize results
  • Content strategy: Optimizing your e-store around your buyers’ journey helps you identify the type of content that provides them with most value 
  • Better user experience and SEO: A well-organized eCommerce ecosystem improves user experience, increases time on site and click-through rates which are important SEO factors
  • Revenue growth: Better marketing investments and rankings in search help brands increase the lead base, while the optimized site maximizes the number of conversions, leading to significant revenue growth

What Are The Stages Of A Conversion Funnel And The Recommended Tactics For Each?

eCommerce sales funnel consists of four stages that mark a specific phase of a buyer’s journey:

  • Discovery and brand awareness stage at the top of the sales funnel
  • Interest and purchase consideration at the middle
  • Decision and conversion stage at the bottom
  • Retention and loyalty stage at the post-funnel phase

For each of these stages, there are several tactics that you can use to successfully move your prospects down the funnel.

1. Top Of The Sales Funnel: Discovery And Awareness Stage

Top of the sales funnel - awareness stage

At the top of the funnel or the beginning of the buyer journey, users  become aware of your brand and your offerings. 

They have reached your business through a variety of channels that include digital ads, word-of-mouth, social media posts, backlinks and so on.

They also have pain points and problems they need to solve and estimate whether your business can help them. 

This is why, at this stage of the sales funnel, it is critical that you explain what your business is all about and provide resources and content that will educate the prospects.

At this stage of the user journey and sales funnel, you should employ this content marketing on your eCommerce site that educates visitors:

  • Webinars
  • Blog articles
  • Guides
  • Videos

Recommended tactics for the awareness stage of the funnel:

 

  • Write compelling, high-value blog articles: eCommerce sites rarely feature blogs which is surprising given that blogs are highly efficient at educating leads, as well as boosting SEO.
  • Use concise, to-the-point copy to emphasize benefits over features: At this point of their journey, a potential buyer wants to know  what your products can do for them. Create a very short, to-the-point copy for your landing and product pages that highlights  the benefits your offering provides to the user.
  • Use videos: Videos have great convincing power – marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than those who don’t while having a video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80% or more! Most users would rather watch a video than read a text anyway, so including videos of the product in action, where possible, would provide a much-needed learning resource to your audience. 

2. Middle Of The Sales Funnel: Interest/Consideration Stage

Middle of the sales funnel - consideration stage

When your eCommerce business manages to acquire targeted and high-value visitors to its online store through organic and paid channels, you can say you have a base of prospects who are now aware of your eStore and understand its value propositions. 

These users, that have not dropped out of the sales funnel at the first stage, are likely interested in your eCommerce business, are browsing through your product pages and are considering to buy from you.

The goal at this point is to make these prospects add a product to the wishlist or a cart and move them down the funnel towards the next stage.

You can remove any remaining doubts your visitors have at this point by employing these types of content marketing:

  • Product case studies
  • Product demo videos 
  • Client testimonials
  • In-depth product descriptions

You can also promote your special deals to your email subscribers via email campaigns and persuade them with compelling copy.

Recommended tactics for the consideration stage of the sales funnel:

 

  • Use social proof: Research shows that nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. Social proof such as reviews and testimonials give your users the confidence they need to make their purchasing decision.
  • Optimize your product pages: Product pages are key to driving conversions To optimize them, align your product page copy with common questions about the product. Run a keyword research to both understand what your customers are looking for and to optimize the pages for SEO. Feature standard relevant information and elements such as

 

 

    • Product type/category
    • Product name
    • Product description
    • Calls-to-action such as “buy now”, “add to wishlist”, “enquire”
    • Shipping and return information

3. Bottom Of The Sales Funnel: Decision/Conversion Stage

Bottom of the sales funnel - decision stage

At the bottom of the eCommerce sales funnel is the decision or conversion stage of the user journey. 

After getting your prospects interested in your eStore and convincing them to take action in the previous step, now is the time for the final push towards conversion.

Recommended tactics for the decision/conversion stage of the sales funnel:

 

  • Provide buying incentive for users during checkout: A checkout page should be distraction-free. It should offer multiple payment options and a very prominent call-to-action (ex. “check out” button). Also, using extra incentives like free shipping and providing clearly stated money-back guarantees can be the decisive factor for many shoppers.
  • Use exit intent popups: Exit intent popups are the popup notifications that appear when a user starts moving their cursor to the exit button or new tab. The purpose of these popups is to incentivize the user to complete the purchase by offering last-minute discounts and other perks. 
  • Cart abandonment email campaigns: the average cart abandonment rate across all industries is almost 70%! Behavior-based emails are an effective content strategy that influences the buyers’ decision. Highly-targeted emails can, for instance, invite users to complete a purchase by offering them a discount or simply reminding them about the benefits of the product they have abandoned.

 

 

4. Post-Sales Funnel: Retention/Loyalty Stage

Post-sales funnel: retention stage

After gaining a customer, the final step of the conversion funnel is to nurture that relationship into loyalty and advocacy, increasing the customer’s lifetime value.

Loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase, plus it can cost 5 times more to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones.

Repeat customers are also nine times more likely to convert than a first-time shopper.

Customer retention strategy can include these strategies:

  • Personalized customer support
  • Special discounts
  • Friend referral bonuses
  • Exclusive previews of new products
  • Specialized newsletter content

Recommended tactics for the retention/loyalty stage of the sales funnel:

  • Utilize the power of a Thank You page: Despite being the end of the user journey, a well-executed Thank You page can further increase your sales through upsell or cross-sell offers. When a shopper completes a transaction, a Thank You page or a follow-up Thank You email can communicate a reason for them to return to your eStore and buy again. Thank You pages can also ask for referrals or conduct a survey, depending on conversion objectives. 
  • Loyalty plan:  Loyalty plans create a feeling of belonging and exclusivity – and a customer that feels special and appreciated will always return. To do this, you can set up a time-triggered campaign upon receiving the confirmation of a completed purchase to promote loyalty perks to new customers.
  • Referrals: Research shows that 84% of consumers trust the recommendations from people they know. Offering an incentive in terms of a discount on the next order, a store credit, free samples or gift cards to existing customers for bringing their friends to your eShop is a key to good referral marketing. Happy customers will be grateful for these perks and will refer your business to other people. 

How To Optimize A Sales Funnel For Your eCommerce Website In 7 Steps

Now let’s talk strategy. Here are steps to take to optimize your site’s funnel so it drives, engages and converts more leads:

1. Know Your Buyer Journey

User flow and other metrics in Google Analytics can help you with mapping out your user journey.

You should figure out not only what your users do when they arrive at your eStore, but also where they came from and how they behaved after they left your website.

To better understand your buyers’ journey, try answering these questions:

  • What referring domains bring the most valuable traffic to your site?
  • How many touchpoints does an average shopper make on your site before making a purchase?
  • Do visitors behave differently when they first land on your homepage than they behave when they directly arrive at one of the products’ pages.

2. Make Sure Your eStore Is Easy To Navigate

Your prospects should have a very clear path to follow, from the moment they enter your conversion funnel and become aware with your brand to the point when they convert.

Provide a good user experience to them by avoiding confusing layout and difficult navigation. Make sure there is an obvious, intuitive way to get to any product category and any product page – no matter where they land on your site.

Visitors will abandon your eStore at any stage of the funnel whenever their experience is dissatisfactory. Try to identify the weak points of your eStore’s navigation and improve them.

Some navigational improvements you can implement include:

  • Breadcrumbs that will help users orientate wherever on your website they are
  • Clear separation of product categories – however, make sure you don’t have too much of these as to not overwhelm the visitors
  • Search engine with autosuggests and product items that open automatically in a drop-down as a user search for them
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3. Define The Type Of Content For Each Stage And Map Conversion Triggers

As we’ve already discussed when defining each of the eCommerce funnel stages, you should create a plan for ushering consumers through each of the four stages: awareness, interest/consideration, decision/conversion and loyalty/retention.

Define, in advance, the type of content you want to use on every stage and on the pages that prospects visit. Remember, these don’t have to be on-site content types only – email marketing and retargeting ads that target users who have already looked at items in your shop are very effective content marketing tactics, too.

To reiterate, content marketing types that can capture customers are:

  • Relevant, informative, well-written blog articles that provide valuable insight to consumers
  • Videos, preferably of products in action, that communicate the benefits and value propositions of the product
  • Case studies that provide in-depth analysis of products and their value of use
  • Client testimonials and reviews that deliver a third-party impressions and opinions of your products

4. Form A Lead Nurturing Strategy

Visitors usually become eCommerce leads when they subscribe for newsletters and leave their personal information such as email addresses.

Once you capture your leads, you need a lead nurturing strategy to transition them from awareness over interest to conversion.

This nurturing strategy consists of sending your email subscriber leads the kind of content that is designed to cover all the possible stages of the journey they may go through. 

With this content, you make an offer to your leads that they may accept – and the more enticing the offer is, the harder it will be for them to pass it.

Write down your incentive ideas, test them against each other and brainstorm which may be the most suitable in a given scenario, for given customers at different stages of their journey.

Some lead nurturing strategies that you can employ in this regard are:

  • Offer value to your shoppers through great content, compelling copy and quality images and videos
  • Optimize your sales pages for SEO
  • Use search and retargeting ads
  • Provide benefits such as discounts, coupon codes and store credits
  • Use personalized email marketing techniques strategically
  • Establish contact with your shoppers quickly through live chat support

5. Optimize Your Main And Product Pages

Homepage, product pages and category pages are all vital for eCommerce websites. The more products you sell, the more “main” pages you will have and it will be hard to distinguish which one is more important.

Because all of these pages may act as landing pages for your prospects and leads, you should work on optimizing each. You need to take into account the SEO of every page – its title tags, meta descriptions, keywords and keyword density in the title/description of the product and image alt title tags – in order for Google to send traffic your way.

You also need to adjust the content on each page for optimal user experience by not making them too cluttered, using only the essential copy that provides value and clarifications to users in a legible, readable way with lots of bullet points and short paragraphs.

Remember, every stage of conversion funnel needs to provoke an action from a user. This is why, apart from defining what you want this action to be, you need to make sure the page doesn’t distract users from completing that action.

6. Optimize Your Forms

The first step towards raising your conversion rates is capturing lead successfully. This is often done through online forms, such as ones for collecting email subscribers.

If users do not want to fill out your forms, you may be losing out on quality leads that are put off by the process of these forms. eCommerce websites need to have forms as short as possible, because fewer form fields means less friction.

Keep your form submission requirements to the minimum and ask for only the most essential information. Users are hesitant to give away information such as their phone number or location, so don’t make those fields required. 

7. Optimize Your Checkout Pages

Finally, you should treat your checkout pages as a separate and very special entity. We have discussed the optimization of product and category pages before, but this is a completely different thing.

Cart abandonment rates are very high, in general. The higher they are, the more this indicates that shoppers find something about your checkout process offputting, distracting or disagreeable.

If you’re not sure what that could be, you can conduct on online survey with your customers and ask them directly what they don’t like about your checkout page. You can offer the answers they need to check or let them type in their own answers.

There are some best practices for optimizing checkout pages that you can infer on your own, though:

  • If possible, use the single-page checkout instead of a multi-step procedure that may seem intimidating to most users. If you can’t avoid the multi-step procedure, then at least use breadcrumbs and other progress indicators of how many steps remain until the process is complete.
  • Offer as many payment methods as possible. 
  • Remove all distractions and keep the page as minimalistic as possible
  • Consider making the user registration optional
  • Provide proof of transactions’ security to ease shoppers’ potential concerns
Lead nurturing and customer acquisition stats
It can cost 5 times more to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones.

What Are The Main KPIs For Conversion Funnel Optimization?

You cannot truly optimize your eCommerce sales funnel conversion rates if you don’t measure sales funnel’s performance.

In order to do so, you should establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will provide an insight into your optimizations’ performance.

Plenty of KPIs exist, but some of them are more important for measuring conversion funnel’s efficiency than the others.

These KPIs are:

  • Traffic: The essential metric, traffic refers to all the users that enter your website at some point, without which you wouldn’t have leads, prospects and consumers. Traffic can come from various sources – social media pages, search engines, paid ads and other channels. Growing traffic is the number one objective for attaining more leads. Depending on where you get your traffic from the most, enhance your marketing efforts in that area. For instance, if a lot of traffic come from search engines, invest time and money into great SEO.
  • Bounce rate: This KPI tells you how many of your eStore visitors leave the site immediately after landing on one of your pages. By giving more incentives to users to visit other pages, you can decrease these negative rates. Include a lot of internal links, compelling copy and calls-to-action for various other offers.
  • Cart abandonment: Your site’s analytics should include the metric that shows how many users put items in their shopping carts and then leave without completing transactions. High abandonment rates suggest there is an issue with your checkout process, so you should implement the optimization techniques we have discussed above.
  • Sales: A very important metric, because an eCommerce site may have huge traffic, but  a very small amount of buyers in comparison. Focus on the action stage of the sales funnel, such as the middle and bottom of the funnel stages – consideration and conversion – to provide an upward trend in sales for your eCommerce business.
  • Conversion rate: High conversion rates mean that your offers go down well with your audience. Conversions don’t necessarily have to be the same thing as sales – they can be lead magnets that convince users to sign up for your email list or collecting discount coupons. 

Takeaways On eCommerce Sales Funnels

Optimizing your eCommerce sales funnel is important for various reasons:

  • It generates more conversions and sales
  • It acquires qualified leads and high-value prospects for your business
  • It helps you identify optimal marketing strategies
  • It reveals the kind of content you should be going for
  • It identifies ways in which you can solve your consumers’ pain points

Depending on the stage of buyer journey and sales funnel they’re in, you should employ specific tactics:

  • At the awareness stage, use the power of relevant, informative blog articles, copy that shows benefits of products over its features and videos of products in action
  • At the consideration stage, use social proof, product page optimization and email campaigns with persuasion triggers
  • At the conversion stage, provide buying incentives during checkout, optimize your checkout pages, use cart abandonment email campaigns and leverage on-site messaging
  • At the retention stage, use Thank You pages to upsell and cross-sell, loyalty plan and referral marketing

Finally, the seven-step method for improving your sales funnel to gain more conversions would consist of these key tactics from the four stages:

  • Mapping your buyer journey
  • Making eStore easy to navigate
  • Defining content for each stage
  • Forming a lead nurturing strategy
  • Optimizing main and product pages
  • Optimizing forms
  • Optimizing checkout pages
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