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The Ecommerce Sales Funnel Explained

Published on Wednesday, December 16, 2020

While it would be great if sales simply happened fortuitously (and, of course, some do), most ecommerce customers are specifically targeted leads who pass through the different stages of the ecommerce sales funnel in order to convert. 

Not everyone who visits your online store has the intention of buying: they need to be persuaded. The main purpose of the ecommerce sales funnel is to channel leads into becoming paying customers or subscribers. 

What is the Ecommerce Sales Funnel?

The ecommerce sales funnel is a way of guiding your leads through the buyer’s journey in a way that persuades them to convert into paying customers. There are three stages to the sales funnel – top, middle and bottom – and, just like an actual funnel, each stage should filter your site visitors down into the next one. By outlining the ideal journey you’d like your site visitors to take, you’ll be better equipped to identify high-converting areas of your ecomm site, optimize them, and retain more customers.

The AIDA model serves as the guiding template for the ecommerce sales funnel. AIDA stands for:

  • Awareness: Your leads become aware of your product
  • Interest: You pique the interests of your leads with engaging content
  • Desire: You drive the desire for your product by shining the spotlight on it
  • Action: Your leads are thoroughly persuaded and convert into customers

By crafting your ecommerce marketing strategy around these key stages of the sales funnel, you’ll be able to optimize the user experience whilst also driving conversion. You can even use sales funnels that are unique to different areas of your ecommerce business, from key landing pages to the different products you sell. By taking each visitor on a buyer’s journey that’s unique to their needs, you’ll be maximizing the potential your website has for converting.   

AIDA Model Ecommerce


What Are the Different Stages of the Ecomm Sales Funnel?

Similar to the traditional marketing funnel model, the ecommerce sales funnel can also be divided into several stages or sections. The first section is the top of the funnel, and it’s the broadest area because it’s targeting 100% of site visitors.

As leads progress through their buyer’s journey, they get narrowed down further and further until they reach the final stage. This is the bottom of the ecommerce sales funnel, and is much more focused because it’s targeting the remaining, say, 5% of leads who made their way through your buyer’s journey. 

Top of the Ecommerce Sales Funnel: Getting Noticed and Attracting Visitors

The top of the ecommerce funnel has the objective of catching as many leads as possible. This is the introduction stage, where the aim is to catch the attention of online users.

Customers can reach your website in various ways. For example, they may be searching for related products or topics, or they may click through to your site from a sponsored post or social media, for example. However you attract visitors to your site, the important thing to note is that at this stage, they aren’t usually in the mindset to buy – they’re just browsing. So, you need to put them in a mood to buy through the use of informative, engaging content that’s tailored to their specific needs.

This is why the main top-of-funnel goal is to provide information about your products or services. Whether it’s a tangible product or a piece of software, you need to demonstrate why your product is valuable, how it outshines other competitors, and how it will solve the need or problem of your target consumer. 

There are several ways you can make potential customers aware of what you’re selling (and this is by no means an exhaustive list!):

  • Implement a solid SEO strategy that will improve your SERP rankings
  • Consider using paid ads or paid social media campaigns 
  • Boost your organic leads by creating a great content marketing strategy
  • Integrate social media with your content marketing strategy to reach more people

These top-of-funnel tactics are a great way to lure potential customers. The success of this stage of the ecomm funnel in making people aware of your product can be measured by the number of visitors to your website, or specific pages on your site. 

However, only leads who are truly interested in what you’re offering will continue down the ecommerce sales funnel with you…and that’s okay. You can’t expect that 100% of all visitors will take the next step – it’s more like 50-70%, if you play your cards right. 

Middle of the Ecommerce Funnel: Persuasion, Persuasion, Persuasion

When potential customers have reached the middle stage of the ecommerce conversion funnel, they’re essentially holding a signpost that reads: “Okay, I’m interested!” Here, you’ve narrowed your prospect pool down from casual browsers to curious leads, so the goal at this stage is to pique their interest, earn their trust, and make them desire your product. 

The best way to do this is to encourage interested site visitors to take the next step, and that typically means signing up to something, whether that’s email updates, newsletters, or perhaps gated content. The point is to use sign-up forms to nurture your leads so that they go in the right direction, which is towards making a purchase. Doing this may sound difficult, but the good news is that leads who have already reached the middle of the ecommerce sales funnel are much more likely to sign-up because they’re already interested. 

If you’re struggling, though, consider the following incentivizing tactics:

  • Offer subscribers access to gated content, from instructional videos to interactive content – give them something extra special in return for them giving you their email
  • Give those who sign up the VIP treatment by offering them exclusive discounts on products
  • Free trials are also great incentives – if they work for your product or service – because the reward outweighs the commitment

But this isn’t all the middle part of the conversion funnel is about. This is also the stage where you should be more persuasive with your content – remember, you need to sustain prospects’ interests and stimulate their desire to buy. 

When doing this, it’s best not to use hype marketing tactics as these could be viewed as over-compensating, and it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way around! Instead, be as factual as you can about the benefits of your product, and present your product as a solution to a need. Rather than acting like a salesperson, act like an expert in order to establish authority and earn the trust of your audience. 

With this in mind, your content marketing strategy for the middle part of the ecomm sales funnel must be solution-oriented and product-centric: the more information you give, the more tempting and valuable your product will be.

Bottom of the Ecommerce Sales Funnel: Closing the Deal and Sustaining Loyalty

When customers are already in the mood to buy and ready to make a purchase, they’ll put items in their carts and proceed to check out. This is perhaps the most crucial stage of the ecommerce conversion funnel because, no matter how interested someone is, something as simple as a cumbersome form field can mean they’ll abandon their purchase in the blink of an eye. 

The ratio between those who make a purchase and those who leave during the checkout process is known as the cart abandonment rate. You can use this metric to assess your checkout process and make sure it’s running as efficiently and quickly as possible. Remember that online shoppers have little patience for filling in lengthy forms, creating accounts, or even waiting for things to load. If your checkout process is encumbered by any of these, it could be the reason why your cart abandonment rate is shooting up. 

Here are a few tips to help ensure your customers make the purchase:

  • Make sure your checkout process is as simple as possible
  • Offer as many payment methods as you can 
  • Enable guest checkouts, or integrate social media logins
  • Send reminder emails to those who abandon their carts

For those who have completed their buyer’s journey with you by making a purchase or becoming a paying subscriber, your goal now is to sustain their loyalty. To do this, stay in regular contact with them through email newsletters, special promos, or social media interactions. You can also offer reward schemes to loyal customers in order to show that you value and appreciate their business. 

How to Build An Ecommerce Sales Funnel to Drive Growth

Whatever sales funnel you use, the overall goal is to drive growth at the various stages of the buyer’s journey. To do this successfully, you can use the data you have from website analytics to track key metrics like conversion rates, traffic sources, and dwell times. These will give you insights into how to further improve your ecommerce sales funnel so that it’s optimized for every stage. 

For example, when you know which pages are viewed the most per session, and which areas have the highest conversion rates, you’ll be able to double down on the content and pages you know are most popular. Tracking metrics like this is also a great way to continually optimize your site design, content, and SEO strategy

Another key thing to remember is that it’s not just about quantity of content: quality is more important. If your website has a high bounce rate and a low conversion rate, despite a high volume of visitors, then you might need to rethink your marketing approach. For example, the keywords you’re using might not be applicable to your target market, or the actual performance of your site could be slow and off-putting. Whatever the issue may be, the solution lies in optimizing your ecomm sales funnel so that you can continue to drive conversions. 

How to Optimize Your Ecomm Sales Funnel

If you need to improve your ecommerce sales funnel, a good place to start is your SEO strategy. Using well-researched keywords that are targeted to your audience (that is, the ones that they use themselves) and appropriate to your product is one of the best ways to improve the quality of traffic that comes through to your website. This means that the top of your sales funnel will be populated by leads who are more likely to continue their journey with you. 

You can optimize your SEO strategy for ecommerce by:

  • Conducting thorough keyword research into your industry
  • Strategically placing keywords throughout your content (but not over-using them)
  • Creating high quality and authoritative content 
  • Continually measuring and improving your site speed
  • Ensure your site is structured well with a hierarchy of content
  • Ensure technical aspects of your SEO, such as internal linking, image alt tags, and meta descriptions are current

Another way to optimize your ecomm sales funnel is by optimizing your website layout. Whatever your business is, your online store must be user-friendly and responsive on all devices. Other things to consider are page load speed, how easy your site is to navigate, and whether its design or graphics are eye-catching. Without optimizing each of these areas, your visitors will be in for a rather bumpy user experience, potentially leading to high bounce rates and an unsuccessful conversion funnel. 

The same goes for content: if your content is uninteresting, irrelevant, or formatted in blocks of hard-to-read text, it’s unlikely that it will convert your visitors into customers. High quality content that establishes credibility and authority is important for every stage of the marketing funnel because it’s what attracts people in the first place. Your leads will trust your product more if you’re able to clearly present the hows, the whys and the whats, so consider this when putting your sales funnel together.

High-converting ecommerce content marketing includes things like:

  • Instructional videos or how-to articles
  • Blogs on related topics in the industry
  • Interactive quizzes that engage the audience
  • Detailed and creative product descriptions
  • Brand journalism pieces that humanize your brand

There are ultimately a number of ways to optimize the ecommerce conversion funnel, so here’s one last round-up of all the ways you can successfully channel visitors into customers: 

  • Create separate pages for special promos and popular products
  • Engage with your audience through emails, chats, and social media
  • 24/7 customer service, especially if you have a big online store
  • Simplify the checkout process and make it as convenient as possible for users
rachel dicke
Rachel Dicke
Director of Client Success