Conversion Funnel Optimization: How a Good UX Plays a Role


Lorraine Ryshin

March 19, 2021 | 8 min read

Last Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Conversions rarely occur on a whim; usually, there is a layered process behind eCommerce purchases. Known as the conversion funnel — or the sales funnel — this model shows the conduit between the least aware prospects to those who are most aware of your company’s products and services. Those with the most knowledge of your offerings are usually the most interested and motivated to convert.  

Brands have to be both wary and strategic in the ways they set up conversions, and that is where the concept of the conversion funnel comes in handy. While no one can truly “set up” conversions, you can set the scene and command all the workings that bring visitors closer to converting thanks to conversion funnel optimization. 

As UX-perts, we like to blare the horns on the importance of UX, so it should come as no surprise that a good user experience plays an important role in conversion rate optimization. Let’s take a look at how you can optimize your conversion rate by way of working in a good UX to the different stages of conversion funnel optimization. Here are some of the topics we will discuss: 

  • What is a conversion funnel?
  • What is conversion funnel optimization in marketing?
  • What does good conversion funnel optimization look like?
  • The different stages of the conversion funnel
  • How to optimize these stages to drive consumers down the funnel


What is a conversion funnel?

Before we jump into how to optimize your conversion funnel, we need to briefly review what a conversion funnel is.

The conversion funnel denotes a process in which brands work to turn potential customers into converting customers.

It is comprised of several stages, with each one indicating your customers’ level of brand awareness, interest, and willingness to buy — along with the gradual steps and undertakings you can take to lead users further down. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different stages and what they mean: 

  1. Attention/Awareness: At this stage, your users become aware they have a problem and first discover your brand. This might be through word of mouth, a google search, a blog post, a display ad, an email – you name it!
  2. Interest: Now, your users are more interested in what you have to say. Share how can your brand help them solve their problem?.
  3. Desire: This is where you need to turn on the charm and sell your visitors the benefits of your products and services. You want to drive home how your company is different (and better) than your competitors, pushing your users further down the funnel.
  4. Action: Your users have all the information they need and are ready to pull the trigger, whether they’re checking out to buy a shirt in their cart, applying for a loan, signing a contract, or taking whatever action your company defines as a conversion.

The different stages of a conversion funnel

Source: HubSpot


What is Conversion Funnel Optimization in Marketing?

While the stages in each conversion funnel may differ from brand to brand, each shares the ultimate goal of “pushing” site users down to the very last step, which, evidently, represents conversions.

Through this structure, brands can group their potential customers into easy-to-understand categories, thereby dictating several efforts they can maneuver to encourage prospects further down the funnel.

There are various marketing tactics to drive customers down the conversion funnel; they can be deployed through more than one stage. Let’s dig deeper.


What is Good UX in Conversion Funnel Optimization?

Now that you know what a conversion funnel is, the next thing to cover is how to apply good UX practices that relate to each stage in the conversion funnel. The following spells out the ways brands can enhance their UX per each stage of the conversion funnel to optimize it and garner greater conversions.


Stage 1: Awareness

Sitting atop the conversion funnel as the entry point, the awareness stage is the stage with the least… awareness of your brand or offering(s). It’s also the stage with mounting awareness, as potential clients become cognizant of your business and click onto your website, the act which carries with it the possibility to spawn possible interest. 

But that requires capturing new customers. You should approach your awareness stage with the mentality of casting a wide net. You want to attract as many people as you can, so you have a higher chance of moving people further down the funnel. 

We’re not saying adopt a “spray and pray” method, you still need to be strategic and methodical so you can securely create a heightened awareness of what your brand does – and attract the right kind of customers. Getting tons of traffic on your site or clicks on your ads can be exciting at first, but if these are unqualified visits, they won’t do you much good.

Here are a few ways to educating potential customers on your brand and make it easier for new users to find you:

  • PPC ads
  • Social media campaigns
  • SEO 

Take e.l.f Cosmetics, for example. To educate potential customers, e.l.f. Cosmetics allows anyone to take their skincare quiz which not only provides awareness to what types of skincare products they offer but also how their products can help alleviate a consumer’s pain points. Whether a potential customer wants to treat acne, dry skin, or improve fine lines, e.l.f. has products that cater to their every need.

Elf Cosmetics skincare finder, an example of conversion funnel optimization at the awareness phase

Source: e.l.f. Cosmetics website

You have to keep your target audience in mind and create your campaigns accordingly. But once you’ve brought new people onto your site, the UX must be optimized, or at least suitable to pique interest within visitors (lead them to step 2), or — even better — make them convert on the spot.


UX Best Practices at The Awareness Phase

There is a slew of general ways to improve upon the user experience. But often in the awareness stage, users usually arrive at your site via a landing page. 

The UX has to be top tier on this page. Keep the copy and imagery relevant to the conversion goal, while making it clear what your brand does. The latter is more important since you’re introducing new prospects to your company. The copy and other contents on landing pages should be to the point, so steer clear of wasting users’ time. In short, don’t overload it.

Most importantly, construct the landing page so that it is relevant to the message that led visitors to click on it in the first place. 


Stage 2: Interest

Next, we reach the stage of interest. Now that prospective customers know your company exists, they have to frequent your website; simply knowing about your offering(s) does not ensure they’ll return to your site or engage with your content.

Content is key in this step, as it can foster relationships and maintain interest within your prospects. There’s a twofold approach for conversion funnel optimization: the first is the nature of the content and the second concerns the UX, or the feelings and attitudes users develop over their experience. 

The first element deals with the core of the content — the content type, its subject matter, how it can help with your prospects’ problems, its visual identity, etc. You would need to establish a blog with relevant posts to your industry or niche. Take Slack for example, since the pandemic Slack has upped its content production, providing guides, interviews, etc to teach business leaders and employees alike how to adapt to the “new normal” with Slack. 

Blog Post from Slack, an example of conversion funnel optimization at the interest phase

Source: Slack

Other useful content for stimulating user interest are:

  • Guides
  • Videos
  • Interviews
  • A resources page to keep everything together in one place
  • And more! The sky is the limit – get creative and see what content works for your audience.  

You would have to make sure these align with the needs/interests of your vertical as well as making your content stand out and offer something different. Videos and other content, for example, should not focus on the product alone, but offer something of value — whether that’s inspirational content, news related to your niche or something else. 


UX Best Practices for The Interest Phase

As for the attitudes toward the content, i.e. the UX, consider the amount of content on your page; is it slowing down your site? If so, reduce it so that you never have issues with loading speeds. 

Make sure everything can be easily seen and accessed. This will encourage further browsing. For example, if you have an in-page element that requires scrolling, the width of it, at the very least, needs to be wide enough so all the content can be easily read. 

You should limit scrollable in-page content to one type of scrolling function (either by length or width, never both.) This is generally length, as this is easier to look through. Use carousels, in-page recommendations, and links to other pages to incite browsing.

In fact, when it comes to the UX in general, be sure to keep it continually optimized so that all content elements are easy to understand and seamless. The best way to gauge customer understanding and frustration is of course to measure interactions with each element.


Stage 3: Desire

Once you’ve developed some level of interest, you need to propel prospects towards the lower half of the conversion funnel, which starts with desire. Representing a heightened interest, desire attracts users to your actual offering aside from your content alone. 

At this stage, you should make your product or service, as the stage suggests, desirable. It’s also where you have to distinguish your offering from that of your competitors, specifically, by positioning your company as the better option. 

This can be done by:

  • Employing more targeted social ads that lead to pages with CTAs
  • Highlighting how your product can alleviate specific problems
  • Offering sales/promotions

For example, Superdry entices their customers through a series of emails providing special discounts, promotions, etc. to showcase the value of their products.

A personalized SuperDry promotional email, an example of reaching out to a customer in the desire stage

Source: Superdry

The users with the highest level of interest will sign up for a newsletter or other form of email communication. This is vital, as it enables you to see exactly who your most interested prospects are and market to them directly. 


UX Best Practices at The Desire Phase

For the Desire stage, your best bet is to arrange a drip campaign, or an automated email campaign, which can be set off by different triggers and sent at strategic periods. For example, when someone signs up or makes a purchase, you can then sent prewritten emails during key periods, such as sales, new blog posts, company news, etc.

Also, although they’re prewritten content, assure that emails are personalized with the prospects’ names or their company names. Emails that appear auto-generated, or lack a human touch, yield a poor UX.

As you may have gathered, content is as weighty a component at this stage as in others. You need to eliminate any traces of a poor UX, such as an image that appears clickable, but doesn’t actually take users to a landing page, enlarging the image instead, a common UX problem. Nothing spoils a customer journey like obstacles in the digital experience — another reason to measure user behavior.


Stage 4: Action

Last, but certainly not least, we’ve reached the final stage: action. This is the most targeted stage of the conversion funnel for obvious reasons. After pumping out UX-optimized content and building a relationship with potential customers, only a small portion of them will make it to this stage. 

Most will hang in the balance of desire and action, toggling between the two until they make the decision to either buy or bounce. This is where your UX can make or break you.


UX Best Practices at The Action Phase

First, you need to ensure that the navigation of your product pages are neatly organized so that products are easy to find. Don’t succumb to the UX sin of overstuffing your navigation. Finding your product/service should be a seamless experience.

As for the product pages, each must have selection tools that make it easier for customers to filter out products by way of their particular needs. (Think of common product organization types like size, color, price, etc.)

Additionally, all aspects of this experience must promote purchases, from the ability to zoom in, to quick load times of the actual product pages (when clicked on from a multi-product page), to the product image quality.

Any element can be off-putting at this stage, including non-design bits like pricing, so make sure your UX is superb and built around actual customer intelligence.

UX Insights Throughout the Conversion Funnel Optimization Process

Measuring the success of your marketing efforts does not end while you embark on optimizing the conversion funnel. In fact, you should not approach the conversion funnel as a standalone marketing tactic to reel in more conversions. 

This is because not all user experience exists in such a linear way. As such, it may ring true for some users but not all. Particularly, the customer decision journey can be seen as a contrast to the funnel. This can be observed by viewing user paths and segmenting your users to narrow behavior-based categories. 

By tackling a specific segment, you can customize the UX to that segment, to assure an optimized journey that reduces exists and bounces. For example, pure player brands understand that their content will not be consumed by a general audience. Only specific segments will visit their sites and social channels. As such, they create content that aligns with the interests of their segmented users.