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, interested and bent on conversions.
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 into utility. While no one can truly “set up” conversions, you can set the scene and command all the workings that bring visitors closer to converting by heeding the conversion funnel and optimizing it.
As UX-perts, we like to blare the horns on the importance of UX, so it should come as no surprise that a good UX 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 the conversion funnel.
What is the Conversion Funnel in Marketing?
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/ undertakings you can to take to lead users further down.
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.
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. 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. Think of Stage 1 as a person attempting to swoop butterflies into a net. They’d have to reach out to catch them with careful movements to assure they don’t miss out on snatching their butterflies, or in marketing, their business opportunities.
The same should go for your Stage 1 marketing endeavors. You need to be careful and methodical so you can securely create a heightened awareness of what your brand does.
Educating potential customers to your brand involves using common practices such as:
- PPC ads
- Social media campaigns
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.
There is a slew of general ways to improve upon the user experience. But in regards to stage 1, 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 does not ensure they’ll return to your site or engage with your site or social media content.
Content is key in this step, as it can foster and maintain interest within your prospects. There’s a twofold approach for optimizing the conversion funnel: 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.
Other useful content for stimulating user interest are:
- a resources page
- Etc. (get creative)
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.
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
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.
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 roboticized 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.
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
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.
Hero Image: Visual Generation / Adobe StockConversion Funnel: 9 Tips For Optimizing Your Conversion Rate
Conversion funnel, upper funnel, top of funnel… if your business is digital, you probably hear the word “funnel” several times a day.
If you thought you could ignore it, you’re wrong! Whether you’re selling goods or services on your site, or if you’re using email marketing to reach your audience, the conversion funnel is your friend.
In fact, it’s highly likely that your site has not one but several conversion funnels.
Indeed, all your prospects and customers will not have the same level of maturity and may follow very different paths to conversion.
More than a just a “straight-line” to a sale or subscription, the funnel is a great way to learn about your customers’ browsing patterns and about what the typical buyer decision journey looks like.
Being well-acquainted with its characteristics is a prerequisite for successful optimization and for staying ahead of the competition.
In the following post, we will review some key facts about the conversion funnel and take a closer look at the various stages that make it up.
We’ll keep the best for the end with 9 tips on how to optimize your conversion funnels. Ready? Let’s jump straight into the funnel.
What is the Conversion Funnel?
Spoiler alert: there are almost as many funnels as there are businesses.
The conversion funnel is comprised of the steps a visitor takes to get to a site from an ad or organic search, for example, all the way to a sale.
The funnel metaphor illustrates the gradual decrease of visitors traveling through your site from point A to point B.
The further down the funnel, the smaller the number of visitors, and remember — not all journeys will lead to a conversion. While you will probably have seen many illustrations of the funnel, it’s important to remember that there are almost as many funnels as there are businesses.
Hence the visualization for the funnel will depend on your business objective(s), which could be:
- To sell goods or services
- To get a request for an estimate
- To increase newsletter subscriptions
- To increase downloads (reports, etc)
B2B, B2C and the Conversion Funnel
While the funnel is just as relevant for B2B as it is for B2C, it will look very different depending on whether you are targeting businesses or consumers.
For example, in B2C, the funnel will generally be simpler and shorter, because the purchase or subscription is often made on a whim or is at the very least highly subjective. A B2B conversion, however, will often be more pragmatic and business-driven. Building trust over time will therefore be crucial for B2B brands.
Conversion Funnel: What’s the Point?
2nd spoiler alert: there is no ideal conversion funnel — each objective and target has its own funnel.
Before you even get to conversion, the objective of the conversion funnel is to map out the various stages of the purchasing journey.
Once you have shed light on these stages, you can:
- Analyze friction points leading to exits (high bounce rate on a landing page, cart abandonment, etc)
- Qualify visitors at each stage of the journey (window-shopper, prospect, customer, etc)
- Optimize your funnel(s) with a view to increasing conversions
Stages of the Conversion Funnel
Retail, tourism, banking, insurance, online gaming… different verticals will have radically different conversion funnels.
It is, however, possible to map out an outline that will be meaningful to more than one type of business. This outline generally follows four key stages. But don’t forget that, depending on their level of maturity, it is not unusual for a visitor to skip a step or two.
For example, they may decide to complete a purchase without seeking out further information because they are already familiar with a brand and or a product.
1. Inspire visitors
For this first step, answer the questions that your visitors might have and build awareness around your product and brand. Make sure that your landing page displays content that clearly addresses the value around your product or services. In short, be educational.
2. Turn visitors into prospects
This second stage is all about trust. Your objective should be both simple and complex: obtain your visitors’ contact information either to stay in touch or personalize the experience. This is what is known as lead nurturing.
A great way to expand your database is to be generous with your resources:
- Newsletter with recommended reads or weekly tips
- Report or study based on your proprietary data or sector expertise
- Free tool or app
- Trial of your solution
3. Converting prospects into a customer
The third stage is critical.
Your prospect is shopping around for the most competitive offer and the one best suited to their needs — up to you to stand out in a crowd.
You can do this by:
- Simplifying the sales funnel
- Removing friction points
- Shortening the customer journey
4. Loyalty building: from customer to brand ambassador
You thought conversion was the last step in the conversion funnel? Not quite. The next step is to turn regular customers into loyal, returning customers.
This has two challenges:
- Encourage your customers to make a repeat purchase. Good news: it’s much easier to convert a customer who has already made a purchase on your site than a prospect.
- Encourage happy customers to review your goods or services. These recommendations will be very helpful when trying to convert first-time visitors.
How to Optimize the Conversion Funnel in 9 Key Steps
Are you still with us? Great — you’ve just made it through Stage One in real time.
Because we really want to get you through to Stage 2, we’ve compiled 9 tips to optimize the sales funnel, whatever business you’re in.
1. Make sure the message is clear
This seems basic and yet… Whether it’s free or not, your offering is the basis of your conversion funnel(s). For example, Amazon rewards its most loyal customers with free or fast shipping and an extended catalog with its Prime offering.
Defining your brand offering also means highlighting unique events around it — for example, a members-only sales to launch the holiday shopping season.
2. Define your objectives
Without a final objective, it will be difficult to map the route from start to finish — from the entry point to the post-conversion follow-up. It’s crucial you determine the main purpose of the conversion funnel in order to optimize the various stages leading to the end goal.
This could be a sale, download, subscription, social share, etc…
3. Personas are good, mindsets are better.
If you’re not familiar with the Mindset methodology we strongly recommend you take a look at our report on the subject.
The Mindset methodology goes beyond traditional personas to deeply understand your prospects’ state of mind at each stage of the funnel.
Why are they on your site (information, purchase, comparison)? What is the context of their browsing (on mobile, at work, in the subway, in-store)?
Understanding your visitors’ mindset is the first step to making them digitally happy and turning them into converting customers.
4. Build a strong content strategy.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Without relevant content, your strategy won’t hold up.
Give visitors resources that provide a concrete answer to their challenges:
- Strengthen your brand image
- Position yourself as a thought leader in your sector
- Build up your database thanks to downloads (webinars, ebooks, etc…)
- Determine your visitors’ needs
In the travel industry, for example, inspirational content plays a key role in keeping visitors interested. This could mean suggesting itineraries for specific destinations, organizing trips around themes or offering advice about the best time to travel to a certain destination. In fact, 40% of all pages viewed* on travel sites contain inspirational content.
5. Streamline the UX
You might have the most attractive offer on the market and the most fascinating content, but your efforts won’t go far unless the user experience matches the expectations of your… visitors.
Here are a few common friction points you can fix as a matter of priority:
- Account creation: simplify account creation
- Checkout: drastically reduce the number of steps
- CTA: Create the perfect CTA
- Navigation: Structure your menu so it reflects the main categories on your site
- Product information: Pay special attention to descriptions, images, CTAs and remove any distracting elements
- Forms: Only include necessary fields
- Mobile: A visitor will leave a mobile page after 39 seconds — a mobile first approach is no longer a nice-to-have but is essential
- Experience: Suggest similar products throughout the customer journey and enable a wishlist function that visitors can easily share
6. Boost site performance
It’s a well-known fact that load times can heavily impact conversions. A study published by Google in February 2018 indicates that visitors are 32% more likely to leave a site if the page takes between 1 and 3 seconds to load.
7. Create elements of reassurance
It’s a saturated market and your offer and prices are fairly close to that of your competitors… If this is the case, reassurance elements could make all the difference, especially when it comes to decision making.
Make sure information and prices are clear:
- Be upfront about shipping costs
- Include several payment options
- Showcase customer reviews
8. Determine entry points
As we’ve already mentioned, while objectives and targets are paramount factors of content creation it’s also important to build your strategy around the various channels that lead visitors to your website.
These touchpoints should be top of your mind when ironing the creases out of your purchase funnel:
- Social platforms
- Organic search
- Influencer marketing
9. Test, test, test
You’ve put a lot of thought into your conversion funnel, your online content and your UX. Now what?
Now’s the time to analyze your traffic, bounce rate, click rate, session duration, conversions and exits at each stage of the funnel to identify any unanticipated obstacles to conversion. When armed with this knowledge, you can now test different variants of the funnel, modifying the copy, images, or repositioning CTAs, menus or customer reviews and seeing how this impacts conversions.
In conclusion, whatever goods or services you are offering online, conversion funnels are crucial to turning prospects into hopefully, loyal customers.
But building a conversion funnel is not enough. You have to underpin these efforts with a smart segmentation strategy and analyze the behavior of customers as they move closer to the end goal.
Here at Contentsquare we’re obsessed with the way people interact with digital platforms, and that’s why we’ve created a solution that empowers teams to optimize each phase of the buyer decision journey and maximize conversions.
We also believe sharing is caring so pay attention to this blog for more UX advice. 🙂
* Source: from a Contentsquare study based on 188 006 236 browsing sessions captured between October 1 and December 31st 2017.