Conversion Optimization

The Beginner’s Guide to Building an Ecommerce Conversion Funnel

There’s never been a better time to start your own ecommerce business. Thanks to the many advantages available in the Digital Age,...

Written by Kelly Madison · 7 min read >

There’s never been a better time to start your own ecommerce business. Thanks to the many advantages available in the Digital Age, it’s easier than ever. In fact, in the time it used to take people to launch one company, you could literally open multiple businesses online.

That’s not to say that ecommerce is a complete cakewalk, though. Most people who fail at opening an online business do so because they think that if it’s easy to launch one, it will also be easy to succeed with one.

This just isn’t the case. Instead, you need to understand the unique features of an ecommerce company – the most important being your ecommerce conversion funnel. If you are thinking about building a membership site using free wordpress membership plugins, you need to consider what you funnel is going to look like.

What Is an Ecommerce Conversion Funnel?

Depending on the type of ecommerce business you run, your customers will take a certain path that begins with being interested in the item(s) you’re offering and, if all goes well, ends with a purchasing decision.

This path is called your conversion funnel, a name that represents how you’ll start with a large number of prospects and, over time, narrow them down to your actual customers – much like an actual funnel does.

Traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses have conversions funnels, too, but, as we just touched on, you can’t simply adopt their versions. While every business will have their own, unique funnel, online companies’ funnels require specific features in order to convert prospects. 

The 4 Stages of Every Ecommerce Conversion Funnel

Fortunately, there are only four you need to learn to create your own conversion funnel. Of course, after that, there are countless ways you can customize it to fit your unique company’s equally unique needs. 

For now, here are the four stages you need to include.

1. Awareness


Long before a prospect will ever arrive on your website, they’ll recognize – or become aware – that they have a problem. 

For example, if you sell a weight-loss program, it might be that they one day become aware they need to lose some pounds. 

There’s generally not a whole lot you can do to spark the awareness stage (e.g. you can’t find people who need to lose weight and point it out to them), but you can work to ensure that your website is what shows up when people enter this stage on their own.

The key is to offer plenty of educational content that prospects can consume for free. This content can be in the form of:

  • Blog Posts
  • Case Studies
  • Whitepaper
  • Videos 
  • Webinars
  • Guides

Just be sure your content offers actual value. If you were selling a weight loss course, you could offer free videos that would help prospects get started by learning workouts. 

Many marketers make the mistake of taking shortcuts at this early point. They try hastily putting together content that either isn’t original or doesn’t actually benefit the prospect. As a result, prospects never get past the first page in their conversion funnel. 

The better your free content is, the easier it will be to convince prospects that the products you charge for will be worth it.

Finally, to draw prospects into the funnel at this point, you’ll need to invest in some form of marketing. In ecommerce, this generally means search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, but don’t forget about the power of PPC. Between Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and a number of other options, there is no shortage of options for quickly bringing prospects into your funnel.

2. Interest

Again, ideally, you’ll do such a good job making the best possible first impression with the initial stage that prospects will actually be excited to give you their money.

Still, chances are that they’re also considering what other ecommerce companies have to offer.

That’s where the second phase of your conversion funnel comes in: you need to build their interest in what your ecommerce company brings to the table.

This doesn’t mean it’s time for sales pages, though. Your prospects probably still need a bit more convincing. Unless you’re in an extremely niche market, there’s most likely a number of competitors out there who have also put a lot of time and energy into creating powerful conversion funnels.

Therefore, in this phase, you’re still educating your prospects. If you used lead magnets during the last stage, you can now leverage segmentation, sending even more specific types of content to each demographic you’ve discovered. 

Otherwise, this is now the point in your conversion funnel when you need to develop enough interest from your prospects that they’re willing to provide you with their email addresses.

If you already have it, start segmenting your list based on their responses to your emails, whether they open them, open them and click through, or open them, click through, and follow another CTA (call to action).

The better you’re able to learn about your prospects during this stage of your conversion funnel, the better you’ll be able to provide them with the kind of content they need to move on to the next stage.

Of course, some of this content can relate to your actual product or service. You can begin introducing them to some of the value it has to offer, giving them something to look forward to by continuing through your funnel. 

3. Desire 

At this stage in your conversion funnel, you may now feel free to talk about your product all you want. If you executed the last two stages correctly, your audience will be very receptive to learning more about how you can help them solve the problem they’re facing.

With that being said, don’t make the mistake of using this stage to talk about your product’s features. While they might be worth touching on, prospects care far more about your product’s benefits. Features are little more than descriptors. Benefits explain how those descriptors will add value to your prospects’ lives. They will prove much more interesting to your prospects.

Another similar, equally-important concept to grasp during this stage is to sell customers on “the dream.” By this, we mean that you want to sell people on what their lives could be like after they purchase and use your product.

So, again, if you’re selling exercise equipment, you want to get your prospects excited about what life will be like when their old clothes fit, they have boundless energy, and they love how they look in the mirror.

Steve Jobs was notoriously good at “selling dreams.” One of the important distinctions he realized about marketing was that: “Your audiences don’t care about your product, company, or idea. They care about themselves, their hopes, and their dreams. Unleash your customer’s inner genius and they’ll fall in love with you.”

Don’t make your product the star of the show. Instead, connect with the desire inside of your prospects by painting a vivid portrait of what their lives could soon be like.

4. Action

conversion action

Finally, this is the step your ecommerce conversion funnel comes down to. 

Succeed at getting your prospects to take action and your entire funnel was a success. 

Fail at getting them to take action and your funnel was a failure.

The good news is that you’ve already been successful at getting them to take numerous actions. If they’ve made it this far into your funnel, it’s literally because prospects acted the way you wanted.

Furthermore, they wouldn’t have made it this far if they weren’t at least a little interested in taking action to purchase your product.

One tactic that will help get prospects to act the way you want is social proof. This psychological concept summarizes how people are naturally predisposed to act in accordance with the way others do. For example, if you drive by a restaurant with a long line going out the door and down the block, you’ll be more likely to visit that restaurant. That’s because you just saw proof that it’s obviously worth your time and money.

There are many ways to leverage social proof throughout your ecommerce conversion funnel. We’ve already mentioned one of the best options: case studies. They’re great for showing people exactly what your specific product can do for them. While you can use them during the initial stage as a form of valuable content, case studies that show off your actual product should definitely make an appearance during the third phase.

At this point, another great one to utilize is simple testimonials. They’re short and sweet – now’s not the time to give them several more pages to read – but they’re also effective. They, too, show prospects how happy other customers have been about taking the desired action. 

What Is a Good Ecommerce Funnel Conversion Rate?

ecommerce funnel

One of the most common questions about ecommerce funnels is, “What’s a good conversion rate?”

It’s an understandable question but also a very difficult one to answer. After all, someone who sells smartphone cases should probably see a much different conversion rate than someone who sells a more expensive, niche item like sports-related workout equipment.

Still, a decent breakdown to aim for from Smart Insights looks like this:

conversion funnel rates
Conversion funnel rates
  • 43.8% of visitors should look at your product pages
  • 14.5% should add at least one item to a cart
  • 3.3% should convert 

So, if you are able to attract 100 people to your website, almost 44 of them should navigate to your product pages. Nearly 15 of them should put items in their cart, and 3 of them should actually make a purchase.

Add Abandoned Cart Emails to Your eCommerce Funnel for Higher Conversions

If that seems like a lot of people creating carts but not actually purchasing, you’re not the first one to find the discrepancy disturbing. 

In 2017, the average cart abandonment rate was 78.65%. That number coincides with the breakdown we cited above, too.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can lower your cart abandonment rate. For example, you can improve your segmentation efforts, so that your marketing efforts are laser-focused on specific customer types who are most likely to convert.

Showing customer reviews may help, too, as prospects will be better convinced that their money will be well spent on a purchase if they can see that others have been happy with theirs.

One of the absolute best ways to keep costly abandonment rates from hurting your conversions is with cart-abandonment emails. 

In short, you want to collect email addresses from everyone who visits your ecommerce website. You can make this a mandatory entry before they begin a site or promise them a lead magnet (e.g. a whitepaper, case study, or some other valuable piece of content) in exchange for it.

Whatever the case, once you have their email addresses, you can contact any prospects who added products to their carts but never converted. Even if you’re only able to convert 1 out of 100 people you email, that’s still an extra purchase – which could be for multiple products – that you would have otherwise never have seen.

Remember: there’s no downside to a cart-abandonment email. Without it, the person most likely would not have come back and purchased from you. By automating the email, you take on no extra costs. Worst-case-scenario, someone who was never going to purchase still doesn’t purchase. Best-case-scenario, you could see a major boost to your conversion funnel’s overall success with just one automated email.

Optimize One of the Most Important Pieces of Your Ecommerce Conversion Funnel

Master the four stages of your ecommerce conversion funnel as covered above, and you’ll have a powerful, automated tool for growing your company’s revenues. An optimized conversion funnel is one that will regularly create customers without requiring constant supervision on your end, which means you can focus on other priorities, like launching more businesses.

Just be sure you don’t take a single piece of this funnel for granted, especially your cart. Though it might seem like a fairly simple component, anything but a high-quality cart can ruin all your hard work.

At P1Cart, we set out to create the fastest mobile-first ecommerce shopping cart for companies just like yours. If you’d like to see everything our solution has to offer, contact us today.

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