The ultimate goal of any e-commerce marketing push is to generate leads and convert them into paying customers. Traditional digital marketing wisdom suggests that doing this involves driving traffic to a website that presents your products and their information to the user, and also directs them to additional information about your business.
However, there are other far better ways of engaging your customers… ways with far higher conversion rates in comparison to a regular site.
Today, we look at the sales funnel, which provides a more targeted and focused approach that can help your customers make the choices they need, and ultimately improve your conversion rates.
What is a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a multi-stage process that walks your leads through every step of the customer journey. It may be composed of various components, ranging from a purpose-built website to a free e-book. The start of the sales funnel is an awareness-grabbing campaign of broad reach, that seeks to generate leads, and from there it funnels prospects through the customer journey until they finally make a purchase.
Through each stage, the sales funnel slowly narrows down its candidates, shedding unconverted users and giving the appearance of a funnel that starts wide, and ends small and narrow. Ideally, of course, you’d want to convert all leads into paying customers, but that’s not always possible.
The First Stage: Awareness
The first and topmost stage in the sales funnel is the awareness stage. This is the broadest phase of your sales funnel marketing, and aims to make as many people as possible aware of your business. This can be done through online advertisements, ebooks, instructional videos, email marketing, viral campaigns, and the like.
After awareness, a sales funnel must develop interest in your business. No longer should the sales funnel be trying to catch as many as possible – here, a more targeted and personalized approach is required. The sales funnel may nurture leads in the interest stage by introducing their positioning, through case studies, newsletters, webinars, and other tools that specifically involve your business’s place in the industry.
Leads & Prospects
Once the sales funnel has cultivated interest, the sale is now in people’s heads! Visitors to make it to the evaluation phase are now definitely considered prospective customers, to be provided with a chance to evaluate the business. At this stage, offers of free trials of products and services are optimal.
Through each phase, customers are going to lose interest in one way or another, and a smaller and smaller population of leads will be walking through successive phases, creating the sales funnel’s shape. But at the end of the funnel is the ultimate goal – the sale or action. Here, the sales funnel offers users a great deal or the opportunity to buy what you’ve been aiming to sell to them all this time.
The journey doesn’t end with a paying customer though – good service throughout the buying process can lead to referrals that may feed back into the funnel and produce even more business.
So how does sales funnel compare with a traditional website?
A traditional website is often composed of somewhere between 5 and 20 different pages, which may include a home landing page, a catalog where users can browse your products, a blog, an “About Us” page, FAQs, and contact information. When your marketing strategy drives users to a traditional website, they’ll have so many choices to pick from and no clearly-defined way to get what they need. Aside from users not knowing where to go, this overload of choice harkens back to the marketing experiment known as the Jam Experiment, in which people who were offered 24 choices of jam were less likely to buy anything than people who were offered only 6 choices.
A sales funnel provides a clear direction for your user to go where you have products that might interest them, removing distractions that could draw their attention away from the final product. Indeed, users who make it through each phase of the funnel are already primed with interest for buying your services, so by the time they make it to the sale phase, they’re ready to go!
A/B Testing and Conversion Rate Optimization
A sales funnel is still a website most of the time, it’s the unique implementation of customer journey funneling principles and special tools that help make a sales funnel more effective than a traditional website.
Another important tool you can implement to give yourself a leg-up over the traditional website is A/B split testing, in which you serve two variants of a webpage to visitors. By comparing the conversion performance of version A and version B, you can choose which one to display. A/B testing is useful because it makes use of your traffic to do more, and can test anything from headlines and subheadings to your CTA buttons and content body.
A/B testing goes hand in hand with conversion rate optimization, or CRO, which aims to increase the number of customers who visit your website and end up being paying customers. CRO can involve direct A/B split testing on existing traffic, or it can also involve performing extensive research to ensure that your website is already interesting and relevant to users who form the bulk of your traffic.
A traditional website still has its uses, of course. It can be a platform for your content marketing, helpful articles, and FAQs that your users will definitely still want to access at some point. These are things that a sales funnel won’t be able to provide, because the purpose of the funnel is to focus leads down to the sale.
However, when it comes to conversion rates, a combination of a sales funnel and various CRO and testing techniques are the way forward to improving how your business performs!