How to Optimize the Conversion Funnel for Online Sales

optimize the conversion funnel

Any business transaction depends on influencing customer decisions — which actually requires moving them through what’s called the conversion funnel (also called the sales funnel). This is one of the central concepts at the heart of any effective marketing campaign.

What Is the Conversion Funnel?

Think of the funnel as a way for you to visualize the flow of consumer conversions. It’s how businesses turn potential customers into paying ones — and it all depends on how you engage with them. By identifying each step of the process of conversion, you’ll give yourself the ability to take advantage of its full potential.

Whether you provide a service or sell a product, whether you manage an eCommerce company or a software development agency, optimizing the funnel is critical to your bottom line. According to HubSpot, 68 percent of businesses haven’t identified their funnel. If you haven’t, now is the time to start.

Breaking It Down

The conversion funnel can also be broken down into an acronym: AIDA. This is an older version of the funnel, but it’s a good starting point to help you understand the process.

  • “A” stands for awareness (or attention). This refers to the top of your funnel, where you solicit a consumer’s attention or make them aware of your business. This can happen through advertising, word of mouth, SEO, and other tactics.
  • “I” stands for interest. Once a consumer knows about your business, it’s time to capture their interest. At this stage, your job is to appeal to their emotional needs.
  • “D” stands for desire. There’s a subtle but important distinction between desire and interest. At the interest stage, the consumer wants to know more about what you can offer; at the desire stage, the consumer specifically wants what you can offer.
  • “A” stands for action. This is the final stage of a transaction: the consumer makes a choice. If you’ve appealed to their needs and provided a compelling reason for following through, a consumer will convert into a customer or client. The final conversion rests on optimizing every other step of the process.

Expanding the Funnel

The AIDA acronym is a great start, but in today’s world, it’s not enough. A fairly recent addition to the acronym is an S at the end, which stands for satisfaction. Unfortunately, a customer might be unsatisfied with your product or service. This is still your responsibility, because your bottom line depends on the quality of what you offer.

One way to measure satisfaction is to provide the opportunity for your customer to give you feedback. Ask their opinions through simple surveys, or provide an accessible customer service department equipped to politely and gracefully handle even the most irate clients. When you know what’s working and what’s not, you’ll be able to take a look at the earlier stages of the funnel and tweak your strategy as necessary.

Other recent renditions of the sales funnel add an L for loyalty, such as in the McKinsey model. Loyalty depends enormously on satisfaction — and it’s also a mechanism for strengthening the funnel overall. Loyal customers become brand advocates, which generates trust in your business and boosts your bottom line.

Tailor Your Web Content for the Funnel

Each stage of the funnel requires different content to appeal to consumers — because each stage corresponds to a different frame of mind. At each step, buyers need different types of information to influence their behaviors.

At the top of the funnel, users are most focused on what’s called snackable content. Think about being at the movie theater with a bucket of popcorn. You’re eating the popcorn and enjoying it, but it’s not your main focus — the movie is. That’s what consumers want from snackable content; they want to passively consume it in the shape of short-form text, videos, and images.

Once they become familiar with the concept, they’ll begin showing interest and looking for more information. At this point, you’ll appeal to them by providing more long-form content to appeal to their desires. Ultimately, you’ll lead them to a CTA, which will turn indecision into action.

The Takeaway

The conversion funnel can be tricky to master, but understanding where you fall is the first step to optimization. The wonderful thing about the internet as a medium is that you can change your tone and method of delivery at different levels of the process, allowing you to broaden your audience and deepen your message at the same time.

Funnels Photo via Shutterstock

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Larry Alton Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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