Conversion funnels

The ultimate guide for beginners

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Conversion Funnel: The ultimate guide for beginners [2020]

Does your business sell products or services online? Do you use your website to generate leads or sign people up to your newsletter?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” you’ll have a conversion funnel.

Discovering how to optimize your conversion funnels and make them work for you is essential, whether you want to: 

  • Grow your mailing list
  • Generate more leads
  • Sell more products

The main thing you need to understand about conversion funnels is that optimizing them isn’t a “one time” deal. Like search engine optimization (SEO), other marketing activities, and everything else you do in business and life, you should always be searching for ways to improve.

Are you ready to optimize your conversion funnels?

What is a conversion funnel?

In short, it’s a process a customer begins when they first visit your website or interact with your brand. The process ends when the customer exits the funnel, preferably by buying something or sending you their details.

However, your funnel is fraught with opportunities for customers to disengage with your brand and go somewhere else between those two (or more) steps.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup or a world-leading brand; you’ll need to do a lot of work to maximize your conversion funnel. Conversion funnel, or conversion rate optimization is all about moving customers through your pages towards the desired action you want them to take.

It’s important to note here that conversion funnels aren’t the same as user journeys:

  • Conversion funnels are sets of specific pages that you want users to visit on the way to a conversion.
  • User journeys are how your visitors travel through your website. They may not always follow your funnel, but optimization increases the chances of them doing so.

The good news is that there are many ways you can optimize your conversion funnel at each stage. Most of the time, conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes down to the user experience:

  • Does the content on your website give the user what they want and provide value?
  • Do your web pages give users options for what to do next?
  • Does your message make it obvious what you would prefer users to do next?

What does a conversion funnel look like?

A lot of pages look at conversion funnels as the same  as marketing funnels. It’s not wrong – but it’s not totally right either. 

Instead, we’ll say the following: marketing funnels are abstract ways of thinking about conversions, and conversion funnels are very concrete ways of tracking conversions. Your marketing funnel might involve several different conversion funnels. We’ll return to this later. 

For now, let’s think about actual conversion funnels. The screenshot below shows you how you should view your funnels in practical terms, using an example from Mouseflow.

Conversion funnel using Mouseflow

How to set up a conversion funnel

Setting up conversion funnels is simple. Before setting up funnels in Google Analytics, Mouseflow, or another tool, you need to think about:

  • Your landing page where users will enter the funnel
  • What a conversion looks like
  • What steps come in between

You don’t always have to have a handful of steps in your funnel. For example, your landing page can also be the place where users convert if you have a form on the page. You might even have a landing page where users can convert immediately, or have other pages as part of a funnel if people want to learn more about your business.

Whichever analytics tool you use, the process you follow for setting up funnels will be similar:

  1. Find the location within your platform that deals with funnels.
  2. Select “Add New Funnel.”
  3. Give your funnel a name.
  4. Add the landing page that represents the start of your funnel.
  5. Add other pages that represent different steps in your funnel.
  6. Finish off with the page that will tell your platform a conversion has occurred. This might be a “Thank you for subscribing” page, for example.
  7. Confirm the setup of your conversion funnel.

Once you’ve done this, your analytics platform should be tracking how users move through your conversion funnels. Conduct a manual test moving through your funnel yourself to make sure this is happening!

Learn how to set up funnels in Mouseflow here.

Optimizing the five stages of your conversion funnel

So, now you have a way of measuring how your users convert. It’s time to think about optimizing the different steps. We’ll show you how to supercharge your growth by tweaking every step of the funnel.

Since every conversion funnel is different, we have to think abstractly. One way of doing this is through the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) model. 

AIDA represents the journey users take from first interacting with your brand or product to the time they buy something. First you gain their attention, then you create interest that awakes their desire to take action! 

Wherever you lose people on the journey, that’s your optimization opportunity!

We also added the additional reengagement point at the end, because once you have a customer, they’re familiar with you! You shouldn’t want (or need) them to travel through your funnel next time they want to buy – you want them to go straight to the conversion!

How to optimize your conversion funnel

First, take a look at the conversion funnels you created. For each step, think about if it’s purpose is to 1) Gain interest, 2) Awake desire, 3) Take action or 4) Reengage

Then, check the numbers. Which steps have the biggest drop-off? Those are the places to start optimizing.

Read on to find some actionable tips on how you can increase the conversion rate at each stage. 

Stage one: Attention

The first stage of your conversion funnel is gaining the attention of your desired customers.

What are you doing to draw attention and build awareness of your brand? You might invest in SEO, have a modest monthly spend on Google Ads and other pay-per-click (PPC) platforms, and probably maintain a social media presence.

Any means by which a customer can become aware of your brand is measurable at this stage.

What you need to know is:

  1. How many people are you attracting each day, week, and month?
  2. Where are you attracting those people from?
  3. How many of them continue to stage two?

Each of these considerations is important. As long as you have some people in your funnel, start with the third question, and work backward.

How to measure attention

How will you know how many people continue to stage two? You’ll be able to see this in your funnel visualization screen, like the Mouseflow example we showed you earlier.

You can also use the Google Analytics acquisition (Acquisition – All Traffic – Channels) or behavior reports (Behavior – Site Content) to discover your bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration.

Combine this with your funnel reports in Mouseflow for an even broader view of your performance. You can even watch videos of how users moved through your funnel!

The same reports will tell you where you are getting most of your attention from. Look closely at how behavior metrics differ by source. If people who find you via organic search spend longer on your site than social referrals, that’s a good sign you need to improve your social messaging.

If you have a low visitor count, consider a small investment in PPC campaigns to drive short-term traffic and give you some data to work with.

Stage two: Interest

You’ve earned a click, and the customers are flocking to your website. This is where your conversion funnel begins.

How will you pique their interest and engage them in your brand? At this stage, you’re looking to achieve two things:

  • Highlight you’re a trustworthy brand by providing exceptional content and value.
  • Gain permission to contact them in the future by capturing their data via an opt-in form or newsletter subscription.

If you’re selling products or services directly from your website, and customers land on commercial pages, you might be lucky enough to earn some immediate conversions. That’s still a conversion funnel – just a very short one. 

However, you need to make sure you give customers who don’t want to convert just yet a choice.

To make people trust and want to engage with your website, make sure that:

  • Headlines, images, and banners are all eye-catching.
  • The layout of your pages is consistent and straightforward to follow.
  • Your copy is compelling.
  • It’s easy to sign up for your mailing list.

Not to toot our own horn, but our blog for example has conversion calls above the fold for both 1) Signing up, 2) Subscribing to the newsletter or 3) Get more information.

Stage three: Desire

At this stage, sometimes called the consideration stage, it’s all about getting the customer over the finishing line.

You don’t need to be a sales genius to turn desire into action, nor do you need to pursue a hard-selling strategy.

In the desire stage, you need to be:

  • Highlighting to your customers the benefits of buying your product and service, and specifically, the benefits of buying them from you rather than from anywhere else.
  • Showing customers case studies and reviews of your products or services.
  • Assuring the customer you’re available to answer any other questions they may have.

Look beyond your products, too. Anything that makes it easier for your customers to want to buy from you will be a factor here.

  • Can you offer same or next day shipping? What about free shipping?
  • Does your business donate a percentage of profits to charity?
  • What awards have you won, and recognition have you received?

An example is Intercom.  Looking at their front page, they highlight benefits of their service – they remove doubt about signing up by saying it’s easy to use, free to try and easy to cancel.

And scrolling down, they show what features they deliver and social proof in the form of user testimonials! All are ways to make their visitors solidify their desire and move on to action.

Whenever your customer decides to buy, they want to be confident they’re making a smart decision. It’s up to you to make them understand the smart decision is to buy from you!

You should also remember that some customers may re-enter your funnel at this stage, so you should provide familiarity to ensure they re-engage quickly with your brand.

Stage four: Action

You’ve done it!

You got your customer’s attention, engaged them with your brand, and awoke their desire to buy. 

This stage is where you might start looking more in-depth at how your customers behave. 

Long-term, you can begin to investigate things like how to increase average transaction value. From a CRO perspective, the big win here is to find out the reasons customers don’t convert once they’re at this stage and take action to change that outcome.

There are some things you shouldn’t need a conversion funnel analysis report to tell you. That customers find one-click ordering a better experience than a six-stage checkout process isn’t exactly a light bulb moment!

At this point, you merely want it to be as easy as possible for customers to buy something. Encourage first-time customers to save their details and create an account to make it even easier next time.

One way to ensure you don’t lose customers from your funnel at this stage is to ensure you’re using cart abandonment emails, so long as you do so in a GDPR compliant manner. Sometimes, customers will get distracted and forget what they’re doing, and your email will prompt them to complete the transaction.

Two solutions if you don’t have the customer’s email address:

  • Have customers need to sign in or register as soon as they’ve added something to their basket.
  • Combine cart abandonment emails with on-site pop-ups asking customers if they’re sure they want to leave.

Stage five: Reengagement

The biggest mistake you can make is to think “job done” when a customer buys something.

With this attitude, you’ll find yourself stuck in a cycle of always trying to pull people through your conversion funnel. Your customer acquisition costs will be huge, too.

Instead of forgetting about your customer when they’ve bought something, consider how you can re-engage them.

  • What will it take to make them buy a second time?
  • Will they leave a review of your product or business?
  • How can you turn them into a brand evangelist?
  • Do you offer any other products or services they might be interested in?

Keep it simple when re-engaging with people.

  • Ask customers to join your mailing list if they haven’t already. 
  • Ask them to follow your social media accounts, but use your social media platforms as a place for community building first, promotional activity second. 
  • Include marketing materials when you ship any physical products. 
  • Develop a loyalty scheme to encourage people to come back.

An engaged customer base will give you a chance  to focus even more on CRO. You can test different strategies safe in the knowledge these customers are delivering consistent revenue.

Optimizing your conversion funnels with Mouseflow

With Mouseflow, you can learn far more about how customers interact with your website and optimize your conversion funnels to an even greater extent. 

With funnel analysis built into our platform, not only can you discover which pages cause friction for your users and make them leave your website, you’ll be able to see what they’re looking at on your pages before they exit.

Learn more about the features of Mouseflow here or try our platform free, no credit card required!

FAQs about conversion funnels

Q: What is a conversion funnel?

A: A conversion funnel is a journey your website visitors go through from the moment you grab their attention to the time they (hopefully!) become customers. Identifying the stages of your conversion funnel where customers are lost can help you optimize your funnel and grow your business.

Q: In multi-channel funnel reports, what channel would not be credited with a conversion?

A: This would depend on how your attribution is set up, but typically you wouldn’t be able to credit offline channels, such as billboards or television commercials.

Q: What report indicates where users start or exit the conversion funnel?

A: In Google Analytics, you would use the Goal Flow report to understand where users start or exit your conversion funnels. However, you could also use the Landing Pages and Exit Pages reports, as well as the Behavior Flow overview, to gain further understanding.

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