How to Build an E-commerce Sales Funnel: A Complete Guide
The ecommerce market has become a force of nature. But the competition is pretty heavy. (If only we’d thought of selling books online before Amazon.)
If you’re not actively working to capture your potential customers, your competitors are. This is where creating an optimized ecommerce sales funnel comes in, and many brands wonder what the secret is to a successful one.
Truth is, there’s no magic ingredient. It all lies in knowing your customers well and using that knowledge to your business advantage.
This in-depth how-to guide will break down the ins and outs of building an ecommerce sales funnel that will take your sales to the next level and keep the customers flowing.
What is an ecommerce sales funnel?
How do you get your customers from point A — their first contact with your business to B — a successful sale?
This is the golden question that your ecommerce sales funnel is made to answer.
An ecommerce sales funnel includes the various marketing actions taken to help you convert a potential customer into a loyal one.
This could include employing various content strategies such as creating articles, landing pages, automated emails, interactive videos, and more.
Investing your resources in building a strong funnel can benefit your business in a few ways:
- It creates an organized sales process to generate leads continuously.
- You build better, more long-standing relationships with your audience, transform prospects into customers, and encourage repeat purchases.
- It improves retention and stabilizes your revenue streams.
Sales funnel strategies to optimize conversions
So, you’re ready to slay your sales goals and get the big bucks rolling in. But how do you do that? What strategies can you use to optimize conversions throughout your sales funnel?
When brainstorming your plan of action, remember the four stages of the sales funnel.
- Awareness: Do your potential customers know you exist? It’s a painful question we all have to ask ourselves. Here, you put your business on the map by attracting new audiences to your business using different strategies. Once you’ve identified your consumer segment, you can focus on creating and distributing informative content to them that highlights a potential problem and creates brand awareness.
- Interest: Here, potential customers are genuinely interested in your product. It’s time to add fuel to the fire and build their curiosity. You can gauge how far along they are in the early stages of the funnel by checking engagement rates with your ads.
- Desire: The potential customer has now become your viable prospect. They are interested in your product and are growing more comfortable with the idea of a purchase but aren’t completely at the finish line. It’s time to give them a little nudge. In this stage, you focus on making your product seem irresistible to the consumer and inculcate a sense of urgency to make a purchase.
- Action: It’s time to bring out your persuasive skills and close the sale. In the Action stage, you finally drive the customer to purchase and close the deal. After doing so, you’ll also build strategies to provide customers incentives to stay with your product or service, transforming the one-time shopper into a loyal customer. By giving them a reason to stay with your product, you keep your brand top-of-mind and incite a continuous desire in them to purchase from you. This will make them come back for more in the long run.
Now that you’re aware of the different stages to consider, here’s a sequential flow of strategies you can consider and employ to achieve those sales numbers you want.
1. Use Facebook ads
With 1.84 billion daily active users worldwide, Facebook offers businesses direct access to consumers.
And leveraging paid Facebook ads gives you a lot of control; you can target the ads directly to a particular segment of users. Though paid Facebook advertising can cost you more than an organic social media campaign, the results are worth it in the name of creating brand awareness.
At the Awareness stage, you can design your Facebook ads to be more educational and provide information on how your brand offering will address the audience’s needs and problems.
See how Casper, a mattress company, does this with their sponsored ads.
By linking to an informative piece of content, Casper promotes itself without appearing outwardly salesy.
Don’t make explicit offers to your audiences to buy your products at this stage. Instead of making a conversion goal, focus on attracting more potential customers to like your page, explore your offering, and become familiar with your brand.
At this stage, the best Facebook ad types to use include video and image ads, collection ads, carousel ads, and Instant Experience ads.
Pairing informative content with storytelling techniques will make your brand linger in your consumers’ minds and easier to identify as they progress down the funnel.
So, how can you make the most of your Facebook ads? Here are a few tips to help you:
- Again, consider using a variety of ad types. These examples show image and video ads, but using a combination of the types available will make your ads more interactive to potential customers. Carousel ads are a great way to showcase several products together in one ad.
- Use high-quality images and visuals. Make sure every representation, especially the visual ones of your brand, is on point. For example, you want to ensure brand consistency across multiple platforms that you’re promoting your products on. Inclusion of a brand logo on Facebook should match up with the logo on Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- Incorporate engagement with your customers as part of your ad. This drives a better connection with them from the outset and can pull in potential customers, as it showcases more human sides of your business. For example, Bellabeat engages with its audience below by directly phrasing a question to them and enticing them into clicking for more information to satisfy their curiosity.
For more information on how to run Facebook ads, check out AppSumo’s nifty e-book here!
2. Create engaging content
Engaging content helps show your customers what your brand is all about and what it represents. Remember that your audience knowing the name of your brand isn’t enough. They should also understand the qualities that make your brand stand out.
This is where content creation comes in.
To create content that sets your brand apart from your competitors, share the unique details about your brand. Make your prospects want to choose you over your competitors.
One great way to do this is by positioning yourself as a subject matter expert.
Have a look at how the razor brand Dorco does it:
Instead of trying to sell their razors right away and coming across as annoyingly promotional, they emphasize educating their customers and making them aware of their pain points.
As you focus on your content creation strategy, go through this checklist to create a winning content strategy:
- If you decide to create a blog and write articles, be sure to optimize your content for SEO. Learn about the methods you can use to rank higher on Google and incorporate quality, long-form content into your strategy (it gets you extra brownie points with Google’s algorithm!).
- Leverage Instagram to boost your following and social media presence among a more visual crowd. Instagram is the king of social media platforms when it comes to their visual content. Nailing your brand aesthetics on Instagram can do a lot for your business. As with Facebook ads, Instagram ads allow you to promote posts you’ve published to a specific audience. Ipsy, a beauty brand, has gained over 3 million followers on the platform by using smart and interactive ads. In the below example, they’ve tagged partners and used a hashtag in a social media contest to attract new audiences.
- Participate in a wider community of visual medium seekers through YouTube. If you have a knack for video creation and can whip up an exciting script that’s conversational and draws the audience in, YouTube is a great platform to choose. At this stage, your videos should be more educational in content. Consider explainer videos of your offering and short video ads that identify problems and show how you can solve them effectively. Sun Bum, a sunscreen, hair care and lip balm company, does this wonderfully by regularly posting informative content on topics ranging from fabric dyeing tutorials to educational ads.
- Create a targeted strategy. You don’t want to be a jack of all trades and master of none here. It’s best to start with 2-3 content channels and focus on building them up strongly. By focusing your brand awareness strategies on a few platforms, your concentrated marketing efforts are more likely to wield the success you’re hoping for!
3. Capture email addresses
As you move from awareness into the interest stage, there are several ecommerce strategies you can use to help you capture email addresses along the way, a valuable customer insight for all ecommerce businesses.
Why is this important? Not only do you get more prospects in the bag compared to other passive forms of marketing, you also get their information. And in today’s digital age, having that information handy will make your customers more accessible to you, providing you more lead generation opportunities.
You can get a prospect’s email address many ways; one is creating an effective lead magnet. Lead magnets are free items or services given to an audience in exchange for their contact information. Lead magnets usually provide valuable resources that may not otherwise be available and include:
- Trial subscriptions
- A free e-book, case study, or in-depth guide
- A quiz with the results sent directly to the provided email ID
Think along the educational angle and use tools like quizzes to generate interest and incentivize a prospect to provide their information before the results are displayed.
Here is how Zenni Optical, an eyewear brand, used its “You’ve Been Framed” quiz to increase brand awareness and bring more traffic to its site.
Source: Uberflip Case Study
The quiz asks questions to match consumers with eyewear that suits both their personal style and general lifestyle. The quiz is instantly shareable because it’s just plain funny and lighthearted.
The best part? The quiz generated 29,410 lead conversions and an ROI of 9,655% in six months.
You can implement social proof at any stage of the ecommerce sales funnel. That said, it works best when you want to convince site visitors about your product’s quality and credibility.
Displaying on-site social proof on your website is essential, as it’s a digital storefront you operate wholly on your own. Unlike Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, your website is entirely yours to control and display to customers what your brand is all about.
A popular way to display social proof is customer testimonials. You can show reviews and ratings on product pages and your homepage.
If you’re on a platform that’s more visually oriented, like Instagram or Facebook, you can even share the positive review as your Story or on your Facebook Page.
Here’s an example of K9 Sports Sack, a company that uses a testimonial to establish social proof in a sponsored Facebook post.
Source: K9 Sports Sack
It’s fine if you have a few negative reviews as well. It humanizes your brand and, if done well, can showcase your awesome customer support skills.
5. Optimize product pages
Product pages can help you win the hearts of your prospects. You just have to convince your visitors that your products are the best solution.
Your goal is to nudge them to add your products to their cart.
Naturally, your product page copy should align with customers’ common queries and eliminate any of their lingering concerns.
Good keyword research will help you to understand what your buyer persona is searching for. You can use the insights across your copy and offer your products as a solution to those concerns.
Look at how Firebox aces their product marketing by using witty language on their product pages and insightful product descriptions:
Want a better look at their copy? Here’s a close-up of their product description:
The folks at Firebox show a common problem and offer a hilarious solution. It works because customers can relate. In no time, they will add these funny (and slightly terrifying) products to their cart.
Engaging product descriptions are crucial when your leads are still on the fence about making a purchase. Product descriptions should be a one-stop-shop for all the possible questions a prospective customer may have. Any final doubts they have about your offering should be clarified so you can close that sale without any lasting confusion on their end.
You can use testimonials, live demos, tutorials, and product comparisons to make sure they get the most out of the product.
Here’s how Squarespace incorporates testimonials within their product description to increase trust and compel prospects to convert.
6. Build great exit pop-ups
Remember, no two visitors are alike. And since different customers might make their purchase at various stages of the funnel, it’s crucial to distinguish between first-time visitors, subscribers, and returning visitors.
Once you identify your customers by these parameters, it’s time to create and promote unique marketing campaigns by personalizing your website for better targeting.
Look at this exit-intent campaign example by J.Crew. In the below example, J. Crew is targeting first-time visitors to the site who aren’t part of the loyalty program they offer. Here, they’re killing two birds with one stone. Not only is the exit pop-up incentivizing potential customers to purchase, it’s also nudging them into joining the brand’s loyalty program! This is a strategic conversion move on J. Crew’s part.
Source: J. Crew
A high-converting exit-intent campaign should have a clear message, input fields, and a CTA. Offering a discount also makes a huge difference. (Who doesn’t love/expect a coupon these days?)
These campaigns can help you reduce cart abandonment rates and gather leads to further nurture with email marketing.
You have to focus on engaging your prospects with on-site messages and gently give them a nudge if they leave your site. Also, make sure to send instant messages or create smart pop-ups before your prospect exits the webpage.
7. Send behavior-based emails
Now you’ve done it. You’ve invested in creating a good site, appealing to your customers on social media and more. You’ve finally got their interest. It’s time to act on it.
Leverage the information you already have about your subscribers to personalize their shopping experience and increase conversion rates. You can use valuable data to create highly targeted email campaigns and make your prospects take the last step.
Take this abandoned cart email, for instance:
A good abandoned cart email should also contain a short subject line, introductory text, items left in the cart, offer or discount, CTA, reviews or social proof, and a closing text. For more inspiration on how to do this, check out Sumo’s blog post on crafting amazing abandoned cart emails!
8. Upselling and cross-selling
Have you ever been shopping for just one product online, and then 30 minutes later, you’re at the checkout page and it’s (figuratively) filled to the brim?
It’s possible upselling and cross-selling strategies got you there.
Upselling is convincing a buyer to upgrade their product or buy a different version of it than the one they intended to purchase. Cross-selling is recommending complementary or related products alongside the one they’re buying.
Cross-selling strategies are used by most ecommerce platforms and Amazon is one great example of it. In the below example, Amazon recommends several other products to be bought along with the purchase of the Kindle Paperwhite.
In the Action stage, marketing would be more promotional and focused on building customer temptation. A great tactic for this is to add urgency to the offer, as pictured in this example:
9. Include a loyalty program invite
A loyalty program is a great way to incentivize your customers to transform a one-time purchase into a long-term relationship. You can encourage multiple purchases from customers by starting with the previously mentioned strategies; once you’ve confirmed regular purchase activity, position the loyalty program as an attractive offer.
This is an especially useful tactic with relatively new but active customers who have made repeat purchases. Consider exclusive promo codes or discount offers to loyalty program members. For a customer making regular purchases, they will see the savings as a valuable incentive to join.
When you promote your loyalty program, it will give your customers, both existing and new, a good reason to return to your site.
A great time to promote your loyalty program is right after a transaction. Customers from around the globe surveyed in 2020 said they are more willing to join the loyalty programs of brands they feel loyal to.
In fact, nearly 68% said they would join the loyalty program of a brand they make frequent purchases from. This form of brand loyalty is greatly advantageous for ecommerce businesses.
Your turn to build an ecommerce sales funnel
Keep in mind: a robust ecommerce sales funnel is great to help you attract long-term customers and grow your returns. Make sure you think about each of your touchpoints with your customers when you’re doing that.
As a recap, here are the tips for creating an ecommerce sales funnel for your business:
- Use Facebook ads to target your ideal demographic and grow brand awareness.
- Create engaging content to familiarize your prospects with your brand values and product/service offerings.
- Capture email addresses to gain customer insights and create opportunities for future engagement.
- Leverage social proof and showcase your brand authenticity and its value to customers.
- Optimize product pages to enhance the customer experience on your site.
- Build on-site messages to entice customers into staying for a sale.
- Send behavior-based emails to connect directly with your prospects.
- Use upselling and cross-selling to encourage related purchases.
- Include a loyalty program invite to transform one-time purchases into a long-term relationship opportunity.