Build an Ecommerce Sales Funnel to Drive Sales

Omnisend Blog
August 24, 2020

In an ideal world, every visitor to your ecommerce site would be immediately intrigued by what they see, happily sign up for your email and SMS list and promptly make a purchase while enthusiastically recommending you to all of their friends.

Alas, our world is far from ideal, and this rosy scenario is the exception rather than the norm. In reality, your prospective customers are more likely to encounter one or more ‘pain points’ in the process, something which makes them stop and reconsider what they are doing, leaving a potentially blissful encounter of retailer and consumer frustrated and unfulfilled.

But what are these pain points we speak of? And how the devil can we avoid them?

Simply put, pain points are problems, conscious or subconscious, that customers experience along their buying journey. They can range from anything to minor inconveniences with website loading times and checkout, to distracting popups, overly complex setups, or just a simple loss of interest.

Your job is to identify these pain points, which you can do by mapping out your customer journey with a conversion funnel.

What is a Conversion Funnel in Ecommerce?

A conversion funnel illustrates the stages that customers take on their journey—from their very first spark of awareness about the existence of your business, all the way to making a purchase with you and becoming a repeat customer.

Creating a conversion funnel helps you to identify all of those pesky pain points that customers may encounter along the way, as well as highlight the areas that most impact conversions. This way, you can optimize your funnel to ensure that the trip is as smooth and enjoyable as possible!

Let’s look at this funnel by Smart Insights, for example. On average, from visitors to ecommerce websites, only 43.8% go on to view a product page. The funnel gets narrower as customers work their way through their journey, leading to just 3.3% of visitors making a purchase.

Obviously, every business will have its own unique conversion funnel, depending on a variety of factors. However, there are four basic stages that all conversion funnels will have in common, during which your prospective customer will make key decisions based on their impressions of your brand:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Retention

Ecommerce average sales funnel conversion benchmarks

If you look closely at each of these four main stages of your conversion funnel, you should be able to identify your impact and pain points and begin the process of optimizing your customer journey—leading to better revenue.

So how can you improve your ecommerce conversion funnel? Let’s look at the four stages in more detail and discuss some strategies that you can use to smooth the paths between them.

1. Awareness

This is the very top of your funnel—a consumer is looking to address a problem or particular need, and becomes aware of your business as a potential solution.

You’ll want to get as many people into this first stage as possible! It can occur in many ways—word of mouth, a search engine hit, social media, or just a lucky strike. But no matter how your customers arrive, they are going to need information; and lots of it.

To turn awareness into interest and consideration, you’ll need to target your visitors with relevant information about the services and products you offer, special discounts, your brand story, and relevant content.

Content, in particular, is a great way to get organic traffic to your site without a big advertising budget. Think about it—your consumers are looking to address a problem or particular need, and you offer solutions both in your products/services and your expertise.

Share your knowledge and build a brand reputation by creating quality educational content related to your field, and direct traffic to your ecommerce site in the process.

Detailed and popular content ranks high on search engines, ensuring that you become the go-to page for search queries. And it doesn’t have to be only blogs either—consider YouTube videos, podcasts, or Quora question forums.

As more and more people become aware of your brand through your content and expertise, you’ll attract interested, targeted customers to your site. Now we are ready to move onto the next stage.

2. Consideration

With well-targeted, potential customers browsing your site, you have successfully reached the consideration stage.

People are considering your products, and perhaps they have even signed up to receive email or SMS marketing. Now is the time to build trust and give visitors the confidence needed to move on to the next stage and make a purchase decision.

This is not the time for aggressive product promotion—it’s more effective to allow your products to speak for themselves through social proof.

As human beings, we take our cues from the action of others. Social proof offers the reassurance to potential customers that other people have purchased and are enjoying your product—it’s a perfectly normal thing to do!

Social proof is generated through the ratings, reviews, testimonials, and social media posts from your customers, and is an incredibly powerful tool for building trust and confidence.

Use selected quotes and informative reviews to give context to your products, and customer photos from social media to showcase them in action. There are many ways to collect social proof, but one tried-and-tested method is by sending out a captivating product review email to your most loyal subscribers and customers.

The consideration stage is your chance to consolidate your relationship with potential customers. Here, you can get them to sign up for your email marketing promotions, follow your social media pages, or engage them with educational content like whitepapers.

Customers get the opportunity to acquaint themselves with your brand and find out exactly what you have to offer—without a hard sell. Other useful information to offer includes:

  • Shipping and returns information
  • Clickable and creative calls-to-action
  • Imaginative and engaging product descriptions
  • A special offer for an email address or first purchase

By now, customers are well into your conversions funnel and must be seriously tempted to make a purchase. To give them that extra nudge that might be needed, we head into the decision-making stage.

3. Decision

Different kinds of visitors offer different challenges at this stage—subscribers and return buyers are less likely to lead to the dreaded abandoned cart than first-time visitors.

That’s why you should target first-time visitors differently. You can provide that extra incentive to buy by offering a special discount or free shipping, for example. Something to take away that lingering doubt they might have about committing to that vital first purchase.

You can do this with the clever use of on-site messages like pop-ups or abandoned cart emails, if it comes to that.

Pop-ups should be non-intrusive and carefully timed—especially with exit intent. For example, if a visitor is about to exit your page without making a purchase, you could trigger a pop-up to offer a further discount to complete the deal.

Abandoned cart emails are also effective because they make it easy for a customer to return to your site. With a single click, customers are taken back to the item that tempted them (as well as similar products), with an added incentive such as a discount offered on a time-basis to create urgency. With abandoned cart rates still sky-high at around 70%, these strategies to reduce yours are essential for increasing revenue.

Well done, you’re almost there! You’ve attracted awareness, gained interest, and now completed a sale. Now we move on to the final and no less important stage of the funnel which is bringing them back after they’ve purchased.

4. Retention

Remember what I mentioned earlier about return buyers being less likely to abandon their carts? It’s true. In fact, repeat customers are 9 times more likely to convert than a first-time shopper, making them incredibly valuable assets!

So how do you turn a one-off purchase into a loyal customer? A sincere, well-thought-out thank you email is a great place to introduce your loyalty program, offer rewards and incentives to come back for more, and complete useful forms like reviews, surveys, and referrals.

Your thank you email not only shows gratitude and fulfills your customer’s expectations, but it can build trust and solidify your relationship, too. It is a way to welcome a valued new member into your community, creating the sense of exclusivity and belonging needed to ensure that a customer feels appreciated and comfortable to remain engaged with your business.

You can keep this goodwill going with engaging content delivered to their inbox at regular, but not intrusive, intervals, as well as personal touches like birthday deals and holiday specials.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully mapped out your customer journey, identifying the key stages along the way and visualizing them in a conversion funnel.

As we mentioned previously, every customer journey is different—some conversions funnels are very short and lead to a rapid purchase while others can take weeks or months of careful nurturing along the way.

What’s important is to recognize the four key stages that all customers go through as they move through your funnel, regardless of what you are selling, and learn how to optimize them for the smoothest possible transitions. Higher conversions and more repeat customers are your rewards for a more efficient funnel!

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