eCommerce Sales Funnels: Why You Need One To Survive Online

If a salesperson yelled at a person on the sidewalk with a megaphone:

“BUY THIS HANDMADE HAT OFF ME RIGHT NOW! ONLY $80!”

How would the passerby react? Likely laugh, shake their head and walk off wanting nothing to do with what you’ve got to offer. Why? Well firstly, they don’t know who the salesperson is, they’ve never seen this handmade hat before in their life, and lastly, the salesperson didn’t even think to check whether the passerby even liked handmade hats.

Now, what if we changed the scenario from being on a sidewalk, to being within the passerby’s Facebook news feed. How would the potential customer react to a sponsored hard-sale Facebook ad, demanding the user to spend $80 on the same handmade hat?

“CLICK NOW TO BUY THIS HANDMADE HAT OFF OUR WEBSITE RIGHT NOW! ONLY $80!”

You be the judge: they wouldn’t react. They just wouldn’t buy in.

Welcome to the World of Sales Funnels:

Having a well-implemented, multi-channel sales funnel in the scenario above would have been the key required to actually sell the handmade, $80 hat.

Too many eCommerce business - particularly those selling non-’need’ or lifestyle goods - think that by promoting a “buy now” online ad to a cold audience will result in orders being placed. The reality is that unless you get ridiculously lucky with an untouched niche, you’re going to need a sales funnel to make sales.

Sales Funnels 101

The key to any successful eCommerce store, according to Shopify, is the humble sales funnel. 

What is a sales funnel? Put simply, a sales funnel is the buying process that eCommerce stores lead customers down when purchasing products online. Customers ‘flow’ down the sales funnel, and develop stronger purchasing intent the deeper they travel.

Sale funnels align with the consumer purchase decision-making process, and ensure that the right communications are reaching customers at the right time, from discovering your brand/product all the way throughout completing the purchase. 

Sales funnels are a number of predetermined ‘funnel stages’ established by the eCommerce store/digital marketing team before advertising. Strong sales funnel follow the 4-stage funnel for once-off sales, and 6-stage funnel for ongoing-sales; these stages are in the diagram above, and also repeated below:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Decision
  4. Action/Purchase
  5. Re-evaluation
  6. Purchase

The ultimate goal of an eCommerce sales funnel is to drive online sales. Ideally, the eCommerce store wants to convert the customer as early in the sales funnel as possible; this is due to it costing money to ‘flow’ customers through the funnel. As we know however, no two customers are the same; the final stages of the funnel are an attempt to convert the toughest of customers, before finally letting go those customers not worth to continue investing in.

Enough textbook talk… How does an eCommerce store create and implement a sales funnel?

How To Create An eCommerce Sales Funnel

While there’s no ‘one size fits all’ with sales funnels (unlike hats?), Devote Digital’s curated eCommerce sales funnel has been proven to work for an extremely wide range of eCommerce stores. The list ranges includes:

  • Motorbike gear (cheap & expensive)
  • Stand up paddle boards (expensive)
  • Diving & spearfishing goods
  • Whiteboards
  • Office furniture
  • Baby clothes

If you can sell a product as boring as a whiteboard using this technique, you can sell anything! Okay… Almost anything.

Here’s a brief overview of the sales funnel, of which any eCommerce store can implement with sufficient planning, and the help of digital marketing experts. Once again, this funnel is not ‘one size fits all’, and should be adjusted depending on a wide range of internal & external factors (the product you sell, your target audiences, the industry you’re playing in, the cost to advertise within your industry, your advertising budgets, etc.). This sales funnel stops at stage 4 of the “textbook sales funnel” above, and does not include stages 5 & 6: the keys to maintaining ongoing sales.

Match up the diagram stages to the stage details below to learn how each stage of the funnel operates. This includes information on the objective, platforms, content & audiences utilised in each individual stage.

Stage 1: Cold Net

Platform - Google Ads (search/shopping) & Social Media (FB & Instagram ads)

Content - Paid search ad, shopping ad & branded content

Objective - Brand Awareness

Audience - Google searchers, Social Media Users within your interest-based targeting

Stage 1 of Devote Digital's eCommerce sales funnel is the initial interaction with the customer. This interaction is in the form of a Google search ad (text or product), or interest-based Facebook/Instagram ad (not sales related... at all costs!). Videos tend to work best as content for stage one, partly for being super engaging from the user's perspective, and part from the gearing of Facebook/Instagram's algorithms towards preferring videos over images. 

Stage 2: Brand Awareness Remarketing

Platform - Facebook/Instagram/Youtube ads, Google Display Advertising

Content - Branded content (video ideally)

Objective - Brand interest/desire

Audience - Funnel Stage 1 Interactions but have not purchased - Web users who clicked on the google ad (cold ‘remarketing’ audience) or interacted with the branded content

Stage 2 of the funnel 'remarkets' content to those who interacted with the content used in stage 1 (i.e. Google ad or Facebook ad). Content still must not be sales-related, and generally educate the customer on the genuine value that your brand can add to their life. No price tags, no sales pitches, no bull. Just genuine (and visually invigorating) brand content. This stage can last for weeks, and should ideally contain a string of different pieces of content (e.g. video 1 > video 2 > video 3 etc.). 

Stage 3: Brand Warming

Platform - Facebook/Instagram ads

Content - USP Related content (warmer content, relating to USPS; e.g. hand-made? Product qualities? Free shipping? etc)

Objective - Brand education & consideration

Audience - Funnel Stage 1 & 2 Interactors but have not purchased - Social media users who interacted with/clicked on the branded content (Stage 1 & 2), and who subsequently visited your website

Stage 3 is where it starts to get serious, and involves gradually introducing to the warmed customer brand USPs ('unique selling propositions') via social media advertising. For example, if you were selling handmade hats, what makes it different from any other hat on the market? It could include: 

  • Being handmade 
  • Free shipping 
  • Free returns if you order the wrong size (not all hats are one size fits all...)
  • Charitable donations (e.g. 1 hat bought, 5 trees planted) 

Content that tends to work best at this stage include Facebook/Instagram carousel ads, and Facebook canvas ads.

Stage 4: Product Warming

Platform - Facebook/Instagram ads, Google display remarketing (Criteo or AdRoll)

Content - Product category remarketing/product remarketing (product based featuring product specific details, USPs & prices) 

Objective - Product Consideration & Purchase

Audience - Funnel Stage 1, 2 & 3 Interactors but have not purchased

Out of all the funnel stages, stage 4 is where customers are most likely to convert. This stage involves showing product-related content to warm customers who are strongly drawn toward your brand and the value you offer. Ideally, showing product categories that they've already viewed, or in other words 'remarketing'. For example: 

  • If the customer only viewed male handmade hats, show them male handmade hats 
  • If the customer only viewed femal handmade hats, show them femal handmade hats

The hands down best type of content to offer in the stage is Facebook Dynamic Product Remarketing Ads (watch our how to video here!).

Facebook carousels & canvases should be your ad format of choice.

Stage 5: Lead Gen

Platform - Facebook lead form ad, automated email marketing software (MailChimp, DotMailer etc.)

Content - Facebook lead form gathering user's details, to subscribe to an email campaign automation

Objective - Purchase Intention

Audience - Funnel Stage 1, 2, 3 & 4 interactions but have not purchased

Stage 5 is targeted towards the tricky customers; the customers who have been flowing down the funnel all the way to this point, but have not converted. Facebook lead generation ads are used to gather a user's email address, of who can then be inputted into an welcome series email automation.

Why email? Because sending and email campaign is free (or extremely cheap). You've already invested actual ad spend to get the customer this far down your sales funnel. Stage 5 determines whether the customer is worth the investment.

Send a number of emails throughout a number of weeks, continuing to offer brand & product related content.

Stage 6: Final Close

Platform - Email, Facebook Ad

Content - Stunning email offering a final incentive to purchase; same creative & offer is shown to Stage 5 members via Facebook & Instagram ads

Objective - Purchase intention/let go of leads who will not purchase

Audience - Funnel Stage 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 interactors but have not purchased

Stage 6 of our eCommerce sales funnel is the final straw. It's offering customers at the final stage of the funnel an incentive to purchase; if they do not purchase, you then remove them from the funnel. 

Final incentives we tend to use are one of the following: 

  • Coupon code offering 10 - 25% off the first purchase 
  • Coupon code offering free shipping (for stores with high average order values) 

If they do not convert after a week, let the tricky customers go! Keep them in your free lines of communication (email newsletter & organic social media content), but don't continue to invest ad spend in them. That is, until they re-enter the funnel, of which the fun begins all over again! 

There you have it: our no strings attached, proven-success sales funnel. We hope it provides you as much success as our clients have experienced!

If you’d like any help along the way, please get in touch. We exist to the help business grow in ways you never thought possible, and would love to hear from you.

You can’t get something for nothing. There’s no better time to put in the hard yards now.