How to Turn Browsers into Buyers with Lessons From 100,000+ Campaigns: The New Ecommerce Conversion Funnel
DTC stores can no longer rely solely on Facebook and Google Ads for growth.
Consumer privacy now reigns supreme in the wake of iOS 14 updates and the gradual disappearance of third-party cookies.
- Ads are less effective at reaching the right audience
- Retargeting is impeded
- And marketing dollars don’t go as far
In short: You can’t just buy traffic and win anymore.
You need to squeeze as much revenue as you can out of the traffic you get on your site by optimizing for conversions, AOV, and LTV.
But, the traditional conversion funnel fails miserably in helping you do this.
How do we know? Because we’ve seen it.
More than 30,000 websites have now used ConvertFlow to power 100,000+ conversion campaigns. After working directly with many in the DTC space, we’ve re-modeled the ecommerce conversion funnel in a way that makes more sense for modern brands.
Continue reading to learn how the new ecommerce conversion funnel can help you drive more revenue from your existing website traffic.
Then, review the essential campaigns that make up the funnel and learn how to build your own step-by-step—with templates to get you started.
Let’s dive in.
<definition>What is an ecommerce conversion funnel?<definition>
An ecommerce conversion funnel (or sales funnel) is the visual representation of a shopper’s journey with your brand. It includes all of a shopper’s interactions—from initial discovery to the moment they make their first purchase and beyond.
<problem>The problem with traditional conversion funnels<problem>
It’s crucial to understand what’s happening in your funnel because a brand lives or dies by its conversion rates. If it’s too low, you won’t have the resources to scale growth—or worse, the business will fail completely.
When store owners and marketers look up ways to improve their funnels, they typically come across traditional funnels that leave them confused, not knowing what to do next:
You’ve seen this before. It illustrates a typical customer journey starting with the awareness stage and ending in converting and retaining that customer.
The problem with this is: It’s not actionable.
The traditional conversion funnel makes it easy to empathize with your audience at various funnel stages.
However, it doesn’t make it clear how to bring shoppers from one stage to the next. And it doesn’t help your focus on the metrics that need to be improved to increase overall sales, like:
- Product view rates
- Add-to-cart rates
- Cart abandonment rates
- Checkout rates
So, most brands funnel shoppers to their stores, but their stores aren’t designed to convert visitors into customers.
Shoppers are driven to the home page. They’re overwhelmed by options to browse, click, learn, and shop. And they’re not given an impactful offer or help finding a product.
Driving ad traffic to your website this way is like paying people to go to your brick-and-mortar store, but then telling your sales staff to ignore them.
Then, you need to spend more on ads and other channels to drive shoppers back to purchase.
To bring more customers down the path to purchase—and in an efficient way, we need a new spin on the ecommerce conversion funnel.
<new-funnel>Introducing: The modern conversion funnel for ecommerce brands<new-funnel>
After working with more than 30,000 brands that use ConvertFlow, we noticed a few things that concerned us:
- A lot of brands had leaks in their store funnels
- Customers were dropping out unnecessarily
- Shoppers would spend less than they had the potential to
- Funnels would sit stagnant with subscribers and customers lingering in different stages
This all adds up to lost revenue and stunted business growth.
The solution? Funnel shoppers from visit to purchase in the fewest number of clicks through personalized campaigns that create a guided shopping experience.
To get shoppers in motion and patch up the customer journey, we tweaked and tested a new ecommerce conversion funnel with our customers until we found one that helps marketers bring more customers down the path to purchase:
This new interpretation of the ecommerce conversion funnel looks more like the actual journey a shopper might take on the way to purchase on your website.
To bring more customers to checkout, this kind of funnel focuses on:
- Providing a strong offer to buy now
- Guiding to and recommending the right product(s)
- Delivering a personalized shopping experience
- Reducing the number of clicks to purchase
- Upselling and cross-selling to increase ROAS
And it highlights the specific campaigns marketers can use to streamline the path to purchase.
By keeping shoppers on your website with on-site campaigns that guide their purchase journey, you reduce distractions and abandonment. And shoppers make it to purchase faster, at a higher rate, and with more in their carts.
A breakdown of the new ecommerce conversion funnel
This is a lot to take in, so let’s break it down.
Each funnel stage represents the actions a shopper takes on your online store:
- Activates offer
- View product
- Adds to cart
- Checks out
The arrows that lead from one stage to the next are the primary campaigns that connect the funnel and bring a shopper to purchase.
- Offers: Strong offers delivered to each shopper segment encourage the site visitor to buy now (welcome offer, subscriber offer, VIP offer, etc.)
- Recommendation quiz: After a shopper activates an offer, the brand uses a quiz to help the shopper find the right product(s)
- Browse abandonment campaigns: If a shopper shows exit-intent while browsing, the brand encourages them to add to cart or keep shopping
- 1-click upsell and cross-sell campaigns: When a customer adds a product to their cart, the brand boosts cart value by showing relevant upsell or cross-sell offers
- Cart abandonment campaigns: If a shopper shows exit-intent with something in their cart, the brand encourages them to check out
- Checkout abandonment campaigns: If a shopper shows exit-intent on the checkout page, the brand offers help or incentives to complete the purchase
There are tons of on-site campaigns you can run to optimize for conversions, but these are the essential campaigns most digital storefronts need as a baseline.
What it looks like in action
This is what the ecommerce conversion funnel could look like in practice compared to a typical website experience:
Instead of a standard popup offer that leads nowhere, you guide the shopper from your offer to a purchase with follow-up campaigns.
In this example, after a shopper activates their first order discount offer, they’re shown a quiz. Then, the brand makes product recommendations based on the shopper’s answers.
And once a shopper adds an item to their cart, the brand doesn’t call it quits there. Instead, a relevant cross-sell or upsell campaign is shown to increase the shopper’s cart value.
This series of connected campaigns is your ecommerce conversion funnel in action.
It brings more customers to purchase with less distraction, a streamlined decision-making process, and more in their carts. No need to wait for the shopper to abandon their visit just to retarget them with a browse abandonment email or another ad.
<how-to>How to build an ecommerce conversion funnel<how-to>
With this new model in mind, it’s time to build an ecommerce conversion funnel for your website.
Most marketers focus on off-site efforts (like email marketing, SMS campaigns, and retargeting ads) to tighten up their store’s funnel. While these are all legitimate and definitely worth doing, your customer’s purchase intent is highest when they’re on your website.
Plus, all those off-site marketing efforts lead back to your website. Once you get your audience to your store, you want to do what you can to ensure they’ll make it to checkout—and with the highest cart value possible.
So, you’ll want to build out campaigns that connect the shopper’s journey like we saw in the funnel earlier, represented by arrows next to the funnel:
These seven fundamental on-site campaigns will lead shoppers from one stage to the next and prevent shoppers from leaking out of your ecommerce conversion funnel.
1. Create your welcome offer
Start by creating a welcome offer for new site visitors.
Giving a compelling offer to buy now can be a good incentive to sign up for your email or SMS list. Then, if a shopper leaves without purchasing, you can still nurture the relationship and remind them about their welcome offer.
Discounts, free gifts, and free shipping are standard offers that encourage conversions. If you’re a subscription-based brand, you can also experiment with a free first month or 30-day trial.
Experiment with different offers to find the one that gives the highest conversion rate and the most purchases. Evaluate long-term success by tracking LTV of these customers, too.
💡 Snow’s limited-time welcome offer
The first appears a few seconds after the shopper arrives on the website:
The second appears on exit-intent to remind shoppers of the welcome offer:
These popups are interlinked. They refer to the same offer, but draw attention with different copy and graphics.
The discount timer from the first campaign continues the countdown in sync on the second campaign, which makes the limited time to take advantage of the discount feel real.
2. Build a recommendation quiz
Next, create a product recommendation quiz that you can show shoppers after the welcome offer.
Product recommendation quizzes help shoppers navigate your catalog to find a product or collection that suits them.
You can use a quiz to help a shopper:
- Find the right variant of a product—like a beauty brand might do to help shoppers find the right shade of foundation for their skin
- Find the product best for their use case among similar products—like athletic wear based on the sport or activity
- Discover a collection of products—like a furniture store might do based on a shopper’s style
- Understand the benefits of a single product based on their needs and goals—like Marea does with its one-product quiz
By showing customers a quiz after your welcome offer, you help them quickly find products they love without getting lost on your website or reading several product descriptions.
The key to a successful quiz is it needs to be beneficial to the shopper.
Brands often survey their customers for product development with some of the same questions they might ask on a quiz—age, product use case, etc. But those surveys are often to help the brand, and the shopper gets little to nothing in return.
A quiz, on the other hand, needs to be positioned to benefit the shopper. At the end, they’ll have a question they care about answered.
💡 Casper’s mattress quiz
Getting a new mattress can be confusing. There are so many choices to make: soft vs. firm, foam vs. spring, and different material options. But few of us know what those mean in the context of how these impact our sleep.
So mattress brand Casper helps shoppers find the right mattress by asking questions about their sleep issues and preferences:
At the end of the quiz, the shopper is presented with the best mattress for their needs on a dedicated landing page:
So, the shopper isn’t funneled to some other generic product detail page (PDP) with a ton of information that might not be relevant to them. Or overwhelmed with a bunch of similar options to evaluate.
They are given the one mattress option that they can be confident will suit their needs.
3. Create browse abandonment campaigns
Now, build your browse abandonment campaigns to encourage shoppers to stick around.
If a shopper is headed for the virtual exit, there’s usually something specific keeping them from considering buying.
And if they’re viewing a product but didn’t add it to their cart, there could be a variety of objections that differ from a cart or checkout abandonment.
So at this stage, try a survey popup that hits on a few of the most common objections. Then you can guide them to the right place.
For example, you might ask, “How can we help?” and offer three survey options:
- Options are too expensive
- Need more information
- Didn’t find something I liked
If the shopper said it’s too expensive, you can suggest a cheaper option or highlight an installment plan.
If they need more information, you can direct them to pages that offer a deep dive into materials or the science behind your product.
If they say they can’t find something they like, you can guide them to a quiz to help them find the right products.
💡 Valyou Furniture’s browse abandonment survey
Valyou Furniture focuses its browse abandonment exit-intent survey on common objections for the store:
Depending on the shopper’s response, they’re taken to a quiz, a collection of bestsellers, or a filtered collection of furniture that’s ready to ship now.
4. Create add-to-cart cross-sell or upsell offers
When done well, cross-selling and upselling are some of the most effective ways to increase cart values. The key is to recommend the right products at the right time.
That means recommending products that are similar to what the customer added to their cart so they’re likely to be interested in them. And promoting those products when a customer has shown a strong intent to purchase.
A customer who adds a product to their cart is strongly considering purchasing that product. So now is the perfect time to recommend complementary products—like a pen to go with a journal. Or introduce them to a similar product or variant that’s higher cost but offers more value in terms of quality, features, or volume—like a blender with more functionality than the version the customer chose.
💡 Cuddle Clones’ collection-based cross-sell popup
Cuddle Clones makes plush replicas and prints of its customers’ pets. When a customer adds a Golf Headcover to their cart, a cross-sell popup recommends other products in the golf collection to complete their collection:
Naturally, if a customer golfs, they’ll likely enjoy other products like golf balls or ball markers with their pet’s face on them.
These are easy add-ons if they’re already planning to buy the headcover.
5. Create cart abandonment campaigns
Now, build your cart abandonment campaigns to make it tempting for shoppers to complete a purchase.
An estimated 68.7% of online shopping carts in the US are abandoned according to a report by Fresh Relevance. That means a lot of potential revenue on the table from high purchase-intent customers.
That’s why many ecommerce brands follow up with cart abandonment emails and texts. In fact, Klaviyo reports that cart abandonment email flows have the highest conversion rate of all email flow types.
But… you don’t have every customer’s email address. And as time passes, customers could be losing interest in your product. So with on-site cart abandonment campaigns, you can stop cart abandonment before it happens.
If a customer shows exit-intent, remind them what’s in their cart and make it more tempting for them to checkout. You could highlight social proof, offer free shipping, or promote a limited-time deal.
💡 Judy’s cart abandonment overlay
When a shopper shows exit intent, emergency preparedness brand Judy doesn’t just remind shoppers they have an item in their cart. The brand also knocks 10% off the price to encourage potential customers to purchase:
Judy knows that when a customer is showing exit intent, it will take a lot to avoid an abandoned cart. So the brand makes its offer visually large, so shoppers don’t miss it.
Then, the brand makes it clear how much the shopper is saving by showing the discount and the shopper’s new cart total.
6. Create in-cart free shipping cross-sell campaigns
Next up, build in-cart cross-sell campaigns that use free shipping as an incentive to purchase more.
Top brands cross-sell in the shopping cart to boost AOV. This works particularly well if you gamify the experience with a free shipping threshold to meet and other milestones like free gifts.
Share a visual meter in the shopping cart that shows how close a shopper is to the milestones. Then, recommend products to help them meet that goal based on what else is in their cart.
💡Kosas’ free shipping and gift bar
Makeup brand Kosas has a free shipping visualizer in its shopping cart and recommends a selection of products to help meet that goal:
In this case, the shopper has concealer in their cart and only needs to spend $10 more to get free shipping. So Kosas features a $14 makeup sponge that works with the concealer.
Once the customer adds that to the cart and has crossed the free shipping threshold, the meter changes to promote a free gift past a new threshold:
And the product recommendations update to show a relevant product that can help them reach that threshold.
Updating the meter with a new offer once the first one is reached is a smart strategy. If you include all offers on the meter right away, anything but the next offers might feel out of reach. So once the shopper reaches that first threshold, they may have already committed to stopping there.
But by introducing one offer at a time, each one requires spending just a little bit more than what the customer is planning to spend now. So it’s easier to grow cart value.
You’ll always want to test different options for your store, though.
7. Create checkout abandonment campaigns
Now it’s time to create your checkout abandonment campaigns to bring wavering customers over the line.
Abandoning at checkout and abandoning a cart may feel similar, but your shoppers are abandoning for different reasons. So you need dedicated campaigns for your checkout page that meet customers where they’re at.
When a shopper abandons their cart from another page on your website, they haven’t yet committed to purchasing that item. But when shoppers go to checkout, there’s a good chance they’re ready to hand over their credit card number.
So checkout abandoners usually don’t leave because of product reasons, but for policy and logistics reasons.
According to a 2022 survey by Baymard, some of the primary reasons for cart abandonment include:
- High added costs (shipping, tax, and other fees)
- Slow delivery
- Lack of trust in website with payment information
- Long or complicated checkout process
- Website errors
- Unsatisfactory returns policy
Some of these things can be improved with an update to your site’s user experience or policies. But a lack of trust, unanswered questions, or the need for help completing checkout are going to need more than a discount incentive to make them stick around.
So use your checkout abandonment campaigns to address the objections to purchase your customers have right before they are about to buy.
Answer frequently asked questions or show them how to contact customer support for more help.
Similar to the browse abandonment survey, this type of campaign will only work if it addresses common questions or problems your shoppers have at checkout.
💡Nectar’s payment assistance popup
Mattress brand Nectar launches a popup when a customer’s credit card payment fails:
It helps the shopper find an alternative way to pay either with an Amazon login or through a payment plan provider.
<personalize>Personalize your conversion funnel offers<personalize>
Many ecommerce brands create generic campaigns that show for all site visitors no matter their history with the brand. At the minimum, most brands suppress campaigns that don’t apply to the shopper—like suppressing a welcome offer popup for existing customers.
But returning shoppers are offered no assistance in navigating the store. That means a missed opportunity to enhance the customer experience while driving sales, repeat purchases, and LTV.
So to improve your conversion funnel, you’ll want to personalize your campaigns based on your customer data.
- A subscriber who hasn’t purchased might benefit from a reminder of their welcome discount or the product recommended to them in the quiz they took
- A returning customer might benefit from product recommendations based on previous purchases
The bottom line is: the more you personalize your campaigns, the more likely shoppers are to purchase (and the more they’ll spend).
So now that you have your essential campaigns, build out different audiences using dynamic visitor segments.
Then, create dedicated offers and campaigns according to:
- Who they are (purchase data, customer status, etc.); and
- Where they are on your site
Define your segments
Dynamic visitor segments will update automatically based on the information you’ve gathered on your site visitors. So you can add the right segment(s) as conditions to your campaigns for easy personalization.
Here are some basic segments that will be relevant for most ecommerce brands:
- New visitors: Anonymous site visitors that you have no data on yet
- New subscribers: People who have just signed up for your email and/or SMS list
- Existing subscribers: Subscribers who haven’t purchased from your brand yet
- New customers: Shoppers who just made their first purchase
- Existing customers: Customers who are coming back to your site some time after their first purchase
- VIP customers: High-value customers who buy from you often and spend a lot with you
These segments are a great place to start, but there are many ways you can split up your customers depending on what’s important for your business.
You can define customer segments by quiz answers or survey responses (hair type, pets owned, skin concerns, etc.), demographic information (like age, gender, or geographic location), or even purchase frequency.
Build dedicated campaigns for each segment
Now that you’ve defined your customer segments, start building out more targeted offers.
Here are a few types of offers you might make customers based on segment and where they are on your site:
💡Collection- or product-based welcome offers
Go beyond your standard welcome offer and create customized campaigns based on the collection or product page a shopper is on.
When a shopper lands on your website for the first time, it might not be on a general page like your home page, so your welcome offer should take that into account.
Add iterations of your welcome offer for shoppers on your collection pages and PDPs like Valyou Furniture does for its Feather Collection:
These can be more effective than your standard offer because it’s more relevant to what the visitor is considering purchasing.
💡 Product recommendation for returning customers
Show personalized product recommendations to returning customers on general pages (i.e., not product pages) to help them find their next favorite product:
Curate your recommendations based on the customer’s purchase history and other data like quiz responses.
For example, an apparel brand could introduce new products based on collection, price, and the gender(s) of clothes a customer buys.
💡 Replenishment campaign for repeat shoppers
For products customers purchase frequently, streamline the path to repurchase by giving shoppers an easy way to buy their favorite products again.
For example, you could display a popup when a returning customer lands on the website that prompts them to reorder the last product they bought:
Showing a campaign on your website to order again can get returning customers to the checkout page faster with no opportunity to get distracted.
That makes a convenient experience for your customer and increases the chances they’ll make it to checkout.
💡Winback campaigns for customers who haven’t purchased for a while
Product recommendations are great for returning customers, but if a shopper hasn’t bought from you for a while, they might need something extra to encourage them to buy again.
Celebrate their return with a special offer like a discount or free gift:
Then help them fill their cart by introducing new products they might like based on their purchase history or showing a product recommendation quiz if they didn’t fill one out before or your options changed.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to personalizing campaigns. So, use your imagination to discover new ways you can target shoppers with relevant messages and offers.
And check out the ConvertFlow template library for more ready-to-use campaign templates.
<test>Test and optimize your campaigns<test>
Congrats! Between your campaigns and customer segments, you have all the pieces you need to build out your ecommerce conversion funnel.
At this point, you will have set up campaigns to serve your primary segments. Now you can play around with what you've built to find the best offers for your site visitors.
As any ecommerce marketer knows, you don’t want to set-it-and-forget-it with your campaigns. What works for one brand might not work for yours.
So, test and optimize every aspect of your campaigns to discover the best variants that encourage customers to take the next step in their journey, including your:
- Trigger timing
It’s easy to split-test multiple variants for your campaigns in ConvertFlow:
Then choose a winner based on performance.
<conclusion>Build a high-impact ecommerce conversion funnel in ConvertFlow<conclusion>
To build a successful ecommerce conversion funnel, you’ll want to:
- Think of your funnel in terms of the customer’s actions
- Create marketing campaigns that bring the customer from one funnel stage to the next
- Personalize your campaigns by building customer segments based on customer status and other first-party data
- Test and optimize each campaign for maximum impact
By creating dedicated marketing campaigns for your customer segments and connecting those campaigns to the shopper’s journey, you reinforce your ecommerce conversion funnel.
So as shoppers interact with your brand, they get relevant, personalized campaigns that guide them toward purchase and grow your bottom-line.
Ultimately, you get more out of all your marketing efforts and develop more sustainable growth for your business.
Ready to build your ecommerce conversion funnel?
ConvertFlow is an all-in-one funnel builder that lets you create all the campaigns you need for your ecommerce store at a fraction of the cost of individual tools.