Ways to avoid bottlenecks in the sales funnel

Avoid losing eCommerce sales to customer confusion

Is your online store losing out on valuable sales because customers are getting confused, losing focus, and moving on without purchasing anything? Can you even tell?

Every bit of Web traffic is valuable, and it is vitally important that your store squeezes as much revenue as possible out of each visit. Of course, not every visit can result in a sale, but that conversion rate can always be nudged a bit higher.

Making conversions easy for potential customers is not only good for profits, it also improves the user experience, which in turn leads to positive experiences and word of mouth.

This article looks at how to identify tell-tale signs that your site is not converting optimally, and highlights a few strategies you can use to ensure your store becomes a sales converting machine.

1. Understand the sales funnel

How are you attracting new customers to your site? Once they are there, how are you guiding them towards a sale or conversion?

It's important to have a clearly defined sales funnel that presents a quick and easy path to a conversion for new customers.

In order to do this people need to be able to immediately understand:

  1. what it is you are offering
  2. how to get it

That might sound simple, but it's not so easy to design a site that always makes things quick and easy for everyone who visits. More on this at how to sell stuff online.

2. Track visitor behaviour

In order to improve conversions it is important to first understand what is happening on the site in terms of how people are behaving once they arrive. Especially the group of people who are interested enough to create an account or fill out a shopping cart, but then fail to checkout.

To do this you'll need to have analytics of some kind installed on your site - the most common is Google Analytics.

The part we're interested in here, is how traffic flows from a specific landing page to a conversion (or away from it, as the case may be).

Analytics has a nice, visualization feature called Vistor Flow, and you can learn more about that in point 5 of five awesome tips to extract valuable SEO secrets from Google analytics data.

3. Isolate trouble spots

The gap between what you expect potential customers to do, and what they are actually doing will help you to identify where things are going wrong.

In one of my online businesses (a subscription based, paid service), I found that while the sign up rate for new customers was very high, the actual conversion rate was really low.

What I found was that after creating an account, customers were being presented with a choice that they didn't expect. This meant that they tried to navigate around the choice by going to the homepage or the FAQ, or anywhere else.

There were two parts to the problem:

  1. the offering was not clear before sign up
  2. there was not sufficient info or support after sign up

Not only did I have to use analytics to work this out, I also used support requests and complaints to piece things together. The problem was that the site made perfect sense to me, but not to first time users who didn't necessarily know what to expect.

4. Make intelligent improvements

As a result of my analysis, I set about making changes to the sales funnel - in particular the information presented on the landing page. I also added customized support to every step of the process.

By making the value offering clearer, the sign up rate decreased, but the conversion rate on newly registered customers sky-rocketed. In other words, people who weren't really interested didn't bother to sign up, and those that were, better understood what was required in order to get what they wanted.

As it turns out, the dip in sign ups was temporary because the improvements to the sales funnel meant that people knew what they were getting, what they had to pay, and how to go about getting it. This meant they were vastly more positive about their experience (even though no changes to the service itself were made), and more and more recommendations followed.

To this day, I still have not perfected the conversion process for the site. I still see people signing up and losing their way. So there are still improvements in the design and usability to be made. But for now, I am happier and my customers are happier.

Have you analysed and refined your sales funnel and conversion processes? What improvements did you make, and how did this affect your earnings?

Share your tips and ideas in the comments.