Can a sales funnel help you grow your ecommerce business?
And if it can, how do you create one that drives conversions seamlessly like clockwork — vs. creating one that flops?
You might already know this…
But at ClickFunnels, sales funnels are sorta our thing. 😉
And in this guide, we’ll walk you through 7 steps to building and optimizing an ecommerce sales funnel.
Let’s start with some definitions.
What is an Ecommerce Sales Funnel?
An ecommerce sales funnel is a series of web pages crafted to systematically convert visitors to an online store into paying customers.
For example: notice how this sales funnel pulls people in with a big discount, and then tries to upsell them with a one-time-offer before triggering the “Order Received” page…
This is an example of what we call our Tripwire Funnel — it’s great for turning cold traffic (via ads) into paying customers. We’ll talk more about this funnel later.
Is the sales funnel not what you expected?
Many people confuse sales funnels with marketing funnels — which is the higher-level process of awareness/interest/desire/action that all companies must analyze and document…
We’re talking about sales funnels.
And sales funnels are page-by-page experiences that get people to take action — they’re crafted with human psychology in mind so that your visitors can’t help but click, opt-in, and buy.
what eCommerce marketer or entrepreneur wouldn’t want to learn how to build that?
But in case you still need convincing…
Do You REALLY Need a Sales Funnel?
Maybe you’re still on the fence about whether you need a sales funnel or not.
Let’s start by looking at some of the main reasons that people abandon their cart during the checkout process…
Six of those ten reasons are related to the customer’s buying experience:
- The site wanted me to create an account (24%)
- Too long/complicated checkout process (18%)
- I didn’t trust the site… (17%)
- I couldn’t see/calculate the total order cost up-front (17%)
- Website had errors / crashed (12%)
- There weren’t enough payment methods (7%)
That adds up to… 95%!
This means that 95% of respondents listed at least one reason related to their buying experience for why they abandoned their shopping cart.
The good news is… things related to the buyer’s experience are entirely fixable with a sales funnel — a smoother checkout process, more social proof, and transparency about costs.
That’s why having a sales funnel is so important.
People often don’t convert due to a poor online experience… and they often do convert because of one that’s seamless and persuasive.
It might feel like you can just put up a website and hope for the best.
Here’s a video we made on why you can’t (it’s funny lol)…
A sales funnel is your ticket to the next stage of growth in your business.
And below, we’ve listed 9 steps to building one that works really well.
BUT — shameless plug — you’ll need a sales funnel builder for this process. Fortunately, we’ve got just the thing. Click the link below for a 14-day free trial of ClickFunnels to get started!
Step 1. Get To Know Your Target Market
Fittingly, the first step is to get to know your target market.
Because if you don’t know who you’re trying to convert… then you won’t have a chance in hell (‘scuse my french) at converting them.
Can you answer the following questions? Take a few minutes and give it a go!
- What is their demographic?
- Where do they live?
- What industry do they work in?
- How much do they earn?
- What are their hobbies?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What is important to them?
- What are they afraid of?
- What do they want most out of life?
- What challenges do they face?
- What other products/services do they use?
Those questions might seem pretty detailed… but the better you know your target market, the easier it’ll be to build a compelling sales funnel.
I once went through this process myself for my site, Get Your Gusto Back — a personal development site — and it was extremely helpful.
Here’s an example of some of my questions and answers…
After reading through those, you can see how I started to form a consistent idea of who my target market was.
Eventually, I was able to build a customer avatar. Here’s a template…
If you feel lost, then reach out directly to your target market and ask them some of these questions (although maybe not some of the more personal ones).
You can hang out in forums, Facebook groups, or Reddit communities. You can also reach out to past customers and ask them questions, or send a survey to your email list.
However you do it, do it.
Because the better you know your target market, the easier it’ll be to build a compelling sales funnel.
Step 2. Identify Your Value Ladder
Once you understand your target market, then it’s time to create your value ladder.
What’s a value ladder?
It’s a high-level outline of the order in which a customer is expected to purchase your products — rising in both value and price.
Here’s what it looks like…
Each step on the stairs (maybe it should be called a “value staircase”?) is assigned a product/offer within your business ecosystem. From left to right, the product steadily increases in both value and price.
Eventually, the customer reaches the big dollar sign where you offer your max value for the highest price.
And on the bottom — the arrows and dollars signs going to the right — we have your continuity program. This could be a membership program, a subscription box, or something else that your customer keeps coming back for periodically. This is important for creating monthly recurring revenue for your business.
Here’s an example of what the value ladder might look like for a Dentist’s office…
And here’s an example of what our value ladder looked like for our DotCom Secrets funnel…
What’s your value ladder look like? Take a few minutes to map it out by answering the following questions…
- What’s your bait? — How do you get people into your ecosystem? That is, how do you generate leads? Usually, this is something free, like a product sample.
- How do you get a purchase? — How will you get your first purchase? The best way is to offer a heavy discount on one of your most desirable front-end products.
- What’s your mid-level product? — Once customers trust your brand, what’s the next product they’re going to buy? This should be a bit more expensive and valuable than your front-end offer.
- What’s your highest value? — Where are you ultimately leading your customers? What’s the pinnacle of value you can provide? That’s the top of your value ladder.
- How do you create continuity? — If you can create continuity, you’ll have done something that many eCommerce businesses struggle with. Monthly refill reminders? Subscription box? A membership program? Something else?
Don’t skip this step.
Before you can create a compelling sales funnel, you’ve got to have a clear idea of where your sales funnel falls along your value ladder. Are you marketing to existing customers? Or are you trying to attract new customers? Or are you trying to get your biggest fans to purchase your most expensive and valuable product?
It’ll also give you a better idea of how you can guide people from one offer to the next.
To learn more about the value ladder, get yourself a free copy of Russell Brunson’s book, DotCom Secrets.
Step 3. Choose a Type of Sales Funnel
Now that you know why you’re building a sales funnel and where it falls along your value ladder… it’s time to choose the type of sales funnel that you’re going to build.
There are different types of sales funnels for different things.
Here are your choices (we’ll provide free templates for you as well — just click the links)…
The Tripwire Funnel is the funnel we most recommend to eCommerce entrepreneurs who want to generate leads and turn those leads into customers in one fell swoop.
Here’s how it works.
It starts with an irresistible offer — something so good that your target market won’t be able to resist. Often this is a free product sample where the customer only has to pay for shipping and handling.
In the example below, it’s a 30-day supply of diet and weight loss supplements.
This is the lowest friction part of this funnel, so it’s also where we want to require the visitor to fill out their shipping and payment information — since they are going to pay so little, they are far less likely to abandon their shopping cart here.
Once they click through, they arrive on what we call the OTO (One-Time-Offer) Page…
This is an upsell that offers a more expensive — but still heavily discounted — product. And it’s important to make clear that if the person clicks away from this page, the offer goes away forever. That sense of FOMO boosts conversions like crazy.
And then the person is taken to the “Thank You” page.
The entire funnel looks like this…
When you bring a new product to the market, the last thing you want to hear is crickets.
Ideally, you want to have built up so much suspense and anticipation surrounding your new product that your target market has their wallets pulled out before you even hit “Launch.”
And that’s the exact image we had in mind when we created our product launch funnel. We want your customers to be thrilled and excited to purchase your new product — no more lackluster, dead-pan silence on launch day.
Here’s what the product launch funnel looks like.
First, you send traffic to a squeeze page where people can opt-in to stay updated on your new product’s progress and launch date. The only goal here is to get the person’s email address.
You can also add a survey pop-up to this page to collect valuable information about what your target market wants most from the product.
Next, over a few weeks or months, you send that list of subscribers to Product Launch Pages, each of which is meant to build excitement and suspense, and create word-of-mouth buzz around your upcoming product. This is an extremely important part of this funnel — you must create anticipation before launching.
Finally, you send that list of people to your official launch page where they can purchase your new shiny product.
With this funnel, when launch day comes, you will have people lining up to buy your new product.
A video sales letter funnel is, chronologically speaking, identical to the tripwire funnel we discussed earlier.
The only difference is that you fill your sales pages with more video content than sales copy.
This is ideal if you want to sell a high-ticket product (at the top of your value ladder).
First, your traffic goes to the Sales Letter Page where they enter their shipping and billing information to receive a free sample of your product (that way, they’re more willing to enter that information). Then, they go to your One Time Offer page, where you upsell them — again, they’re more likely to add this offer to their cart since they already entered their payment and shipping info.
Then they go to your “Thank You” page. Easy as pie.
Step 4. Optimize Your Offer
Hopefully, you chose one of the three funnels above to work with.
Now it’s time to outline your funnel and make your offer irresistible to your target market.
One of the biggest mistakes that new full builders make is they aim for “good enough” rather than “over the moon”.
Here’s the question: What could you offer your target market so that they CAN’T say no?
All humans experience something called FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out — and we also all experience a desire to remain consistent with our internal beliefs.
So if you create an offer that’s irresistible… that is in line with your target market’s beliefs… and if that offer goes away soon… then that’s a home-run offer.
People won’t be able to say “no”.
That’s what you’re aiming for.
In the next step, we’ll talk about how to accomplish that in the copy (the words on the page)… but for now, just think about your offer itself.
- How much does your target market want what you’re offering?
- How can you make the price a no-brainer? (Just pay shipping?)
- How can you increase perceived value like crazy?
Consider our sales funnel for Russell Brunson’s bestselling book, Traffic Secrets. We know that our target market really wants to “Get Hundreds Or Even Thousands of Hungry Buyers to Your Websites and Funnels…”
The only question is… how do we make this a no-brainer for them?
How about we give it away for FREE and just ask them to pay shipping and handling?
Okay. That’s pretty compelling.
But how can we make this offer even more of a no-brainer?
By increasing the perceived value.
We do that with lots of bonuses 😀
Now we’ve created something that is jam-packed with value.
There’s no way our target market can say “no” to this offer if they’re going to remain consistent with their internal goals and beliefs.
It’s just too good to pass up.
That’s what you’re going for… especially if you’re driving cold traffic to the funnel — those people don’t know you and so the only way they’re going to convert is if your offer is a no-brainer.
If you’ve created a funnel to target existing customers, it’s still a good idea to make it as irresistible as possible.
Remember the lessons…
- Offer Something They REALLY Want
- Offer It For a No-Brainer Price
- Increase Perceived Value to The Moon
By the way, this doesn’t mean you can’t charge $10,000 or more for a product… it just means you’ve got to get the perceived value well over that point so they feel like they’re getting a great deal.
Free bonuses are a great strategy 😉
Create your offer, outline your funnel — with a landing page, upsells, downsells, and order bumps — and then move on to the next step.
Step 5. Write Copy (Hook, Story, Offer)
Perhaps the most difficult, overwhelming, or confusing part about creating a sales funnel is the copy — the words on the page.
What are you supposed to say?
Please buy this. It’s awesome.
The good news is that your copy can be pretty basic and still be effective — it just needs to check the right boxes.
We recommend the following format…
Hook — You hook the person with an irresistible headline that builds curiosity and makes them want to keep reading.
Story — Then you tell a story that relates to the challenges and struggles your target market is going through. You show them that you understand where they’re coming from.
Offer — Finally, you reveal the solution you discovered (your products or services) and offer it to the visitor for an irresistible deal.
You’ll notice this format repeated on almost all of our sales pages — because it works really well.
Check out the video below to learn more about how Russell uses this process to write his sales copy…
Step 6. Add Urgency & Social Proof
When you’re trying to get people to take action — which you are with a sales funnel — urgency and social proof are two of the most important elements.
In fact, those two things are so powerful on the human brain that they have official psychological terms.
- FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) — This refers to the human fear of missing out on something.
- Herd Mentality — This refers to the fact that we all want to do what other people are doing… what’s popular.
Fortunately, adding these elements to your sales funnel is super easy.
You can use testimonials, countdown timers, case studies, stories, or credibility badges.
Here’s how we create social proof on our homepage…
And here’s how we create urgency on our One Funnel Away landing page…
Try it out for yourself!
Your conversion rate will sky-rocket.
Step 7. Test, Learn, Improve
At this point, you’ve got yourself a sales funnel!
You’ve identified your target market and your value ladder, you’ve chosen a type of sales funnel to use, you’ve optimized your offer, written copy, and added a dash of urgency and social proof.
Now it’s time to test your sales funnel.
To start, set a budget for how much you want to spend to test it — this money will be spent on advertising.
Maybe it’s $500… Maybe it’s $10,000.
It really just depends on what you can afford.
Then drive traffic and see how it goes!
You might not nail it on your first go-around — but that’s okay… very few people do. That’s a part of the process. Learn, grow, and try again.
If your sales funnel doesn’t perform like you had hoped it would, here are some hacks you can use…
Final Thoughts on Ecommerce Sales Funnels
Sales funnels are the secret weapon of successful eCommerce stores all around the world — whether it’s run by big corporations, solopreneurs, stay-at-home moms, or somebody just like you.
A sales funnel can help you get more conversions, waste fewer advertising dollars, and turn your business into something greater…
A freedom machine.
You know what a sales funnel is. You’ve got the steps. And you’ve got the know-how.
All that’s left is action and iteration.
The process starts now.
Click below to join our One Funnel Away Challenge!