A funnel on the brain

Every day, in my job as a Web metrics consultant, I get questions or queries about funnel reporting, or defined funnel visualisation. In this two-part post, I will try to show how useful the funnel representation is to view traffic on a Website and then how to get the most out of the report in Google Analytics.

I shall concentrate here on what it is and how to use it to improve your site?s Persuadability. In the case of an online store, the stages which characterise the depth that a visitor to your site achieves or how close he was to buying a product are:

1. Homepage.

2. Product Catalogue.

3. Product file.

4. Shopping Cart.

5. Successful purchase.

If we portray as a graph the visits which go through each of these states (visits on the horizontal axis, stages on the vertical axis), we can see the funnel of an online store. In most cases, we will have a funnel graph like the ones in the figure, where the deeper the stage or the more interaction required by the visitors, the lower the number of visits and the thinner the funnel.

Let us see what these figures are all about.

How far is the promotion of my Website on the right path? If a lot of traffic reaches a website, but the visitors do not view more than the Home page and abandon the site as funnel a) shows, you should try to answer some of these disquieting questions:

  • Is the promotion of my site on a level with the offer of content and products it contains?
  • Does my site work well and does it download quickly?
  • Are the depth of colour and screen resolution on my site right for my visitors?
  • Is my website written in my visitors? language?

Do I make it easy for my visitors to find the product they are looking for? Figure b) shows a funnel where a large number of visitors surfing our Home page decides to explore the product catalogue, only to abruptly abandon the site without viewing any of the product files. From our perspective – Persuadability ? we need to check out the facilitators. Some of the questions which will help you define how good you are in this area are:

  • Does your internal search-engine work well (can it handle misspellings, suggested products and/or recommendations)?
  • Does it have any kind of selector or faceted browser which allows the visitor to filter out the products until he finds what he is looking for?
  • Are the categories of your store on a level with your users? interests?
  • Do you show your visitors what the best-selling or most-visited products are?

If you answered ?no? to 2 or more of these questions, your site relies on your visitors? patience. This, however, is an increasingly scarce commodity on an Internet which has an omnipresent Google which takes just seconds to provide the exact answer to our questions.

Once a visitor finds the product she is looking for, why doesn?t she decide to buy it? If, in spite of having seen a product file, very few people add the products to the shopping cart, as in figure c). This tells us that the product file is weak and fails to persuade visitors to buy.

  • Is it clear about the benefits and advantages of the product?
  • Are you telling the user everything he wants to know about the product?
  • Have you got photos of the product and what it can be used for?
  • Are there comments or notes from other purchasers?
  • Are the price and shipping costs clear?
  • Have you got any offers or promotions for online purchases?
  • Do you take advantage, when there are few such items or the product is about to sell out to create a sensation of urgency?

Finally, in figure d), we can see a healthy funnel. The reductions from one stage to the next are gradual and there are no abrupt losses in the conversion funnel. i.e., you have done a good job in capturing visits, bringing high-quality traffic to your website, the Home page and the facilitators have guided visitors to the product file they are searching for, and the file has persuaded the visitor to purchase from the site. Finally, the shopping cart has worked properly and has not strewn the path of the convinced purchaser with obstacles.

How do we get the report in practice?

Most Web metrics tools include some specialised report or other to view the conversion funnels of a website. Let?s look at Google Analytics (GA), which is a free tool, available to all. In Google Analytics you will find the funnel report under the name Funnel Visualisation, and it is a report which looks like the figure below.

To use it, you will need to have an active GA account, configured correctly and which receives traffic from your website. In part two of this post, we will tell you more about how to use Google Analytics to view your website’s funnels.

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