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FutureNow Article
Thursday, Mar. 13, 2008

Using Funnel Reports to Boost Conversion

By Ronald Patiro
March 13th, 2008

Funnel Reports are a good way to gain traction while competitors spin their wheels in muddy data.

Most web analytics programs give you the option to run a funnel report; a powerful tool, particularly for e-commerce sites, that shows where people are exiting the site’s sales process.

By analyzing the exit rate data in a funnel report, you can focus on optimizing the pages that need it most. First, look for areas with high exit rates. Then, once you have test pages selected, target specific elements to find improvements.

Ideally, your tests will boost conversion. But what if they fail?

If at first you don’t succeed, test, test again…

Here’s an analogy: If a visitor moves through your house (page-to-page) and reaches a locked door (a conversion barrier) for which they don’t have a key, they have no choice but to exit. You can test making changes to the door, but if you haven’t given them the key, your exit rate will remain high.

What’s the key? Confidence. If you haven’t given the visitor the information they need, you haven’t given them the confidence to move forward with the transaction. When the exit rate is high for a given page or step, chances are that you haven’t told the visitor something they were hoping to find out earlier in the buying process. So, it looks like they’re taking a step forward only to take a step back, when really they just didn’t have enough information to feel comfortable moving forward.

Elastic Path Software shows some examples of how funnel reports can be used effectively. Here are two more:

  • The funnel report shows that the payment page, which follows a “Shipping Information” step in the checkout process, has a high exit rate. We test showing the visitor when they’ll receive the product before they hit the payment page. This lowers the exit rate for the payment page and boosts conversion.
  • A funnel report shows that the shopping cart page has a high exit rate. We look at the previous step and find the product page isn’t telling customers whether their item is out of stock. Since visitors have to “add to cart” to get this information, we now have reason to believe that showing items as “in stock” or “out of stock” on the product page will lower exit rate, so we test it.

Since each site has its own unique characteristics, it’s best to think of our web analytics reports in terms of how they can help us empathize with visitors. What’s holding them back from converting? A funnel report can help you create a hypothesis and test to see what your visitors prefer. That’s how to optimize.Remember, it’s important to look beyond the page with the high exit rate. See what’s happening in previous steps. And if you’re still stumped, get an outside-the-funnel perspective.

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Comments (13)

  1. Very good post. All hard work on a website goes down the drain when they have a roadblock that causes visitors to exit so it’s great to be able to get the full scoop on where, when and why they leave.

  2. [...] Using Funnel Reports to Boost Conversion [...]

  3. [...] Using Funnel Reports to Get a Head Start on Optimization [...]

  4. Nice article!

    Just don’t put TOO much focus on an order as the conversion point / bottom of the funnel. Some visitors are early in their shopping process and not ready to buy yet. A “conversion” for them could be considered to be fx. a newsletter signup or putting items on a wish list.

    Too much focus can make you loose sight of the obvious, just as this recent post demonstrates:

  5. that little tidbit about showing the shipping details first was pretty interesting.

  6. Soeren,

    Great comment! We strongly advocate the importance of conversions other than the end goal of getting someone to buy. These “micro-conversions” help move people along in their buying process toward the “macro-conversion” of buying.

    Here is an article about tracking micro-conversions with the Take Rate.

  7. Once again, excellent post! I’m fascinated with conversion rates and what helps people take the next commitment or step in your website. We’re in the process of optimizing our current checkout process, these are all helpful tips.



  8. Thanks for this – I am constantly trying to increase my sales funnel conversion rate, and this is one more area I can study..thanks again!


  9. I find it very hard to do! :)
    Everything takes to long, even testing, setting up tests etc. on and on. Anyway thanks for the information!

  10. Nice article,
    Im indicate to my friends, :P
    and back other time!

  11. hat little tidbit about showing the shipping details first was pretty interesting.

  12. Google Analytics can be very useful to boost conversion.

  13. @papier peint tendance – Google Analytics by itself won’t increase your conversion rate. It only collects and presents data. In fact, the data it collects depends on the person who sets it up. And what is done with the data (ie, whether or not you increase your conversion rate) depends on the person who interprets that data, and what choices they make about changing things on their website because of that data. In short…. there is still the need for a human to make sense of everything and turn it into something meaningful for you!

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