Why conversion funnels make no sense

You know what a conversion funnel looks like.

It is a 2-dimensional representation of a process of converting a person into a customer. In most funnels, the stages are the same as in the AIDA model – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action/Conversion. Sometimes there is an extra “Retention” stage that describes a whole different funnel where you try to get people to return to your site and purchase again.

But while the AIDA model is OK (mostly – more on that later), representing it in the form of a funnel:

  1. Makes no sense
  2. Can lead to serious business consequences

What is wrong with conversion funnels?

Whether you like it or not, the way customer journey is represented etches into your mind and works as a mental shortcut in making business decisions.

If you think about it as a funnel, you risk thinking that:

  1. There is only one direction a person can travel (down the funnel)
  2. The stages have the same “difficulty” (since they are represented as blocks of equal widths)
  3. There is nothing between the “Desire” and “Action” stages, while in fact this missing part makes all the difference
  4. User’s motivation is not important (a funnel doesn’t name it directly)

The better way to think about user journey

Firstly, forget about the funnel.

Instead, imagine that your most important business goal – making a sale – is a peak of a mountain.

What is this mountain?

It is the machine that you use to convert people into customers. The website, the call center, the blog, the physical store or office and everything in between.

Your advertising is the way to tell people what is at the top and why it is worth their attention. In other words, it is the way to move them into the awareness stage and interest stag at the same time!

If it succeeds, some people will find your mountain.

And just like in the real life, they will start at its foot… but in different places (blog, landing page, product category, etc.). And so, everyone will have a different way ahead of them and different motivation to go up.

So at that moment, your job will be to help them by doing 3 things.

  1. Motivate them even more (this is more or less represented by the “Desire” stage of AIDA)
  2. Show them the easiest way
  3. And remove all the obstacles

Only then will your business succeed.

So, what do you think?

For me, visualizing user journey as a mountain makes much more sense than just a 2-dimensional funnel. And what about you? What do you think?

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Krzysztof Planeta

Krzysztof is a WordPress plugin developer, the author of Full Picture analytics plugin and a big web-analytics enthusiast. At the moment he lives with his wife and 2 cats in Spain where they enjoy the sun.

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