You’ve heard the different names for it: awareness funnel, purchase funnel, marketing funnel, sales funnel

You’ve seen people segment the funnel in different ways. Run a Google Image search for “purchase funnel” and you’ll notice 3, 4, 5 and even 10-stage funnels. 

But how does it actually inform your marketing efforts? Follow along and we’ll show you where each digital marketing strategy falls in the funnel and how that changes the KPIs you’ll look at for each stage. 

What Is the Purchase Funnel? 

When a customer starts their journey with your brand, they might not even be looking for the product or solution you offer (this would be the case if they were researching their related interest or pain point instead). As you capture their interest and put your product on their radar as a solution to their needs, your customer will move deeper and deeper in their journey. 

That journey is roughly shaped like — you guess it — a funnel, and you can segment your audience into different groups or “funnel stages” based on intent and knowledge level. For the ecommerce world, we like to keep things simple with three stages: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase. 

Each stage contains a completely separate audience with different needs, goals, and purchase intents. Your goals for each audience can change, in turn, depending on the funnel stage. Transactions might be the goal for the Purchase phase, but if your top-funnel customers aren’t ready to buy, your goal for that audience will be different (it may include getting them to follow you on social media, for example). 

Here’s how the funnel breaks down: 

The Awareness Phase

At the very top of the funnel, your target audience is researching an interest or pain point that they haven’t yet connected to a product – let alone a product your business sells. If you sell camping gear, your audience is in the Awareness phase when they’re looking for hiking tips, information on camping with kids, trip-planning inspiration, tent weather-proofing advice, campfire cooking recipes, and more. If it’s camping related, they’re into it. 

That doesn’t mean they’re in a shopping mindset, though. Many of these people just want to read content about something that answers a question they have or feeds an interest. When you fulfill that need with a genuinely useful resource that indirectly introduces your business and brand voice at the same time, you become a tiny data point in the user’s mind. If you produce content that reaches that same user consistently, the data points are going to add up to a story. 

The user will start to associate your brand with expertise, helpfulness, and passion for their interest or community. In short, you’ll be top of mind when it’s time to make the critical purchase decision. 

The Awareness Phase: Measuring Results 

The path from awareness to purchase isn’t always short or linear. People might need what you sell now or two years from now. If it’s the latter, by the time they choose your brand they’ve already interacted with it across multiple touchpoints and devices. And on top of all that, even when you have full information it’s unlikely that one piece of content flipped the switch; instead, the brand identity you created through lots of content flipped the switch. 

Depending on the length of your sales cycle and your price point, the conversion rate for Awareness content can be next to nothing (set your conversion expectations much higher if you sell inexpensive, impulse-friendly products). 

If you set the same conversion rate goals for strategies across the board without looking at the part of the funnel they target, you might form false conclusions about the performance of Awareness-driven strategies. If you decide a strategy isn’t up to par based on its conversion rate alone, you risk cutting out the only reason your purchase funnel exists at all. Without the Awareness phase, you wouldn’t have a funnel because you wouldn’t have an audience. 

Focus your Awareness phase KPIs on traffic, behavior, and mini-conversion goals like following or subscribing. 

Ask questions like: 

  • How many new and returning visitors? 
  • For content, how long did the visitor spend reading the page? 
  • How many people engaged with your content on social media or shared a post?
  • If there’s an action you want new users to take that will move them to the next stage of the funnel, did they take the action? Did they click on a CTA to visit a certain page or sign up for your newsletter? 

Awareness-Driven Marketing Strategies 

  • Blog posts related to audience interests that overlap with your field of expertise, and helpful content that answers questions and addresses pain points 
  • Interesting, shareable infographics and original research
  • Long-tail keywords that bring traffic to your Awareness content 
  • Fun, engaging social media posts that target your audience’s interests 
  • Social media contests and giveaways that introduce new customers to your brand 

The Consideration Phase 

A shopper who’s in the Consideration phase already knows about the product or solution, but they don’t know about yours. They’re now actively looking into the product to decide whether it’s really the best option and/or to comparison shop. 

Let’s say your camping audience was browsing your awareness-driven campfire cooking recipes and you put the bug in their ear that lightweight cookware is essential. They agree, and now they’re shopping for camping cookware. 

If your content did put the bug in the shopper’s ear then you have a leg up here, because the customer is now familiar with your brand. And if something else put the bug in their ear – they read about camping cookware somewhere else or it was just time for new camping gear – you can still capture that search audience and bring them into your funnel. Either way, your goal is the same: convince the customer they really do need cookware, and then convince them they need it from you. 

You can do this using content that situates the products in the customer’s life and shows them all of the product’s uses and benefits. At the same time, share what differentiates your product from the competition. Offer comparisons or teach customers what to look for and avoid as they shop. 

The Consideration Phase: Measuring Results 

Because the Consideration phase attracts a more specific audience, it won’t pull in as much traffic as the Awareness phase. However, because this audience is more motivated to shop, your conversion rate will be higher. Continue tracking traffic and engagement, but start placing a stronger emphasis on conversions. 

Add the CTAs and incentives that will move your customer into (and through) the final stage. Set up mini conversion goals as needed to track your progress. 

Consideration-Driven Marketing Strategies 

  • Organic and paid search campaigns that target product keywords, comparative searches, and brand-related queries 
  • Reviews and testimonials 
  • Customer success stories
  • Case studies and white papers 
  • Email marketing campaigns that welcome new subscribers and keep current subscribers in the loop 
  • Retargeting campaigns that remind prospective customers about a product or page they viewed before 
  • Optimized Google Shopping feeds
  • Comparison guides and other content that can help customers make a more informed decision 
  • Trial periods, free consultations, product samples, and other initiatives that let customers try the product for free 
  • Unboxing videos and product demos 

The Purchase Phase 

When your audience moves into the Purchase phase, they’re fairly sold on both the product and your brand. They just need a final push. During this stage, your content’s job is to deliver that push: that extra call to action, special offer, discount or incentive. If you can identify why people are still on the fence during this stage, your content can address those concerns. And anything that increases trust or makes the customer’s life easier, like a hassle-free return policy, belongs here too. 

The Purchase Phase: Measuring Results 

Your audience is naturally pruned as it moves down the funnel, so expect this stage to pull in a lower volume of traffic than the other two. However, the Purchase stage also has the largest percentage of targeted, conversion-minded customers, so its conversation rate is higher than the other two stages. 

Purchase-Driven Marketing Strategies 

  • Branded paid and organic keywords 
  • Offers and promotions 
  • Emailed offers and discounts 
  • Incentives like free shipping or a money-back guarantee 
  • Abandoned cart emails 
  • Remarketing campaigns 

The purchase funnel matters because different marketing strategies work for each stage, causing goals and KPIs to shift as customers move down the funnel. Once you know which stage your strategy targets, you can measure its performance based on the KPIs that are appropriate for that stage. Your apples-to-apples comparisons can then help your entire marketing strategy perform its best.