Does sales funnels work?

Does sales funnels work?

Conversion funnels are tangible crowd pleasers but are they, in reality, an outdated and misleading way of converting customers? Maybe it’s time to rethink the traditional sales funnel?

One of the more central approaches within sales and marketing is the use of funnels. Conversion funnels can be applied to many different scenarios but is usually a method of getting website visitor to take a desired actions. It is a way for companies to systematically move users from one stage to another. The main goal is to lead the users from awareness to buying a product or service.

Businesses rely on converting users online using a 120-year-old method

Since the funnel methodology was first invented by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898, it has changed very little. It seems a little ironic that so many businesses rely on a method invented prior to the invention of the internet, to convert users online. Funnels give a misleading and unrealistic picture of real-world user journeys. Funnels are based on the conception that the buying process is linear.

It’s naive to think that prospective customers enter the funnels from the top and work their way down the funnel. Today, consumers are more empowered and connected than ever, resulting in users making more informed purchase decisions, causing them to jump between stages in comparison to following a linear purchasing flow.

Consumers have gotten so used to researching and comparing everything from products to prices online. Which means that when entering a website they often already know what to get and are ready to buy. In this case, many of the stages in the traditional funnels becomes irrelevant and redundant.

Websites have thousands of user journeys

Canecto, a Danish startup, have studied data patterns and user behaviour on hundreds of websites including both B2B and B2C throughout the past year. They have found that the majority of all websites have at least hundreds of unique user journeys. These findings are raising a lot of question in relations to the use and efficiency of traditional sales funnel tools such as Google Analytics.

Both European and American companies took part in the study and the results are quite astonishing. Amongst the participants were a large international clothing brand with stores across Europe and a suitable large webshop. Data showed that their users undertake approximately 2.700 user journeys on their website towards just a few selected target pages. This means that the total number of user journeys throughout the entire website would be much higher.

With these findings in mind, the use of traditional funnels can seem obscure. Brands can’t expect consumers to follow the paths, that they have laid out for them. Instead, they should focus on building valuable and engaging relationships.

Funnels can be a useful way of structuring website flows but marketers need to catch up with the ever-changing digital landscape and user behaviours instead of relying on a method that was invented 120 years ago. It’s time to rethink the way we create online experiences in order to meet the need of consumers.

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