Let’s talk about Funnel Visualization

- September 18, 2008

Funnel VisualizationThere is a great report in the “Goals” section of Google Analytics that is surprisingly seldom used by many people (seems like I’ve been saying that a lot recently!). It’s called the “Funnel Visualization” report. For each Goal in Google Analytics, you are allowed to create a custom path that you want the visitors to your website to take before they reach your Goal. This path can be anywhere from 1 page up to 10 different pages.

Funnels are used most commonly in Ecommerce type situations, where there is a shopping cart and a checkout process involved. Marketers and analysts usually set up a Goal Funnel that starts at a landing page of a pay-per-click or email marketing campaign, and that ends at the Goal, which is usually the “Thank You” page or “Receipt” page that a user sees after they complete a purchase. After some data has been collected, marketers and analysts will take a look at each page, or “step” in the Funnel, and see where users are abandoning the shopping process, or if they are experiencing difficulties in ultimately handing over their hard-earned money to the merchant.

However, you should also take advantage of setting up a Goal Funnel and using the Funnel Visualization reports in non-Ecommerce situations. If you have any lead generation or quote forms on your site, you can also use the Funnel Visualization report to get a good idea of how people are interacting with those particular pages, and if there are any bumps in the road that are causing detours from your main objective.

Let’s take a look at an example. The screen-shot below is showing the first three steps in an Ecommerce Goal Funnel, starting from the Shopping Cart page, and going through a “Sign-In” page, followed by a “Billing Information” page:

Funnel Visualization Report

Before continuing, let me explain what we are looking at. First, look at the very top and middle of the image where it says “Shopping Cart – 10,214”. That is the first step in our funnel, which in this case is the Shopping Cart page, and 10,214 are the number of visitors that the Shopping Cart page had (within the period of time that I had selected – in this case it’s the last 30 days). That entire column from top to bottom represents each one of the steps in the Funnel. The figure below “Shopping Cart” – where it says 5,749 (82%) – are the number of people who went on to the next step of the funnel. You can then continue all the way down the page, until the very end of the funnel.

To the left of each step in the middle column are the top 5 entry points to each one of the step pages of your funnel. So, for our “Shopping Cart” page, 10,214 total visitors entered the shopping cart, 743 of those visitors came from a page called “Categories.bok”. Then, to the right of each step in the middle column are the top exit points from each one of the step pages of your funnel, including the total number of exits from the funnel above the top 5 exit points. For our “Shopping Cart” page, 1,244 visitors exited the funnel at this first step, with 679 of those visitors exiting the website, as represented by (exit). 33 Visitors went to a page called “Lost.bok”, 26 Visitors went to a page called “StoreFront.bok”, and so on.

So how is this information useful for me? Should I do anything to my website’s pages if a significant number of people are leaving my website from one of these shopping cart pages?

This is where you are going to have to understand what is actually on your website, and fill in the gaps of information between your knowledge of your website and the data that Google Analytics is displaying. I showed this particular funnel on purpose for exactly this reason. Here’s what I’m talking about: On the very first step of the example, the “Shopping Cart” page, 82% of people continued on to the next step. This means that 18% of people, or, 1,244 visitors, went somewhere else. We know that 679 visitors exited the website entirely, which means that this website’s marketing or IT team should probably take a look at their shopping cart page and see what technical issues or hang-ups are present in the system. But, what about the other 565 Visitors? We can only speculate, but if users can go back and continue shopping, or do other things on their shopping cart page, they may do just that, and possibly, re-enter their shopping cart at some point later.

Now, take a look at the second step – the “Sign-In Page”. This time, only 67% of visitors continued on to step 3, with 1,317 of those visitors exiting the site entirely! That is a lot of lost people! Why did they leave? Well as it turned out, this particular page had a very frustrating and annoying “Create an Account” feature that did not provide customers with an option to shop anonymously, or as a guest, without having to create a username and password for the website. You simply couldn’t get around this issue, which was very frustrating to many customers, so, a lot of them went on to other pages or left the site altoghether, which is not good news.

Since then, they have repaired this issue – and guess what started happening? Their conversion rate and Ecommerce revenue started climbing, just by making one change to their shopping cart pages!

This is a perfect example of how the Funnel Visualization report can serve as an alert system to the health and prosperity of a particular path of pages on your website that leads to a Goal – in this case, a website’s shopping cart. How else would this website’s marketing and IT department have known about the frustrations of their customers?

Is there a certain % of people that should continue to a next-step in a funnel? What’s a good “step-continuation” rate?

Ah, the 64 million dollar question! I’ll say this – you will never have a 100% “Funnel Step Continuation” rate (or, a 0% Funnel Abandonment rate). I would say that any step in the 90% range and higher is doing pretty well. Anything in the 70’s or 80’s should be cause for moderate concern, and you should open up a high priority trouble ticket, because any step that is losing 20% or 30% of it’s customers is a very substantial amount. Anything in the 60%-50% range or below means that you need to stop whatever it is that you are doing, sound the general alarm and wake the neighbors up, because there is a pretty serious issue going on – especially if your Funnel represents the pages of an Ecommerce Shopping Cart.

(Hey, there’s no shame in taking your Goal Funnel seriously. You should take it seriously – your livelihood probably depends on your website’s success, and how your website’s visitors interact with the pages in your funnel will affect the overall number of sales or leads your website generates).

Is there any other advice that you can give us?

I’ll answer your question with a question of my own: What is the shortest distance between two points? It’s a straight line. Keeping that in your mind will help you with your analysis – and help you understand why your website’s visitors may be leaving your site before filling out your Lead Generation form, or before they buy something from your online store.

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