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The Fallacy of Funnels and User Engagement

This term is a loose metaphor for an expression we all know as “conversion rate”. In the best circumstances, funnels let everything pass through or in other words result in a 100% conversion rate. This action correlates with user engagement in ways that can be alternated to improve the return of users and define the consumer's loyalty to a site/product. Don’t let users enter your platform without giving up even the slightest bit of information. 

The fallacy of funnels

The funnels we all know to be are supposed to let everything through. Therefore, we use this as a metaphor for the ultimate case scenario of analyzing conversion rates. Presuming that everyone who possess similar characteristics in the funnel, a.k.a target market, will end up valuing the system and plan to return in the future. Unfortunately, the problem with the fallacy of funnels is the mindset behind ignoring how the web works.

The funnel assumes that users enter a pole of people that want/end with the same destiny. In other words, we the admins control their destiny. Any market researcher would agree that this mindset is mistaken. Let’s analyze the breakdown of the funnel.

  1. Customers are in multiple funnels. 
    • Let’s say you are wanting to purchase a new TV. You are doing your normal product research, but on 5 different sites at once. Each of these sites acts as a funnel for the competitor, but only one conversion is likely to happen when the time comes to buy the TV. These sites/funnels could be abandoned, but not due to your marketing funnel but because of your competitors. Therefore, that one user chose a different destiny. 
  2. AdWords
    • Just because you pay to have top search results, doesn’t necessarily mean the users will buy into it. Users trust their friends on social sites much more than search algorithms. Therefore, recommendations replace search engine rankings and could take a user out of your funnel. Although a user may land on your page, there is still a chance that user will receive opinions from another source causing an increase in bounce rate.

 Funnel lowers once more. 

User engagement

The actual definition of an engaged customer varies from product to product and even service. 

Some sites need users to engage every day by logging in continuously, but others only need to be engaged with once a month. This exemplifies the difference in engagement needs.

Most customers who sign up will use a product only once. This is mostly true for any product/service that offers a free trial. This emphasizes the fallacy of funnels when you take away any barriers to sign up, you’ll get many users to sign up. Unfortunately, this doesn’t transfer to lots of conversions.  Here are 3 strategies to increase customer engagement and reduce the one-time use.

  1. Strong first impression
    • Every day, there is a possibility that someone new is seeing your site for the first time. What are their initial thoughts when seeing the home page or interface? This first screen that your users see should explain how your product/service works, motivate these users to sign-up, and let them know where to go if they need help.
  2. Gradual exposure
    • Throwing every quality of your product out there at once leaves no room for surprises. In a sense, you should under-promise your offerings for when the customer feels satisfied. Then, gradually expose them to new features to allow for delight and exemplification that they chose the right brand (you). Badly timed email blast and FAQ sheets aren’t the way to go. Leave time for these emails to arrive when the time is right and necessary. 
  3. Announcements 
    • Everyone loves new things! We may not enjoy ample change but new features never fail. These features may not even be new but could new to certain users who haven’t done research to know they are there. Users experience interfaces on different levels. We have surface users and in-depth users. Both very different but both profitable. In-app messages and site announcements are more engaging than emails. 

The fallacy of funnels is a term all marketers should be aware of and learn from.  It’s okay to manage your market in funnels but don’t expect them all to act the same. Engage your users and maybe your funnels will choose the same destiny. Try new strategies, and analyze the effect they have on your conversion rates. 

Blue Archer can assist with fresh structures for your site and app interfaces to alert users of new features and announcements. 



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