Leaky funnels: how to find out if you’re losing sales and what to do about it

Keep up with the very latest developments in the digital marketing world

By Lucy Davies
on 23/3/16

A leaky funnel is a disaster, reducing the effectiveness of all of your marketing spend. Here I’ll discuss how marketing managers can understand the performance of their online funnel, recognise problems that occur, and act on them. Or click here for more about how to drive people from your product page to your basket in the first place.

Day One: Tracking your funnel

The path of pages from your basket page to your purchase confirmation page make up your final purchase funnel. Using Google Analytics you can set up a customised funnel view to calculate and visualise your drop-offs page by page. This will allow you to see where your barriers to purchase occur – such as delivery times, shipping costs, payment options, compulsory account set up or even basic usability.

With the latest Enhanced Ecommerce Analytics, you can define funnel stages when adding tracking code to those pages (see developer instructions here). If you have this in place already, skip ahead to Day Two. If your development team are too busy, or you don’t have Enhanced Ecommerce tracking, you can set up your own:

  • Open Google Analytics, go to Admin > Goals > New Goal > Custom
  • Give it a name such as “Purchase funnel tracking”
  • Choose Destination URL as goal type and enter your purchase confirmation page as the destination URL (probably something like /thank-you or /complete.)
  • Under Goal Details, add the previous page steps in your funnel – this might be something like /payment or /address, going as far back as /basket (or /cart etc).

Note: if all of your stages occur on one URL, unfortunately you are going to need a little developer support but you can still do this by using events tracking to fire as virtual pageviews on button clicks. Once this is set up you would create the goal exactly as above.

Unfortunately Goals only track new conversions moving forwards, not retroactively. Put a note in your diary and check back in 24 hours.

Day Two: Happy funnel day!

Funnel Visualisation

The next day, go to Goals > Funnel Visualisation. In all its glory, you can now start to see where your customers drop out, and where they go, whether they exit your site altogether, or go to view another page such as returns or shipping information. This makes it easy to find the problem pages in your funnel, and where to focus your optimisation efforts – any page where you are seeing a high rate of leakage should be reviewed for intuitive calls to action and journey signposting, as well as the content itself.


If you see high drop-off to pages such as Shipping, or Returns information, consider creating lightbox overlays instead. This allows users to get the information they need without exiting the funnel.

If users are dropping off to other product pages, think about removing parts of your navigation menus. It may be tempting to allow users to shop and shop forever, but each time they exit the funnel the likelihood of them returning to convert drops. Displaying complementary products on the product or maybe basket page is fine, but once they’ve pushed on to checkout, simplify the journey as much as possible.

Goal Flow

Similar to the above, Goal Flow allows you to see drop-off by specific dimensions, such as channel, campaign, device or location. If you see high drop-off on mobile but not desktop, you’ve probably got a UX or a technical issue. Maybe your images render too small on mobile devices, or your text content is too wordy. Maybe your call to action button isn’t clear.


If paid search has a much higher drop-off, drill down into campaign level to see which campaigns are driving the least relevant traffic. Maybe you have broad match terms capturing irrelevant queries, or you need to negative match some terms. Running a search query report on high dropout campaigns will show you what’s going on.

Browser compatibility is a less common problem than in the past, but issues can still crop up, particularly with older websites. Have a look for any patterns in browser behaviours and do some old-fashioned hands-on device testing if you find any red flags.

Segmenting by landing page can give you SEO insights – if any specific landing pages have high or low conversion rates, look at the search terms delivering traffic to those pages in Webmaster Tools and see what you can infer from the user intent in those queries – terms such as reviews, discount codes, or sizing can be really explicit in showing you what content your customers need to see to make their decision.

You can even drill down further by adding segments to your data and flipping between them, such as by new vs returning visitors.

Typical problem areas

  • Enforced account creation. Guest checkout is your friend – although it’s tempting to make account creation compulsory, there are many case studies of companies increasing revenue by creating “Fast-track checkout” or “Skip to guest checkout” options.
  • Payment methods. Particularly for mobile, PayPal is viewed as a secure and convenient option, eliminating the need for customers to get their payment cards out in public. Plus, you’ll benefit from a halo effect of trust by collaborating with a known party.
  • Data collection. A golden rule of form completion is that for every additional field you request, you’ll see user drop-off (even if the field is not compulsory). Are you genuinely acting on all the data you collect? Remove anything you’re not acting on.
  • Shipping options. Delivery times and costs may be costing you revenue. If a page with this information on is seeing a big drop-off do a quick competitor audit – maybe your competitors are delivering their products faster, or cheaper. Can you offer click and collect? If you deliver by courier, do you offer flexible delivery slots or do people have to wait in all day?

A few points not to panic over…

  • Not all users who land on /basket will be ready to buy - so don’t worry too much if this page has the highest drop-off rate. Many users might just want to save the product to purchase later in the day, or be using the basket as a comparison page.
  • Your brand traffic will always convert better than your generic traffic. Brand traffic is already either someone who knows and loves you, a recommendation, or someone further down the funnel.
  • Mobile vs desktop will depend on your price point. For low-end purchases with a short consideration period, there’s no reason why mobile shouldn’t be converting as high as desktop nowadays. For higher end purchases, like holidays, furniture and electronics, you’re probably still going to see a lower mobile conversion rate.

This post has barely scraped the surface on understanding your users’ behaviours in the funnel – if you have any specific questions get in touch below or via @kkdempsey