The Ultimate E-commerce Conversion Marketing Funnel: The AIAO Funnel

ecommerce conversion funnel

For any online business, utilizing marketing funnels is essential to help make first-time visitors into paying customers. Ultimately, you don’t want users to simply visit your website. You want them to discover your brand, browse through your media, and purchase your services or products.

The original and most widely used marketing funnel is the AIDA funnel. It was developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis back in 1898 and was a pioneer of old school advertising. Although it is a brilliant summation of how a potential customer decides whether they want to use a product or service, it does not address the many influential variables in the modern and complex digital marketing sales process.

Let’s discuss some of the critical concepts you need to know to understand marketing funnels and learn about a brand new marketing funnel designed specifically for ecommerce to hook visitors, entice readers, and increase conversions.

What is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel is a step-by-step process that breaks down the user’s journey from the initial awareness stage to the final purchase. There are various ways to segment the funnel, and one common approach is to use cognitive stages, like the AIDA funnel, which focuses on the different mental stages individuals go through during the conversion process.

St. Elmo Lewis, the creator of the AIDA funnel, said, “The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him, so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him, so that when he has read it he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”

Although Lewis’ words are a revelation on a customer’s emotional journey while engaging with an advertisement, it does not address the elements that produce these cognitive feelings. The AIAO funnel is a useful tool for marketers to understand how to create content, product pages, and media that will guide visitors from initial awareness to making a purchase.

Is a Marketing Funnel Different from a Conversion Funnel?

A conversion funnel or sales funnel is somewhat interchangeable with a marketing funnel. Both help marketers understand the customers’ journey, but most funnels do not address how to guide the users effectively.

For instance, we can rephrase the AIDA funnel into an ecommerce purchase funnel: Awareness (site visit), Interest (product view), Desire (add to cart), and Action (purchase). Although this funnel is correct, it does not help us understand how to get a user from point A to Z.

It is integral to format your site to guide a customer through this journey, but what are the components we have to keep in mind to get a user from viewing a product to adding it to a cart? How can we increase the likelihood of moving from adding a product to their cart to actually adding their credit card information and hitting the purchase button? If we want them to make a purchase, we need to understand how to craft copy that sells.

Why a Marketing Funnel is Important?

A marketing funnel is important as it provides a structured framework for guiding potential customers through the stages of the buyer’s journey, from initial awareness to final purchase, helping to optimize the conversion process and drive business results. If you do not strategically address how your website is formatted, what type of content to produce, and the factors that influence a person’s decision, your visitors will never become customers. Learn more about how to create positive customer experiences and customer retention strategies.

What are the Stages of a Marketing Funnel?

There are three main segments of a marketing funnel: top, middle, and lower funnel marketing. Each stage serves a different objective. You should identify your content goals before production to understand where to place them in your overall marketing funnel. The stages of a marketing funnel are:

  • Top Funnel
  • Middle Funnel
  • Bottom Funnel

Top Funnel Marketing

Top funnel marketing aims to draw in the broadest possible pool of potential customers to your site. Content should focus less on directly selling readers on your services, rather, positioning your services or products as a solution to their queries. For example, if you have a tire shop, your marketing team can create valuable top-funnel content by identifying commonly searched questions related to tire problems through keyword research. Queries may include:

  • How often should I rotate my tires?
  • How much air should I put in my car tires?
  • How to fix a leaking tire?
  • Can I drive on a tire with a bulge?

Notice how all the queries aim to gather information to solve a problem or resolve an anxious thought. A tire shop should invest in content development that provides information for its target audience, whether local or national. The business must position themselves as experts, answer the user’s query, and solve their problem.

Example of Top Funnel Marketing:

For instance, if you develop a blog that answers questions around tire bulges, you should emphasize the urgency of the situation and offer a solution. Users who search for information about tires are typically not knowledgeable about the subject and rely on search engines to guide them on the best course of action.

Tire bulges have a high-risk of a blowout on the road, and mechanics recommend an immediate replacement before a possible breakdown. Once the reader understands they need to change their tire to avoid potential disaster, they are ready to take action. The business should then offer a solution with the lowest possible action threshold.

Since you’ve already established the consequences of not taking action, present an offer that works in the person’s best interest to entice them to visit a shop, such as a free tire inspection, and detail how your tire warranties cover tire bulges for potential future issues. The top funnel piece not only directly answers the user’s question but provides a solution that will protect them from another potential issue down the road.

Every asset in your funnel should have an offer. The worst thing you can do in advertising is to hide the fact that you are advertising. It makes it seem like it’s a con. Qualify your audience’s needs and state how you will help them. Avoid gimmicks, humor, and other trivial material that does not help the user solve their problem.

Written and video content optimized based on your target audience’s queries is the best top-funnel content. Since the user’s questions align with your business’ solutions, you know that the person is interested in your products or service. Your objective is to address their problem, position your services as a solution, build rapport with the reader, and present an unbeatable offer that will satisfy their search. Why keep digging when you’ve hit gold?

Middle Funnel Marketing

Middle funnel marketing refers to content that appeals to visitors who have previously engaged with your brand or want to continue learning more about your company’s products or services. Types of middle funnel marketing content include:

  • Webinars
  • Social media content
  • Email marketing
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Newsletters
  • Gated content

When developing mid-funnel marketing strategies, it is important to prioritize key elements such as building rapport with your audience, delivering value, and reducing the visitor’s action threshold. Remember, the goal of all our marketing efforts is to make a conversion. Every asset your team develops must focus on the endgame: to guide visitors to make purchases.

Content during the middle stages should continue to qualify the prospect’s needs and demonstrate, with evidence, why they are the best solution. It’s imperative to address all possible objections to your services and convey why their hesitation is unwarranted. For instance, if a visitor is searching for a high-end winter jacket, there are several reasons they may show reluctance when they reach the add-to-cart phase. How warm is the coat? Is it durable? Are the materials responsibility sourced? Once the customer has discovered your product, it is your job during the middle stages to ensure they are making a good purchase.

Examples of Middle Funnel Marketing:

Possible content ideas may include:

  • An in-depth customer review that details how happy they are with their purchase.
  • A video touring the production factory that shows the artisan manufacturing process and quality material.
  • A newsletter showcasing the CEO’s mission statement and recent donation to a wildlife sanctuary.

Mid-funnel content is about demonstrating why they should pick you. If we think of your business as a prospective bachelor and the customer is the bachelorette, you have reached the matching stage on a dating website, and your potential suitor is now following you on Instagram. At this point in the courting process, it’s your job to demonstrate that you are a good match for him or her.

You are nurturing the relationship and establishing a connection. You could send her funny soccer memes because she mentioned she loves Cristiano Ronaldo in her bio. You could post pictures of you and your dog because she works as a veterinarian. Develop a mutual and harmonious relationship by finding common ground and showcase why you’re the right pick.

Lower Funnel Marketing

Lower funnel marketing targets visitors in the final evaluation and purchasing stages. The final closing stages are crucial because having the fish on the hook is not enough. You need to reel it in.

During the final stages, businesses must summarize their unique selling points, create an enticing proposition with a low action threshold, and simplify their conversion process to the bare essentials. Offers such as trial memberships, exclusive gated assets, or money-back guarantees are effective strategies to strengthen your bottom funnel.

Example of Lower Funnel Marketing:

For instance, if a user searches for a premium chef’s knife, include a money-back guarantee. Although the visitor may have fallen in love with the product through video demonstrations and the product’s unique design, they still may be hesitant at the checkout phase. Provide reassurance that if they don’t like it, they can return it for a full refund.

Additionally, you can bundle a paring knife if they purchase today. Include a countdown clock at checkout to create urgency and specify the paring knife’s price if they bought it separately. The customer will not only appreciate the bonus knife, but the money-back guarantee addresses any final hesitations in the sales process. (Check out our product listing strategies, retail pricing strategies, and product page optimization tips to help convert more customers.)

The New King: The AIAO Ecommerce Marketing Funnel

The AIAO ecommerce marketing funnel is the ideal strategy to use for your digital marketing content. It is a full-proof system to help marketers position their content effectively. It attracts new visitors, provides solutions to their queries, nurtures a trustworthy connection, and prompts potential customers to act. Let’s dive into how it works.


Attention is the most crucial element in marketing. Without it, a person will never enter your funnel. To create interest, you must be interesting. To create attention, you must be attentive to your presentation.


The sad reality of marketing is that most brands spend thousands of dollars on a marketing budget only to present their product or service passively. Let’s go back to the dating example. Imagine you are a bachelor, and you spend $100 to enter a dating event only to spend your time sitting in the corner, spinning the straw in your drink. Unfortunately, this is how most brands act with their marketing efforts. They invest thousands to buy impressions for their products or services only to present a bland offer and emulate the other boring brands in their market. Don’t just pay for impressions. Make an impression!

There are many ways to get attention. Compelling images, oddities, something that stands out from the pack. Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day, and we have naturally developed expertise in the art of ignoring. Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow” emphasizes how your business must be a purple cow in a pack of regular bovine to make heads turn.

Seduce Like Casanova

You must seduce your audience, create a puzzle for them to solve, and generate curiosity for what you have to offer. Your potential visitors are on a search, and you want to position your brand as an expert guide. Identify their desire and create an enticing proposition that they have to click on. Instead of titling your article “How to Unclog a Toilet,” beef up your title with a captivating, emotional, and intriguing tone, such as “The Secret Plumber’s Trick to Unclog ANY toilet.” Which would you rather click on?

There are many different advertising avenues, but regardless of the medium, attention is the name of the game. Don’t play it safe. Don’t be shy. There are dozens of bachelors competing for the attention of the same bachelorette. You have to differentiate yourself from the others. You have to identify what your audience wants and qualify how you will give it to them.

Find Out What They Want and Give It To Them

When most people search for a product they want to purchase, they are looking to solve a problem or satisfy their desires. When people search for a service, they are looking for expertise to help them solve a problem, make money, or save money. The best way to entice searchers is to lead with the problem, followed by your solution.

Don’t make the mistake and hide your intentions. Immediately qualify your customers’ needs, address any factors that would make them hesitate, and clearly explain how you will help them. Do not view yourself as a salesman. You are an advisor, a doctor with the expertise to guide your customer on the right path or at the very least, make a sufficient impression to swim in their subconscious.


Advertising is not about silly skits and goofy dialogue. People want to learn about products and services that align with their needs and desires. They want helpful, useful, and educational information. The more information you give your audience, the more likely they are to take action.

The more you focus on understanding your audience’s needs, explaining how they will benefit from your service, and verifying your results, the more sales you will make.

What’s the Pitch?

Don’t waste their time. Clients only care about what you can do for them. The best ads do not ask their audience to buy from them. Rather, they explain why their service or products are the best on the market. Understand the problem they are trying to solve, highlight the consequences of inaction towards the issue to drive urgency, and position your brand as the best one for their needs.

Differentiate yourself from your competitors by explaining your brand’s unique selling points. Convey that you are not only the best option but how you provide exclusive benefits they will not find elsewhere.

Whether searching for a particular product or service directly or developing an advertising campaign to reach a specific audience, it is imperative to identify your clients’ needs and core beliefs that would impact the sale. You need to lean on the pain or problem points to heighten the sense of urgency for them to take action. It will also compel them to pay closer attention to your advertisement or article to resolve their cognitive dissonance. Position your service or product as the most viable solution and verify it with quantifiable metrics. Dive deeper and explain how your business will be a benefit to them in the long run.


Don’t beat around the bush. The quicker and more explicit you can address the client’s needs, position your services as a solution, build rapport, and lower their risk, the more likely they will convert. The goal of each piece of information you present to your audience should help differentiate your brand from the competition, educate the audience, and provide a solution. There is no need for fancy gimmicks or subpar comedy to explain your point. Let the information speak for itself.

Let’s take toothpaste as an example. There are dozens of toothpaste brands on the market that all have the same objective: to clean teeth. However, an average consumer is looking for the most effective toothpaste to prevent expensive cavities or tooth decay. If you have a toothpaste company, are there any unique ingredients you can highlight that most brands don’t use? Let’s say you have a new toothpaste formula that features natural ingredients.

You could say, “Our toothpaste uses all-natural ingredients that more effectively fight against tooth decay without exposing you to harmful chemicals. Our formula is 40% more effective than the average toothpaste at fighting cavities.” By leveraging simple, straightforward information, you have successfully differentiated your brand from other toothpaste brands, qualified how your brand is safer and more effective, and positioned your competition as dangerous. Let the information sell itself.


Association is possibly the most overlooked and powerful aspect of great advertising. It should directly tie to your entire marketing funnel. While information aims towards your customer’s logical appeal, the association is how your product or service makes the customer feel. Information appeals to the mind, while association appeals to the gut. Each design element, color, word, and actor is tied into an association.

Pavlov’s Dogs

One of the most groundbreaking experiments conducted in the field of psychology was Pavlov’s dogs. The brilliant scientist Ivan Pavlov accidentally discovered classical conditioning when he researched the connection between feeding periods and dogs’ salivation levels. He hypothesized that the dogs would begin to salivate once a researcher placed a bowl of food in front of them.

He was wrong. Pavlov observed that the dogs would salivate with anything associated with food, such as the lab assistants’ footsteps. He continued experimenting and paired a conditioned stimulus (a bell) with the dogs’ feeding period. After some time, the dogs would salivate once they heard the bell due to the conditioned association with food.

Brands must conscientiously construct their advertisements to incorporate positive associations with their brands. It will deliver powerful subconscious reinforcement and recognition for their products and services. No brand has mastered the art of association in advertising better than Coca-Cola.

The King of Associative Advertising: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has spent billions of dollars to associate their brand with happiness and refreshment. Their ads are filled with Coca-Cola imagery, smiling faces, and close zoom-ins on the bubbling beverage. They make their product the star and leverage powerful associations to align their soda with positivity and satisfaction. Just check out the advertisement below:

Many brands are totally oblivious to the concept of association and the effects it has on their brand. Progressive Insurance ads are often awkward, unpleasant, unfunny, cringy, and draw negative associations with their agency. Worst of all, they spend very little time telling their audience the benefits of their services. Just view the ad below.

There is a reason companies spend billions of dollars a year to hire celebrities to represent their brand. Businesses want to leverage their likeability and associate it with their brand. Jack Landis developed the Q-score measurement in 1963 to quantify a brand, celebrity, or company’s appeal. The higher a celebrity’s Q-score, the more valuable they are to the brand.

Pairing is Everything

Robert Cialdini has also studied the principles of psychology in marketing and developed the concept of pre-suasion. In his own words, Cialdini states, “pre-suasion is the practice of getting people sympathetic to your message before they experience it. It is what you say immediately before you deliver your message that leverages your success tremendously.” Cialdini elaborates on how associative imagery and actions can support your motives, marketing message, or sales objective.

Cialdini discusses a perfect example of the power of association in the video below. An online furniture store tested images of fluffy clouds vs. money on its homepage. Customers who saw the pictures of fluffy clouds on the homepage searched for more comfortable furniture. Visitors who saw pictures of money on the homepage became cost conscious and searched for more inexpensive furniture. The visitors were oblivious to the effects of the associative imagery, but their actions clearly were affected.

While you craft your ad with compelling information, make sure you pair it with associations that will support the actions you want your customers to take.


The bottom of any ecommerce marketing funnel is a great offer. Many sites publish blogs that qualify their audience and provide them value. However, they provide subpar calls to action. While increasing organic traffic and reaching new audiences is beneficial, brands must also present an irresistible offer to drive conversions.

Why Should They Buy Now?

Whenever you develop an ad, a product page, or any marketing material, always identify what you want your audience to do before creating your content. Brainstorm how you can give your audience enough value, so they take immediate action. Incorporate urgency and scarcity if possible. Specify that your offer will expire and juxtapose it with a subpar offer to contextualize what they will miss. Whether it is a discount or limited availability, help them rationalize why they must act now.

They Are Ready. Are You?

Studies show that buyers are significantly more likely to purchase closer to the time they made an initial inquiry. In fact, salespeople are 100 times more likely to successfully contact a lead if they respond within 5 minutes and 21 times more likely to qualify that lead. This principle is analogous to marketing funnels. If people search for a product or service in Google, some individuals may be in the consideration phase while others are ready to buy. Always position your landing pages with an enticing offer that convinces them to take action.

Trim the fat on your conversion path to make it as efficient and easy as possible for your visitors to become customers. It is also crucial to get them to take any action to submit their contact information. If a visitor browses your website and leaves, you have no chance to contact them. However, a simple contact form will allow you to send follow up emails, coupons, or new content to help keep your brand alive in their mind. Offer a gated asset or a piece of content ready to send after they submit their contact information.

Keep It Curious

Also, don’t overlook the power of curiosity. Geico has a straightforward but powerful slogan: 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. The genius of this slogan is the variability, the “could.” Customers could save 20%, 25%, or more, but they have to chat with a representative to find out.

Without a great offer, your visitors will stay just that. Visitors.

Intelligent Ecommerce with a Built-In, Efficient Funnel: Nogin

If you are ready to make the move to an enterprise ecommerce platform, it’s never been easier to migrate than with Nogin Intelligent Commerce and Shopify Plus. Nogin embraces the stability and ease-of-use of Shopify and extends it with enterprise-level technology that fills the gap between entry-level and enterprise platforms. Best of all there are no upfront replatforming costs and instead of waiting up to a year to complete the migration, we can get you live in under 8 weeks! Don’t worry, we check all the boxes that the major enterprise platforms have and offer much more:

  • Our servers are connected to Meta, Google, TikTok, and other social media platforms, so your ad performance won’t be affected by updates and changes, such as the iOS 16 update. While your competitors’ ad performance suffers, yours won’t.
  • Our technology features superior microtargeting. It automatically assesses site and marketing performance to push custom offers and customer differentiation, increasing conversions and lowering acquisition costs.
  • We can handle multiple frontends and multiple backends.
  • Access 40 enterprise-level tools and features that improve conversions and lower marketing spending, shipping, and returns.
  • Replatform to a superior enterprise platform without replatforming fees and go live in just 6 weeks.
  • Your store will connect to our Luminate research and development technology that tests, analyzes, and deploys superior ecommerce tactics based on the best strategies across our brands. (Over $1 billion in annual Gross Merchandise Value.)
  • True global enterprise ecommerce to reach and convert international customers.
  • Our 3PL ecommerce fulfillment solution will lower your shipping and return costs.
  • Our platform features marketing automation driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning to convert more customers at lower acquisition costs.
  • Gain access to state-of-the-art Intelligent Commerce technology, a fractional team of experts across essential functions (fulfillment, customer service, digital marketing, analytics, IT, finance/tax, etc.), and deep ecommerce expertise using a Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) approach.

If you think your ecommerce brand is the right fit, schedule a time with our team to discuss how we can transform your business using the most advanced technology stack available for independent brands. In the meantime, learn more about our CaaS approach and how we help brands compete with Amazon and dominate online retail:

E-commerce Conversion Marketing Funnel FAQ

What are the steps in the e-commerce conversion funnel?

The e-commerce conversion funnel has three main steps: top funnel, middle funnel, and bottom funnel. Each step helps guide visitors from discovering your brand to becoming loyal customers.

What is the bottom of the funnel in e-commerce?

The bottom of the funnel is the final stage where customers decide to make a purchase. It’s crucial to have strong offers and easy checkout processes to encourage conversions.

How to create a funnel for e-commerce?

To create an e-commerce funnel, start with attracting visitors at the top, engaging them in the middle, and encouraging them to purchase at the bottom. Use content, offers, and a smooth user experience to guide them through each stage.

What is the typical marketing funnel for e-commerce?

A typical marketing funnel for e-commerce includes three stages: Awareness (top funnel), Interest and Desire (middle funnel), and Action (bottom funnel). This process helps move customers from learning about your brand to making a purchase.

How to optimize conversion funnel for e-commerce?

Optimize your e-commerce conversion funnel by improving site speed, making navigation easy, and using persuasive content. Offer incentives like discounts or free shipping to encourage purchases, and always track your funnel’s performance to make adjustments.

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