The Sales Funnel in the Age of Social Media

The Sales Funnel in the Age of Social Media

Learn how to use traffic segmentation with the traditional sales funnel, but also to re-imagine it for the era of paid social media - and supercharge your Shopify store's results.

Written by Jason

4 min read

The sales funnel has been a cornerstone of selling goods since the dawn of consumer capitalism in the late 19th Century — so is the oldest theory of marketing still relevant in today’s fast-paced ecommerce landscape? Can we, as brand owners and marketers, really weaponise a dated concept and deploy it to killer effect in the fastest moving digital vertical: Paid Social?

In this blog, I am going to explore how we can use traffic segmentation to not only mirror the traditional sales funnel but also reimagine it for the era of paid social media traffic —and in doing so, supercharge results for your Shopify store.

The Sales Funnel

As an ecommerce business owner or marketer, you are probably familiar with the concept of the sales funnel, encompassing ‘awareness’, ‘interest’, ‘desire’ and ‘action’ or variants thereof. Regardless of the iteration, the steps are always broadly the same, sometimes including retention as a fifth-step.

Image Credit: Smart Insights

In my opinion, a combination of age, familiarity and ubiquity have served to erode the concept in the mind of marketers to that of a perfunctory checklist - one which Social Media Marketers wheel out to reassure ourselves that we have our bases covered before going live. However, in order to maximise the funnel, we should really be using it as a framework to inform the elements of a winning paid campaign, as opposed to attempting to force all of the moving parts in as an afterthought.

Answering honestly, when was the last time you had the time or the inclination to rationally deconstruct your social media sales funnel? Never? Not to worry, let’s do it now!

Breaking Down the Sales Funnel

This breakdown aims to segment everyone based on how far they have made it through your buying funnel in order to show them the ideal ad for where they are in the buying process.

Given the power of Facebook’s algorithm, and depending on the amount of data available, I advocate optimising for your end goal at all stages of the funnel if possible. With appropriate segmentation, you should be able to shoot for the sale straight away.

In essence, if you want your prospect to make a purchase, then optimise for purchase from the outset.

Step 1: Cold Traffic - Top of The Funnel

Here you target people who have never heard of your business in order to drive awareness (and sales) - corresponding to the A in AIDA: (Awareness / Interest / Desire / Action).

This is where we acquire new customers while still aiming to make sales and also fill our funnel with new people who we can retarget later. It is here that we need to segment our potential prospects from those who could be interested, from the ones that never will be.

Audience - Interests / behaviours, lookalikes or broad geographic.

Method - Grab their attention quickly, give them some value, interrupt them by showing them the problem and introducing your product as a solution or create a need for the product.

Formats - Lead magnets, IG story, click to messenger ads, short educational video.

Step 2: Warm Traffic - Middle of The Funnel

This step equates to late stage awareness moving into early desire and hinges on prospects who are aware of the brand or product and have perhaps engaged with your profiles but have yet to visit the website.

Essentially, you have gained their attention. The prospect has seen your ad, and they did more than simply scroll on by - they took a moment to engage with you by leaving a comment, watching a video, or clicking, but they haven’t checked out your products or made an indication that they’re ready to buy.

Audience - Social media engagers or video viewers.

Method - Focus on what benefits our product will give them; show them some testimonials, highlight the benefits in order to convince them your product is something they need.

Formats - Educational video, product ads, product carousel, testimonial ads.

Step 3: HOT Traffic - Bottom of The Funnel

These are the people who have visited our website, have taken some actions but they haven’t purchased. They have shown DESIRE and are primed to purchase.

Target - Landing page viewers, product page viewers, add to cart, initiate checkout.

Method - Focus on targeting prospects with user-generated content and testimonials, show them social proof to increase trust. Press on pain points and show your product benefits from different angles, create FOMO or scarcity ads and add limited time offers to drive ACTION.

Formats - After someone has viewed your product page, there’s one type of ad that clearly outshines all others—dynamic product ads (DPAs).

Step 4: ACTION

After the prospect has clicked the advert comes the point of conversion - a step that depends on having a smooth post-click experience and a strong landing page that converts (we can design and build these for you if required!).

Step 5: Retention

These are the people who have purchased, who we would like to increase the lifetime value of by turning them into loyal, repeat customers - with the ultimate aim of having them evangelise about your products and brand. The key thing here is to factor in the length of your purchase cycle. If you have a limited product range, it is paramount that you exclude recent customers from your audience in order to not annoy them and put them off.

You may at some point wish to retarget them to upsell products and leverage their existing loyalty, but again caution is key and the Facebook audience exclusion tool is essential to avoid losing your hard-won new customers.


Next time you have a new offer or product launch, ensure that the sales funnel is the first tool you reach for instead of the last. When you are building your offer, writing copy, briefing creative or building your ads, use it as the framework from which you anchor all these other elements instead of just boxes that you tick.

Segment your traffic and let the sales funnel be the foundation on which you build your store’s success. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you implement a successful paid social media campaign for your Shopify business, why not drop us a line?

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