The Decision-Making Funnel, Stage 3: Desire, Part 1

In “Landing Pages and the Decision-Making Process,” I described the well-known AIDA conversion funnel and how it governs all Web conversions.

The key AIDA stages are:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

We’ve already examined awareness and interest. Over the next two columns, we’ll look at the desire stage.

The mindset and attention span of the visitor in the desire stage is different from those in the preceding stages. Whereas the attention and interest stages may have lasted only a few seconds, visitors in the desire stage may give you their full attention for minutes, or even hours. They’re in research mode and are willing to take more time.

With visitors in the desire stage, you get the precious gift of having them spend time on your landing page or Web site. You’ve piqued their interest and they’re now checking you out. You’re engaged in a subtle seduction to continue to increase your visitor’s desire.

Just as in an interpersonal setting, seduction is a tricky and tenuous activity. You can’t move too fast without seeming off-putting. Yet we see this all the time on the Web.

Have you ever visited an e-tailer Web site and, after being shown some random featured product on the home page, been instructed to “Buy It Now”? This can be seen as premature and inappropriate. Instead, follow these basic rules for building desire:

  • Make the visitor feel appreciated. The Web allows you to provide your visitors with all kinds of useful information at minimal cost to you. This information, if properly used, can make them feel knowledgeable, powerful, and understood.
  • Make the visitor feel safe. The Web is a scary place, and your landing page or Web site is often a total stranger to your visitors. Do everything you can to let them get to know you better. It’s important to be completely open, honest, and transparent. Also, do everything you can to alleviate their fears by transferring credibility from others in the form of testimonials, awards, and trust symbols.
  • Understand that the visitor is in control. Visitors should be able to dictate the terms of the relationship with you. This includes the timescale of the interaction, the order in which things get done, the option to stay anonymous for as long as possible, and the ability to look for information in whatever format is easiest and most appropriate for them.

Do You Have What the Visitor Wants?

To determine whether you have what they want, a typical visitor will pass formally or informally through several steps:

  • Research
  • Compare
  • Get details
  • Customize

Although the following examples are drawn mostly from e-tailing, the principles and steps are the same for all landing pages and Web sites.


Understand what features of the product or service are important to visitors. Rank their importance as must-have, nice-to-have, and nonessential.

During the research step, people may have only vague notions of what they want. They’re looking for a guide or a knowledgeable expert to help them get oriented. Once they understand the lay of the land better, they can compare the available options against their perceived needs.

These needs may undergo change during the research process. As new information becomes available, additional needs may arise.

Alternatively, former needs may become irrelevant in light of some new discovery or understanding. As long as your information is useful and objective, you get to define the rules of the game, and can present key features that are a source of competitive advantage and a differentiator for you.

This information can be presented in a variety of formats:

  • Whitepapers: Informational articles (typically used in a business-to-business setting) to educate prospects about important and complex topics
  • Buying guides: Articles written to educate consumers about important features and differences among a certain class of products or services
  • Wizards: Automated tools that help visitors zero in on the right solution by asking them a series of questions related to their specific task
  • Demonstrations: Videos, animations, or presentation slides that showcase a particular product or service

In Part 2, I’ll conclude examining the desire stage by looking more closely at comparison, getting details, and customization.

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