The Multi-Level Conversion Model

Website conversion is frequently attributed to a straightforward sequential process, where the user hops between web pages, one after the other. One visual representation of this somewhat predictable pattern is called Funneling. A funnel filters out users as they near the final stages, paying close attention to relevant variables, including the dropout rate. Although users drop less in later stages, marketers recognize the importance of changes that happen at any stage. They meticulously examine each one, without discriminating based on predictions or previous data, continually looking for improvement.

Funneling does not account for user unpredictability

There are some indications that the conversion funnel displays some flaws by design, since users may drop off before they even get into position adjacent to conversion.

Conversion goals are meant to set aside product refinements or sales strategies and focus on what current efforts account for people committing to buy.

When we go out intending to buy something, there are all sorts of questions we measure in our mind before we lock on a decision. This questionnaire is apparent to us, but marketing gurus have to guess and accurately predict its outlook. The accuracy of such predictions indicates not only how great companies know their clients, but how likely they are to prefer their product to somebody else’s. Any shopper’s internal dialog is a significant influencer on their decision making.

User decision-making is a wild rollercoaster ride that ends up well only when conversions sits at the end of it

Since mind-reading is beyond marketers’ abilities, predicting customer’s behavior sometimes is nothing less of gambling. When logical thinking is broken in any way, past experiences won’t help when forming a retention strategy. Psychology comes to the rescue here, presenting several well-recognized models for thinking patterns generally observed in shoppers. For example, self-justification is one condition nobody is insured against tapping into. An example of self-justification is when someone denies facts that contradict their belief system. When a customer runs on a belief system based on wrong assumptions, even the best marketing experts are left with pure guesswork.

The multi-level conversion method looks to compensate for unpredictability like customer behavior by converging on the relations between all the seemingly random variables involved. This model comes as a result of practical knowledge and on-site testing.

Web Analysis with the Multi-Level Conversion Model (MLCM)

When you are trying to discover all the faults and quirks of your website, noticeable from the regular viewer’s perspective, a multi-level conversion method can contribute to solving this problem. This method examines pages in a non-technical way, seen in most SEO analyses. It gathers information about page experience, a bird-eye level view of the process, unbiased by the programming code’s linear logic, or the suggestive nature of UI elements.

The layers of the “Multi-Level Conversion Model”

There are six main layers within the MLCM; we will highlight the importance of each.

Relevance, Trust, Orientation, Stimulation, Security, Comfort, Rating
Relevance, Trust, Orientation, Stimulation, Security, Comfort, Rating

Layer #1: Relevance

Level 1: Relevance
Level 1: Relevance

Let’s take an example of a shopper and call her Karen. Karen wants to buy a summer dress. Relevance, the first layer of MLCM comes, is one of the critical factors. Karen enters some keywords and browses pages with dresses that match the fabricated image of that perfect summer dress Karen keeps in her mind while searching. Karen uses the search term ‘summer dress,’ but she wants a more general outlook of what’s available before specifying for colors and sizes. Whenever she finds a lovely dress, she could grab the product title and use it to search for cheaper alternatives. If Karen doesn’t find what she is looking for in the first few results pages, she will hit the back button and change the search term. Do you see yourself doing some or most of these actions when browsing?

Adding Relevance to your future clients’ experience

When you search for a specific item on the net in broader terms - you need to be a bit abstract to include the results you didn’t know you wanted to see, and specific enough to find a good match. Most people don’t realize that what they are looking for might still be there, only under a different, maybe more popular term or synonym. Maximizing efforts thrown in making it more relevant to customers is crucial, hence the high importance embedded in the first layer of the Multi-Level Conversion Model.

The model provides some revelations about how customer surfs but deciding which page elements need improvement or change is a decision that still needs to be made. Here are some examples:

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) - this is the ability for the human eye to recognize written text and differentiate it from other similar elements, for example, ones with real decorative value. OCR includes handwritten text, so this character recognition mode extends the range page designers have when building page content.

“Now you’re speaking my language” – the goal of a programming language is roughly to provide the back power of the presentational part. People don’t need to read code to be able to navigate around, but what they end up reading must make sense to them. Catchy phrases coined with the idea they bring high marketing value to products is good on paper, but they are useless to the end customer. Using a common language with customers is the epitome of a healthy feedback system, and feedback is instrumental in getting the right message across.

The Unasked Questions – shoppers have an avalanche of thoughts and questions forming in their minds while going through the purchasing process. As a provider, predicting and answering those questions before they even become an issue is a key to customer satisfaction. With fewer question marks around, the mind of the user is free to concentrate on what’s important.

The Right Call-to-Action – CTAs are not merely connecting nodes of different pages or stages. The best call-to-action buttons and messages are those who blend in with page content and are a natural continuation of the shopper’s journey. For example, instead of the general “Read More,” you could put something more descriptive like “Learn more about this feature.”

Everything at first glance – maybe a visitor landed on one of your products while searching specific key phrases. Still, once they reach your domain, it’s immensely important to show everything you have to offer in the least steps possible. Making your homepage a beacon of all your most valued services and products is not only an excellent way to organize your products but makes it accessible by potential customers.

Relevant Optical Navigation
Relevant Optical Navigation

Icons as product categories denominators can be beneficial, if visual ques tend to be descriptive of the category they represent. Each category icon is there to increase recognizability but is always accompanied by a title written in characters. People can read fast, but shapes and forms are identified by the human brain more quickly, and hence they hold incredible value, mainly in the levels of site usability. When in doubt, what icon is best for a category –a simple card selection test might be the tool to reveal that answer.

Once a customer has locked in an item, based on product pure quality, they move to examine the shipping and delivery conditions. It is pretty standard for a customer to bail out if the delivery options are not suitable, even if they previously locked their eyes on the product and considered buying it.

Use a clean and comfortable display of shipping and handling details – customers must be able to get to it quickly. 

Layer #2: Trust

Level 2: Trust
Level 2: Trust

Relevance is detrimental, but the next layer is no less critical. Trust is an invaluable factor in any relationship and has at least a thousand heart-breaking romance stories to prove it. Earning your customers’ trust is a big challenge, but it is one factor that separates well recognize brands from all the pretenders. Trust is a hard-earned privilege. Some studies show that when people meet someone for the first time, the decision comes within seconds. Concurrent studies claim this process takes even much less time than that! This flash-like nature of the decision-making process is part of the reason why website designs based on credibility are gaining popularity.

The lack of trust is one the single most common and detrimental factors for why a customer might cancel an online transaction. This is why ‘seller rating’ is a potent variable in shopping sites like eBay or Amazon.

Trust and credibility are the backbones of customer loyalty. Hard evidence suggests that loyal customers are more valuable simply because they are more likely to return and spend even more.

So our fictional customer Karen just passed the Relevancy barrier. After she searched around for suitable websites, she locked her attention to your product page. Now, it is time you need to earn her trust.

The power of Aesthetic Design – most customers have been around the block and can quickly recognize low-quality services by just glancing at the site interface. Your store must have design components arranged in the absolute synergy that exudes professionalism. The color scheme must match the website’s tone and purpose, and the interface must be easy to use, even pleasant.

The stamp of approval – if your shop has what it takes to deserve the attention of quality-seeking customers, you must be able to showcase this feat visually. Put your certificates and achievement badges in visible places, but in ways that do not interfere with the golden ration of display area shared by design elements. When people browse online shops, one of the first thing they check is the SSL certificate – this is one of the first trust-inducing elements in customer’s journeys. Before they reach the stage where they have their credit card ready, they must know that their personal information is safe. Clients quickly recognize popular payment options by their signature icons – make sure these are put on prominent display on checkout stages.

Display of relevant trust marks
Display of relevant trust marks

Testimonials – the best source for honest product reviews come from other customers. If you don’t enable your clients to share their positive experience with your products – many possible opportunities will be missed. Customer opinion is what certifies that what you claim your product has matches reality. People are tired of stumbling on overhyped services that don’t deliver what they promise. “See what other customers said about this product” works like a magic formula. Testimonials are one of the most powerful tools for shaping customers’ decision making and tip the scales in favor of increased sales chances. The mere presence of testimonials or review section on a shopping site increases the confidence users have in it.

Display of Testimonials and Ratings
Display of Testimonials and Ratings

Brand Credibility - Customers in a hurry would never even consider losing their time checking less credible sources, or even legitimate sources that only look unreliable. You may have what it takes to provide the quality your customer expects, but you might have a problem communicating this to them. Brand credibility is the attempt to showcase product quality in virtually everything that has anything to do with it – from the outside looks, shape, colors, packaging, delivery, feedback.

Layer #3: Orientation

Level 3: Orientation
Level 3: Orientation

After establishing yourself as a reliable and trusty provider, Karen is now browsing your wares, enticed, and curious at what you have to offer. The first few seconds of impression tips the scales one way or the other. So much power and meaning packed within a split-second. It’s almost hard to justify the effort put into such a bizarre-sounding idea - investing in a negligible amount of customers’ attention. The first few seconds spent with a new brand are unlike any other later seconds, minutes, or months. Colossal attempts towards getting a good first impression seem to justify all other invested efforts.

Cognitive alleviation for the client

Standard psychological methods show that people are running checks on their actions in a perpetual manner. Mental trouble for the client is reserved for executive decisions only. The rest of their journey must be as pleasant as sailing in calm waters. This viewpoint dragged down to the reality of a person’s mind when they navigate through a website. They ask questions like, “Where should I click next.” Answering such questions for them is what successful providers do.

In eCommerce, “being there for the customer” increases in importance time fold. When an online user is unsure what to do next, regardless of whether they even have a choice ready, they tend to frustrate. And when people are discouraged during a mid-action, they blame themselves for it. Sure, they bumped into your buggy web form, but it was they who decided to use it. Examples such as these have made shop owners well aware of the substantial benefits of a customer-centric business approach.

Welcome to my showroom

Let’s see what Karen decides to do next. She has seen your presentation and is ready to check what else is there to see. What else is there to do to make her stay more hassle-free? Why not even enjoyable?

Multiple Access Points – before Karen purchases anything or browsers a few pages, we can’t claim with certainty what her ideal search phrase was that led her to our page. Maybe she typed the site’s URL directly because it is one that’s easy to remember. The less trouble along the way to the favorite merchandise, the better.

Search Compatibility – It’s no secret that search terms’ accuracy matters a lot for shoppers. Your eCommerce site should include a search field, and what’s more, it should facilitate spelling mistakes. Search engines have taught people to trust the autocorrect aid during the initial search, and they translate this habit to shop’s inbuild search pages. Your search functionality better supports incorrect spelling suggestions, or you will lose all the people who are used to being corrected by smart AI.

Web Usability – Karen may like what she sees, but the way she reaches whatever catches her attention has to be done with the least possible mouse clicks, button presses, screen scrolls, or time spend thinking between all these micro-actions. A smooth customer’s journey is one that minimizes the effort and the pathway to the desired end-point. Good website usability is paramount to everything positively related to customer interactions. For example, a clean interface is an example of excellent usability logistics, where the shortest path to the point of interest is the best path.

Speaking My Language – the customer may not use or understand the same terms or expressions you, as a professional provider, are used to using and are very familiar with. This is where persona profiles come in handy. By making an accurate representation of the actual person browsing your product pages, you can not only improve experiences but also predict actions with negative consequences and eradicate them before they expand and cause any real problem.

Layer #4: Stimulation

Level 4: Stimulation
Level 4: Stimulation

Several examples of past research on human behavior clearly show that people are not the rational creatures they usually claim to be. The part of our human brain in charge of high-level decision-making is relatively new in development. As intelligent creatures who consider themselves masters of their destiny, we humans are mostly deceived by our power to control our thoughts, for example.

Recent insights about our brain and how it works suggest that we make most of our decisions subconsciously. Older parts of our brain, refer to as some as the primal brain, are quick to act in contrast, our neocortex likes to take time and assess the situation, but it is not always given that precious opportunity. Our rational thoughts are surpassed in time by our primal reactions.

Emotions Rule

Whether it’s about the conclusion of short-term or long-term decisions, we might not notice it, but feelings overpower reason most of the time. Humans prefer to rely on logic when constructing the world around them and how it works. However, their impact on this world, their input, is rooted in something that’s has a lot to do with who we are – emotions.

When making a purchase, if the feeling is right, people tend to ignore the rational part of the deal like price, shipping cost, maintenance rate, etc. If the product becomes something far more significant than its material value, a new customer relationship level is reached.

Successful business models rely on a nice blend between rational decisions and impulsive shots in the dark. The fact that emotions can sometimes be a part of the transactions does not mean only vendors are entitled to use it (or abuse it). Companies that equally value their teams and their customers tend to be more successful and run better conversion rates. High valued teams have the mental might and composure to translate a piece of their mind into the product itself, so even customers can feel the synergy behind the product they use.

How to provoke the impulse in customers

Empathy – when companies grow in size, they get more clients, but the sheer volume can sometimes make the message they are trying to send to their followers how to encode clearly. When doing marketing campaigns, make sure you view the effect from the perspective of the client. The way our world works, people can spot the phony a mile away and pull back.

Clear Communication – During advertising campaigns, it’s best always to broadcast clear messages. When this is done wrong, not only new customers are lost, but some of the existing might pull away too. The primal part of our brain is best equipped to process simple sentences – use them more often in communication. Complex sentences and words can induce overthinking, or, at a minimum, pull the neocortex into the mix, which is unnecessary.

Product Promo – In most cases where products are tangible things that can be touched, the looks are everything. Never showcase your products with a bad quality image or photo. Even product thumbnails should look sharp and possibly reveal small details. Motion graphics are even more effective and emotion-powered, but they are harder to manage; moreover, they can even produce an adverse effect when misused.

Client Persona – Criminal investigators use personas to manage better all the suspects involved. To them, a clear persona profile not only helps find the culprit but let’s all the innocent people involved be scratched off the case. Similarly, a persona created to fit the customer’s mindset can help better define who is and who isn’t a potential customer. Based on that, effort channeled in marketing and advertising will produce better effects. A persona not only helps you find the right client but enables you to avoid disappointing your existing ones.

Layer #5: Security

Level 5: Security
Level 5: Security

The importance of security in eCommerce is obvious, justified by customer feedback. Since online shopping goes hand in hand with online payment, customer privacy becomes a factor. Cybersecurity, including the protection of customer information, is an absolute necessity. While we could resort to the anonymity of cash when stocking on groceries, we do pay digitally when we order merchandise online and add our personal information into the gamble.

After returning from a ten-year retreat from Apple, Steve Jobs explained to his developers the importance of a customer-centric approach to selling a product. New technology is worth the value and the unique experience it creates for customers. The customer-centric approach also reveals intriguing insight about customers – they value the presence of security.

Does the item have a warranty? Can I return this device and get a refund? Are there additional fees? Is my information safe here?

Since security is something most online shoppers are concerned with intimately, they seriously consider all risk factors when purchasing. If the risk is too high, they might cancel the whole order and forget about the item. This is a very undesirable outcome since these are people who usually reach the final stage. It’s a real shame when the sales process fails because of a security issue because these typically happen towards the end of it.

When security comes on the table of factors for customers to consider, chances are they already locked on a purchase. It’s time to help the customer finalize their decision.

Security, Trust, and Risk

Website security contributes to customers’ overall trust towards vendors and reduces the amount of risk for them. Security comes as an indispensable layer, right after Relevance and Trust. Many shopping cart abandonments come from the lack of security, whether the payment method comes with security issues or a preferred payment gateway not available.

Credit card fraud is a significant concern, and most people have justified prejudices when paying digitally. Some eCommerce platforms, like Shopware, have inbuilt fraud anti-measures, but these gradually become stepping stones for more complicated security measures. AI alone is excellent for cybersecurity detection and analysis. Still, the human touch is necessary, since this is one of the areas where fraudsters and cybercriminals are continually working, keeping website administrators on their toes all the time.

Trust can be achieved by adding visual signs like security certificates, logos, partnership badges. Especially worthy are the symbols for well-recognized payment gateways. “All major credit card accepted” opens a whole new customer potential. If security issues influence the percentage of shopping cart abandonment, payment options do so even more. Suppose a person is used to shooing using their PayPal account. In that case, he might not even consider buying something off a site without this payment option, even if the item is very desirable.

At this point, our made-up customer, Karen, has locked on a product. She is on the checkout page, ready to hit the “Buy” button, still revising everything that can potentially diminish this purchase’s value.

How to provide the security customers need to feel safe

Sense of control – Now, the word ‘sense’ suggests that this control is only going to be fictitious, exclusively residing in the customer’s mind. This is not true – by selecting payment or delivery options, the client is already altering the process and shaping it in a unique way that defines their personal preferences. Moreover, people evaluate an action or a process they participate in a more positive if they can personally influence it. This feeling of control is an incredibly powerful motivator for people when completing a purchase.

Communication Signals – As an online shop owner, you need to show your clients that you are always there for them. This can be done with live chat or a hotline. But be aware that these instant feedback channels must be customized to become even more attractive to customers. When she reaches the hotline, Karen might need to know who she would be speaking to, what hours of the day, and what charge.

Transparency – Clear goals make a successful company what they are because they don’t need to pretend in front of their customers to be more likable. Trustworthy brands show their customers what makes them tick and deliver the quality they are known for. Transparency is the gateway to security. For example, real-time tracking functionality for orders has an incredible impact on how clients perceive the whole company. It is one way that companies reveal their mechanics, a see-through veil, letting customers peek at internal processes and see what drives the producer of their favorite services or products.

Data Protection – When Karen first landed on your home page, she immediately noticed some signs showing that the website runs on an SSL certificate. The minute affirmation that her data will be safe makes her choice much more comfortable and much more likely to finalize. Data protection is a rational requirement people have when browsing online, but the fact your data is secured carries a more emotional impact.

Layer #6: Comfort 

Level 6: Comfort
Level 6: Comfort

Comfort is a high-level state of the relationship between providers and clients. At this point, Karen has made a decision, and there’s almost nothing that can prevent that from happening. This point in the sales process is critical because of its irreversibility. When Caesar’s army crossed the Rubicon– it was a clear indicator of his intentions, and a decision that defines a path of no return. This historical moment is embedded in the Rubicon model, that tries to explain the point of no return in a sequence of decision. Although this notion sounds ominous by nature, from the perspective of our example, it means that once Karen has passed the checkout, her worries immediately change to a different set of problems and expectations. Is my product going to arrive on time? Who is responsible if the part has a defect? One of the insights achieved through our Multi-level conversion model is that as a provider, you need to understand how customer worries and expectations change when they pass a ‘point-of-no-return’ stage in their shopping journey.

Comfort: Beyond the help of technology

The client’s comfort is a multi-layered factor. You can induce it through technology by having intuitive navigation, clean interfaces, or useful shortcuts. However, these are only tools the company uses to unload any cognitive trouble that besets the path of customers.

One of the areas that are saturated with comfort issues is user registration. Customers have the product in mind, but first, they must go through a process, dealing with password requirements, validations, filling out forms. Sometimes, too many clicks to get there is what kills the desire in customer, and they would instead leave. Having “guest” account options are one of the best-proven methods to reduce shopping cart abandonments – a significant percentage of people who leave online shops have this concern. The comfort factor is especially valid in B2B relations, and if delivery or payment terms between partners run unoptimized – the losses in conversion and retention can be immense.

How do we build comfort?

Reduce Data Clutter – every filled-out text field or ticked checkbox done by the customer is a demotivation agent. The less information is required from clients – the best their experience would be. Such discrepancies come from the fact that what the company considers valuable customer info, the customer thinks it’s obsolete and loses their time. Be careful and extract what’s necessary. Getting customer insights relies on such information, but asking them about their first pet’s name during initial registration is too much.

Optimize Delivery and Payment – people leave immediately if their favorite payment gateway is not an option, or if free-delivery is missing. Find out what frustrates your clients because many of them will go for a single reason like the ones previously mentioned. It would help if you quickly spot what bothers your customers, even on a personal level, and work towards eradicating it.

Customer Loyalty – when customers come to order again, this is one of every provider’s happiest moments. Loyal clients are kings. As soon as Karen finds the best and easiest way to find a summer dress, she will be there, browsing. However, is that going to be your website that she is on?

Customer Feedback – Karen has just bought something from you. Is she happy with her purchase? Did she choose you over a competitor, and what tipped the scales in your favor? Talk to your client about your products. The feedback they will give you carries answers of questions that companies always ask themselves, but not always able to pass down directly to their customers. Ask Karen if buying a dress was an easy process and thank her for contributing to making your services even better.

If Karen gets stuck at the checkout and moves away – even a better reason to ask “why.” You possibly already lost one customer, but her feedback will help you face similar problems in the future, perhaps keep a lot of new prospects who went through the same thing Karen did.

Layer #7: Rating 

Level 7: Rating
Level 7: Rating

Without this final layer, a crucial link in communication and sales process is inadvertently broken. Karen made a purchase, but who knows what she thinks of the product, or whether she will be back to buy more. Many buyers trigger an enjoyable thought process a few seconds after they completed an order. They begin questioning their decision with the tenacity of someone who knows they did something wrong and have just found about it.

This post-sales self-criticism customers undertake called buyer’s remorse and are a well-documented phenomenon. The idea is that Karen, already having bought her dress, can conclude, based on price-value relationships, that her choice was emotion-driven, rather than practical or the best possible. Also, did she spend enough time researching for her item? Such doubts are natural occurrences, and what online vendors must do is reduce their effects.

Minimize Post-Sales Doubt in Customers

Reason – The best part about reason is that it resorts to logic, and logic is something people appreciate as a factor for intent. All your product practical and rational values must be on display. People like to have safety options like “30-day-back” or round-the-clock support. They will most likely never use it but having them there makes all the difference for things like conversion. Free shipping on Karen’s dress order and the chances for her canceling are now practically zero. Delivery discount is high on Karen’s list of factors in online purchases that matter to her. Who would have thought?

The Thank-you page – Product highlights should also be on the thank-you page. Re-visit all the benefits and values so that self-doubt is minimized. List all the follow-up actions, so the customer knows what’s next: tracking info, delivery estimates, feedback references. These are the pages that certify that the client did everything correctly. Green checkboxes are not just to produce a sense of achievement – they will feel better if there aren’t any additional outstanding problems or necessary actions, cognitive or otherwise.

Immediate Feedback and Connection – Be there for your customer since their initial step. Don’t be afraid to say ‘hello’ via a home page greeting or a live chat sidebar notification. Congratulate them for the choices they made, and possibly explain the reason behind it being a better option. The comparative analogy is what frequently crosses the mind of a customer, be there to present the best arguments for cases customers experience at this very moment. For example, if a customer selects an almost out of an item, create an instant message like “Great choice! We are almost running out of this item!”

Positive Surprises – What makes an impact on customers; opinion is taking the extra step. Give them something they didn’t pay for and didn’t expected, but at the same time, will appreciate as a nice gesture. For example, don’t include the price tag in the box that you ship to Karren; it will only remind her how much she paid for it. Instead, why not send her a free dress hanger or small perfume that looks like an inseparable part of the whole package. Some companies have mastered the art of selling products because of their superior packaging, over anything else, like the product’s actual value.

Customer Relationship – many eCommerce shops are underestimating the post-sales power of marketing. After all, online shopping is where this approach is most relevant. Keep in touch with your customers with selective marketing. The golden zone of online marketing is to be of value without intruding. Send your first-time customers a follow-up email with promotions customized for their taste. This can be achieved with AI’s help since no shop owner can profile every potential and present customer personally.


This seven-layer model is not a solution that fits every approach to online commerce. However, it does explain the critical factors participating in what makes conversion a success act. The multi-level conversion model final layer, Rating, is what makes sense of everything prior to that, since during that phase is when decision making takes place.


Andreas Maier | CEO

Andreas is a result-oriented CEO who brings nearly 30 years of experience gained in the high-tech industry. His experience ranges up to leading positions in Fortune 100 companies such as (PCLN) or Intrasoft International, a leading EU based R&D software vendor. He holds a Ph.D. in Neural Networks from the University of Cologne, Germany.
In the past Andreas has successfully founded and co-founded several startups among others XXL Cloud Inc., eShopLeasing Ltd, and WDS Consulting SA. His expertise is strongly focused on modern headless Commerce and the optimization of processes in IT ecosystems.