The purchase funnel, or marketing funnel, is a tool that has been around for a long time and has been used by marketing experts and sales professionals to determine where in the buying process consumers were, in order to direct them towards finalizing a sale. The traditional stages of the purchasing funnel were:
The basic funnel began with “awareness” being the opening of the funnel and the widest part. As consumers saw more advertising and learned more about the product, they became “familiar” with it, and moved down the funnel, closer towards the narrow end result. After the consumer became familiar with the product, they would begin to consider purchasing it as they continued to move down the funnel.
The next step, purchase, is the ultimate goal of advertising, but the funnel went one step further when customers were so happy with a product that they bought from the same company again, thus becoming “loyal.” These five steps represent a step-by-step process that marketers and entrepreneurs were able to follow as a sure-fire way to acquire and keep customers.
Changing World of Marketing
The above five stages are certainly still relevant from a marketing perspective, as customers become aware of products and then familiar, and then proceed to consideration, purchase, and loyalty. However, the growing technology of today’s world has drastically changed the face of marketing and advertising, so entrepreneurs and marketing professionals have also had to change the way they approach the consumers’ journey from awareness to loyalty.
Smart TVs, smart phones, social media, and the exponential growth of the internet, internet advertising tools and search tools have all made reaching customers and making them aware of products much easier in many ways, but also more complicated.
The decision-making journey that finally leads a customer to make a purchase and then to remain loyal to a brand has changed from the classic funnel shape to take on a circular, cyclical form. Consulting firm McKinsey theorizes that the classic funnel is “dead.” The co-leader of McKinsey’s marketing strategy states:
“What we have seen in sector after sector is that this [funnel] is not what’s going on; we need to reframe the consumer decision journey to something more iterative, circular and more about what the consumer is actually doing—and marketing needs to be about helping customers through that journey.”
Interest Triggers and Decision Triggers
This new, circular customer journey toward purchase is anchored by important “triggers.” Interest triggers and decision triggers are crucial aspects of the new marketing model, and represent things that consumers see or hear that spur them to want to either look further into, or to purchase, the item being advertising.
Interest and decision triggers can be things such as social media posts: a consumer’s friend or family member posts a photo or a statement about a product with a raving review, and that spurs the customer to either research the item or to immediately purchase the item.
In this purchase process model, brand advocates play a more crucial role than they ever did before in the funnel marketing model. Advocates are people who have purchased a product and then spread the word about that product, essentially advertising it for free.
This advocacy triggers other consumers to research the product, compare it to other similar products, and visit other websites where there are more reviews for the product. When this customer sees many positive reviews in several different places, this represents the likely point of “decision trigger.” The more happy customers a brand has, the more products they will sell.
Advocate and Evaluate
To adapt to this new purchase model, where consumers are advocates and new consumers are triggered to research products and then triggered to buy based on what they see on online forums and social media sites, companies have to adapt quickly along with it.
Rather than fighting the new trend of online forums and product review sites, as companies have attempted to do in the past, businesses benefit from going along with this new trend, and encouraging a dialogue about their product. Amazon is a great example of a company that takes full advantage of this new trend in consumer behavior, and uses customer evaluations to improve their business.
This new world of marketing also requires more communication with customers, overall. It’s important to utilize simple sites like Facebook and Twitter, where customers can simply “like” your page and then receive continuous information about your company, or at least from your company.
While social media is a great way to advertise a company, advertising techniques on social media are greatly different from advertising techniques of the past. No longer is simple sales-talk sufficient. Customers who are “fans” of your company on Facebook appreciate engaging content that brings them into a discussion with your business and with fellow fans. Advertising on social media should be entertaining.
In this new marketing model, businesses must maintain a consistent image throughout all of their social media and other internet platforms, as well as any other advertising campaigns. The brand should be easily recognizable and unmistakably distinguishable from all of the others, because consumers are bombarded with millions of ads every day.
With just a quick glance, a customer should be able to remember what brand’s advertisement they just saw. Once a business has engaged customers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media sites with engaging content, they then have to close the advertising loop by linking all of their pages together. Clicking over from the fun Facebook page to the website where they can buy the product should be easy and intuitive for customers, and vice-versa.
Marketing professionals in this new, rapidly changing and growing environment are up against a challenge in guiding customers through the stages, from awareness to purchase. New marketing strategies that overcome the new hurdles are those that are just as rapidly changing a growing as the advertising environment.