The new consumer purchase funnel

Image: GfK Custom Research

One of the marketing mantras that I have long struggled with is the traditional sales funnel, which lays out the journey a consumer goes on in the purchase of an item.

I say struggle not because this funnel is difficult to understand. Indeed, as a consumer myself I can see how this is a common-sense approach to the selling process and it helps frame marketing decisions against consumer insights and drive investments.

Where I struggle is that in our modern era this sales funnel just does not make sense. The funnel does not account for the rapid nature of today’s marketplace, and it doesn’t accurately reflect the new consumer or the touchpoints they use in their purchase decisions. It also skips an important element at the base of the funnel – advocacy. After purchase, don’t you want consumers to then tell others about their experience with your product?

Havard Business Review published an outstanding article this month that puts forth a new consumer journey. The new model places greater emphasis on loyalty and advocacy and better reflects the dynamics of today’s market. Instead of a funnel, the consumer journey looks more like rings of concentric circles. The inner core is made of brands to which the consumer is loyal, will advocate for or bond with online. The outer circle is essentially everything else.

One of the most important elements of this new approach to the consumer funnel is the role of the marketer. If we’re not there to initiate awareness of our product then what are we do to?

As HBR puts it: orchestrate. Organize resources as a utility to your consumer and make their job easier. Align internal marketing resources around the narrative of your product rather than the traditional functional areas and ensure that you are selling not just a product, but a product lifecycle. Know that your consumer will have a consistent experience before, during and after purchase so that you can break into that inner circle and join the ranks of brands for which that consumer will become an advocate.

The other important element: marketer as publisher. Think about the many ways consumers research and touch your brand and products. For example, in the consumer electronics space product reviews truly are the killer app. To meet that demand, consider putting unbiased, honest syndicated consumer reviews straight into your website so you can encourage consumers to do all of their research in one place. There are many other ways marketers can leverage the wealth of content already in existence, and there are plenty of opportunities to create new content that is meaningful to the consumer.

Clearly none of this is without challenges. In many cases this fundamentally alters the way a company is structured and how it executes marketing programs. Still, it takes a champion to begin making the case for change and if not now, when?

You want to be building the quickest possible purchase experience for the consumer and the easier you can make their job, offer them a product that delivers on the promises made in the marketing mix and keep their brand loyalty at its peak. This new approach to the sales funnel is helpful for directional guidance. Where you go from here is up to you.