The linear purchase funnel is dead

Historically, the traditional purchase funnel has offered marketers a convenient way to view a consumer’s progression through the stages of brand consideration, brand evaluation and, eventually, brand decision. Marketers’ efforts were geared toward moving consumers from the wide end of the funnel (i.e., brand awareness) to the narrowest point – the purchase – which was seen as the last step. Along the way, a consumer’s choices narrowed as he or she came closer to making a decision. The Internet and social media have changed the game, of course. The “consumer’s buying process,” which used to be thought of as linear, has become more of an interactive loop. McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, has suggested an alternative model for mapping the consumer path to purchase: the “consumer decision journey.”

new purchase funnel

The “consumer decision journey” model progresses from the top-of-mind brands and then expands – based on word-of-mouth, input from social-media peers, and product-review sites. Although the “purchase” is still the third step, it definitely is not the last step. With enhanced two-way communication, sellers must use all elements of the marketing mix to provide relevant and personalized information at each stage of the continuous customer journey.

Once a consumer has bought, they quickly form an opinion on the product or service. Does the product meet their expectations? Were there hidden costs or unpleasant surprises? Were they pleased with the customer service? At this point, the buyer can become a product advocate or a saboteur. Will the customer write a glowing review, or take to the Internet to air their grievances?

Remember: It’s cheaper and easier to retain a customer than to get a new one. Take every opportunity to deliver great service and to maintain contact. If a buyer is pleased with their purchase, they’ll influence others in their social sphere, so there’s a greater likelihood that they – and their friends and acquaintances – will consider buying from you again.

written by Michele Croft