Marketing Funnel is Dead. What’s Next?
One of the most important issues in today’s marketing is the funnel – which is kind of a path for the companies (customers) to follow from the idea through the decision to make a purchase. In the digital world the consumers are more connected, more informed, their behavior is more complex, so the concept of funnel may no longer be appropriate.
The main problem with the funnel is that the buying process isn’t longer anymore. Possibilities don’t just enter at the top of the funnel; instead, they can come in at any stage. Also, the prospects can skip stages, stay in a stage for quite a time, or go back and forth between stages.
E.g., let’s consider items that have been recommended on an e-commerce site. With a single click you can add items to the cart, move them from observing to possible purchase in only a few seconds. The same is valid for Social network posts (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc.).
In business-to-business and business-to-consumer models, customers perform their own research both online and with their peers – friends. Possibilities are moving through the funnel, and then coming to the door ready for purchase.
In today’s web-based economy, the social networks have changed the way customers purchase electronics products. Friends’ suggestions have always been considered, but these opinions now spread farther and faster in each step in the funnel. The decision on what to purchase is always influenced by supporters who share their experience online, and that will direct new customers towards their purchase decision. The idea is to connect all the funnel phases into a single place, obtaining an online community where people can ask for an opinion from “experienced users” and from each other – about products, services and techniques.
Another approach (different than the funnel) is the Customer Decision Journey. This model is realized in cycles (not in straight line), and possibilities don’t move from the top to the bottom, rather – they are moving between established set of interim points, placed before and after the shopping.
CDJ (Customer Decision Journey) model is a better approach than the classical funnel, but some experts argue about its completeness. Their opinion is that the main issue that influences the purchase is “the brands”, and not the customers. Customer Decision Journey (CDJ) goes in several cycles but it is just prolonged funnel, when the focus is always on the transaction.
In modern marketing environments, the customers experience the brand in many ways, different than just purchase and usage of a product. Such experiences are content marketing, live presentations, social networking, and people’s recommendations. For example – the members of the Adidas running community who don’t own Adidas products, or thousands of fans of Ford’s Facebook page who don’t own a Ford. Also, some users can download and try different software packages / tools, until company’s IT department buys the commercial version for the same software. In the modern marketing, supporters aren’t necessarily customers. The retailers which think that recommendation comes after the shopping – are neglecting the new trend of social influence.
The idea is to change the attention – from the transaction to the relationship, which is called Customer Engagement Travel. The CDJ model defines the transactions as a consequence of the relationship, and not relationships as a consequence of the transaction.
For example, let’s consider a real experience of a family’s trip from the U.S. to Canada. First, the family gets ideas on the location to go (TripAdvisor), to how they gather opinions from friends (Facebook), to how they pay for their cab (cash from an ATM), or hotel (credit card), to how they share photos from the holiday with friends back home (Instagram). Only a few of these situations are transactions’ “cases”, but they are all relationship items. So, when the user’s opinion changes from the decision to engagement, the entire model will be changed.
The imbalance between customers’ actual experiences and the models of the funnel or CDJ (Customer Decision Journey) will only increase in the future. Today’s tendency is the embedding of the marketing in the product, but the funnel assumes that the marketing is aside from the product. It is true for digital products such as entertainment (games), and software-as-a-service, the marketing is really embedded in the product.
The funnel and Customer Decision Journey are useful models, and they will still be used in certain environments. But today’s marketing requires a completely new approach to moving ahead in the changing world. This new model will inform the retailers how to utilize and entrust, not just induce and impress. There is a variety of alternatives, and some of them are journey, relationship, and experience.
The companies can choose different marketing models, and the most important issue is that the model should cover:
- The non-linear paths from observation to decision;
- The multidimensional aspect of the social impact;
- The role of recommenders who aren’t customers;
- The significance of the relationships, instead of individual transactions.