Goodbye Sales Funnel, Hello Consumer Decision Journey

The days of a traditional marketing sales funnel are dead. Advancements in technology have forever changed the path-to-purchase and it’s time to officially retire the “awareness to prospect to sale” method that many marketers are still holding onto with clenched fists.

Today’s consumers jump in and out of channels and search for deals through a myriad of sites. And to make things muddier, they purchase across a wide range of devices. This fragmented journey makes it incredibly hard to predict when a consumer will convert. Today, we will take a look at how the consumer decision journey has changed, and what it means for marketers today.

A Road Less Linear

The consumer journey today is best described as a circle (rather than a funnel or straight line from point A to point B). McKinsey examined purchase decisions of ~20,000 consumers across five industries. They discovered that a consumer journey is still characterized by initial consideration, active evaluation, closure, and post-purchase – but through a circular shape. This updated view provides a way to understand the strength of a brand compared with its competitors at different stages. It also highlights the bottlenecks that stall adoption and make it possible to focus on different aspects of the marketing challenge.

Purchase Decision

This approach allows space for post-conversion brand exposure. It also takes into account opportunities for new brands to enter consideration (step 2).

New Brand Consideration

If the reimagined consumer journey proves anything, it’s that brand awareness matters. Though we have lost the predictability of the sales funnel, we have gained new opportunities for brands to connect with consumers. Contrary to the funnel metaphor, the number of brands under consideration during the “Active Evaluation” phase above may actually expand rather than narrow as consumers seek out new information while shopping a particular vertical. This opens the marketing doors for many new brands to interrupt the decision making process. In addition, it forces out competitors and rivals who don’t make the cut.

McKinsey found that the number of brands added for consideration in different stages differs by industry. For example, people actively evaluating personal computers added an average of 1 brand to their initial-consideration set of 1.7. Automobile shoppers added 2.2 to their initial set of 3.8.

McKinsey Consumer Decision

What does this mean for marketers? With the additional touchpoints added to the consumer journey, the competition heats up. Brands can no longer assume that they have a conversion “in the bag” just because they are being heavily considered. Marketers must align messaging with non-linear paths to purchase and be ready for new brand consideration. They must also adopt ongoing relationships beyond individual transactions. As the marketing battleground becomes increasingly fragmented, it’s the only way to stay ahead of the competition.

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