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May 29, 2023

Do marketers neglect the final stage of the funnel?

Dayna Lang
Author Dayna Lang

The customer journey is a critical part of marketing planning and strategy, but that journey is often cut short, with the final stage of the funnel left behind. This journey is planned from awareness to conversion, but it shouldn’t stop there; it shouldn’t end with purchase.

The value of the final stage of the funnel

Many customers will re-buy goods or services or continue to subscribe, but retention isn’t a guarantee and it needs to be nurtured. 

While there are many models of the marketing funnel that include loyalty as a final stage, there are just as many that don’t. This is often detrimental to lasting success, – even companies that are unlikely to retain repeat customers (like those which sell single purchase products) can benefit from continued consumer advocacy. 

Awareness, engagement, activation, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy are all important journey points to consider and plan. Customers will happily repurchase so long as the product and/or service live up to expectations.

Additionally, a truly happy customer will gladly re-market a cherished product or service to their friends by word of mouth. For this reason, many advertisers are adjusting the way they visualize their journeys, valuing every step of the customer journey, including the final stage of the funnel.

Instead of a vertical funnel, the customer journey is a circle or repeating cycle. A Harvard Business Review article from all the way back in 2014 lays out the need for a more circular view of the customer experience. This model of thinking was impactful then, and is even more so today as the buying journey’s evolution continues.

While circular marketing journey’s represent a more complete pathway, there are many organizations not taking advantage of this incredible opportunity. 


The power of word of mouth

According to Iliyana Stareva in her article The Funnel is Dead. Long Live the Flywheel!, “word of mouth” is the most powerful marketing tool available today. Where customers lack trust in traditional ads, they have faith in the opinions of their peers.

In addition to retaining customers, by earning their trust post-purchase, you can take advantage of their social circles in order to spread brand awareness, gain referrals, and attract new customers one might not otherwise be able to reach. 


Examples of successful loyalty campaigns 

Loyalty is most easily won through excellent products and above par customer service. Caring for your customer’s beyond purchase with support and easy to understand warranties will win people over, as demonstrated by the success of companies like lululemon, whose Quality Promise means customers return time and time again. 

While a marketer rarely has sway when it comes to product development or warranty details, they can control the successful branding and marketing of trusted products and robust guarantees. This can include using a brands owned assets like social posts fawning over products, or sharing earned reviews from sites like Google Reviews, Trustpilot, G2, and several others. 

There are also other ways to re-engage customers – loyalty points and programs are incredibly popular due to their simplicity and success. Both Kohl’s and Starbucks consistently shine in the loyalty market with their points and loyalty “cash” rewards programs. 


lululemon Quality Promise

Lululemon earns loyalty repeatedly by offering complimentary hemming and standing by its Quality Promise:  a guarantee on their craftsmanship for years after purchase . If one’s clothing starts the wear or tear prematurely the company will either repair or replace it free of charge. Given the price point of some of lululemon’s athletic-wear, this kind of confidence puts customers at ease and wins them back – even in cases where their product fails to live up to expectation. 


Kohl’s Cash 

Kohl’s attracts customers back time after time with its viral Kohl’s Cash program. Online and in-person customers earn bonus “cash” for certain purchases, saving them money on future shopping trips. This program works not only because of the excitement it generates, but because it brings each customer back twice – once to earn the “cash” and once to spend it. 


Starbucks Rewards 

Starbucks has created a framework copied by coffee shops across the globe with its incredibly popular Starbucks Rewards program. This program brilliantly encourages customers to return with the incentive of free drinks, advanced ordering, and birthday treats. These perks overall cost the company very little, but make a huge difference to its customers and encourage repeat visits to their locations across the globe.

Improve your customer journey with illumin

illumin’s Journey Connected Canvas can help marketers create, edit, and publish their ad campaigns — all on a single screen. The canvas reflects the marketing funnel’s three stages – awareness, engagement, and conversion – intuitively reading from left to right. With in-depth monitoring at every stage of the funnel, your entire customer journey will be in great hands.

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