Introduced over a century ago, the marketing funnel -- the model of how a person comes to ultimately make a purchase (awareness, opinion, research/consideration, decision, purchase) - has guided marketing strategies for brands of all sizes across every industry. Following years of losing the battle of relevance in a time of very complex customer behavior where no one follows a linear path to purchase or loyalty and where a huge sphere of influence exists outside of a brand's control -- the marketing funnel has died.
Our society is now one of perpetual connectivity, which opens the door for brands to have continual engagement with their customers. The paradigms that have shepherded strategies for generations have to make way for ongoing relationship nurturing and customer advocacy development. As smartphones become more ingrained in our lives (people now check their phones 150 times per day), mobile allows marketers to engage in a two-way dialogue that takes a more human (read: effective) approach to nurturing relationships.
When the marketing funnel was in its prime, the outlets and interaction models customers had with brands were limited. Today, a person receives customer service on Twitter, refers friends on Instagram and reads "expert" reviews on their favorite niche blogs. This evolved customer journey requires brands to take a more individualized approach to their customer relationships and build loyalty through amazing experiences no matter what journey each customer is on. The new strategies to guide brand/customer interaction are:
- Omni-Channel Personalized Experiences: Regardless of what channel a consumer interacts with a brand, the experience must be consistent. One of the biggest struggles in the customer journey today is the irregularity in how a person is treated online versus in-store versus in-app. Brands need to have a single view of their customers, integrating all data and systems (CRM, email, social, etc.) to automatically serve personalized experiences every time at every digital and physical touchpoint. If I have spent a lot of money with a retailer online, but am not acknowledged as a loyal customer in-store by the sales associate, I will be less inclined to continue a relationship. Brands with a brick-and-mortar presence need to leverage emerging technologies like beacons to drive in-store engagement by delivering personalized deals based on micro-location as well as allowing for customer identification which empowers flight attendants, servers or other sales associates to provide experiences rooted in previous behavior and demonstrated preferences.
The journey doesn't end after a purchase, but requires a brand to ensure that the customer is satisfied with their decision and provide ongoing experiences. Nurturing your customers post-purchase is critical in building an army of advocates who are the ones that will shape the future purchase decisions of their peers.
As brands move on from the marketing funnel era, they need to keep the individual customer as the focus of every effort. Marketers can't promote a new product to the world and expect people to run out the door to pick it up. They must tell me how this would benefit me, why I might like it and only when it aligns with an immediate need of mine. We used to live in a world where the brand had complete control of the conversation - the message, the experience and time of interaction. Today, there are more touchpoints than ever before and purchasing behavior is driven not by brand promises, but by social conversations and ongoing brand experiences.
RIP, marketing funnel. Welcome, real-time situationally-aware, consumer-driven experiences.