There have been a chorus of voices sounding the “death of the purchase funnel” for quite some time now. Since mobile’s explosion in 2014, the demise of the funnel has been discussed at length in digital marketing circles, with most marketers coming to the consensus that it’s in its final death throes since no customer follows the traditional funnel directly anymore.
Or is it?
Before we put the proverbial nail in the coffin for the traditional purchase funnel, it might be wise to re-examine this conclusion and call it a metamorphosis rather than a death. Yes, the purchase funnel has changed, of that, there is little doubt, but it’s not dead.
“The traditional conversion funnel is out-dated – we now have something more akin to a waterpark; customers speed through, skip sections, cycle back and repeat as they need to across multiple channels and touchpoints. The industry has to adapt to this new non-linear journey.”- Paul Ricebury-Crisp, Account Director at NMPi
The purchase funnel has simply changed shape, and players. Buyers have more control over the path to purchase now – potential consumers are no longer passive participants being pushed and pulled along by marketers into the final conversion phase. Customers are the ones calling the shots now as they enter and leave at different points along the funnel, deciding how the discovery process takes place.
Several factors have caused this shift. Firstly, consumers are becoming their own advocates and taking initiative. Social media, online communities, and mobile micro-moments (i.e., anywhere, at any time, at your finger-tips) have all impacted the development of the sales funnel.
What can marketers do in light of this change?
Look at the funnel from more than just one approach – see it as a series of possible outcomes, and scenarios. Get a jump on the tools that help you quickly identify exactly where the customer is in their journey and what you can do to facilitate movement to the end of the funnel (whatever that shape looks like because it varies from organisation to organisation). Advertisers must create positive experiences at every touch point regardless of point of entry, channel or device used. Global and local targeting also needs to factor into the new shape of the funnel. Advertisers need to understand that the journey is still taking place, but it’s unpredictable and they are no longer in the driver’s seat.
The funnel is not necessarily irrelevant, it might be better to christen it something else; a web perhaps, or even a pretzel, instead of a funnel. This would be more accurate than its current cylindrical shape, but no matter what it looks like, it’s still a process users have to pass through on their conversion journey, however they get there. Change isn’t always an game ender, sometimes it’s just a shift in how we go about achieveing results, or perceive a new structure. The game has changed, the players have moved, but end result is the same and the conversion funnel is far from dead.
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