How the Path-to-Purchase Funnel Became Obsolete
The Story behind Mobile Usage and How It’s Forced Marketers to Change their Game
It is rare that a major change in the marketplace forces a paradigm shift for marketers. But it happens. And, it is happening right now. It is revolutionizing the traditional path-to-purchase model we have used since the 1800s. Elias St. Elmo Lewis’s model has been tweaked over the decades, of course, but the dynamic changes wrought by mobile devices and the way consumers use them has recently forced the path-to-purchase marketing funnel into obsolescence.
Since the age of marketing pioneer John Wanamaker, most of us were trained to follow the model of awareness-interest-desire-action (AIDA) designed to help businesses influence the minds of consumers. Purchase-funnel and shopper marketing concepts were later incorporated within AIDA, leading more recently to the additional stages after a purchase: adoption, loyalty, and advocacy. This linear approach to understanding the consumer worked … until it didn’t; until the age of the connected consumer; until the introduction of the Internet and, even more so, mobile devices and social media.
So, if the funnel is now obsolete, with what then do we replace it?
Back in the ‘90s, Peppers & Rogers pushed the idea of one-to-one marketing. Fast forward 20 years, and we are finally there. Now, the basis of competition in the marketplace is about leveraging data – about using data to understand the sentiment and needs of the consumer. It’s also about servicing that consumer, not from the marketer’s perspective, but from the consumer’s perspective. It’s the age of consumer “management,” of consumer personalization to the point of individualization, and the age of measurement: having the tools necessary to identify and respond to the individualized consumer.
Rather than targeting consumers on demographics and psychographics, successful brands are leveraging the consumer’s behaviors – mobile and real-world – to integrate and interact with them. It’s about realizing that we are now being invited by the consumer to communicate with them. We see that the modern, successful company is not simply targeting consumers, but rather inviting them to co-produce, to co-create.
Going nonlinear in understanding the consumer
Rather than approaching marketing through the linear assumption analogized by the consumer funnel, it’s time to think of marketing as participating in the nonlinear customer journey.
This nonlinear model is necessary because consumer behavior has changed, thanks to mobile. Today’s average consumer touches their mobile device over 150 times per day. They are using their iPads and smartphones throughout the entire pre-purchase, in-store, and post-purchase lifecycle. Researchers expect that, by 2021, 80 percent of all commerce will be influenced by mobile, that consumers will have used a mobile device to influence their shopping behavior at some point before the time of purchase.
This is key – and we as marketers must follow suit.
Mobile enables us to engage and interact with consumers through every stage. A good example of at how a brand can use mobile to do that is the campaign that Johnnie Walker Blue Label employed to reach their customers at the moments that matter. They added coding into the product label that allows the buyer to scan and get different kinds of information, depending on where they are on the journey:
- In the store, the customer receives information about the origin of the whiskey and its creation process.
- But when the seal has been broken because the consumer is now at home enjoying the product, a scan of the label now delivers information relevant to getting the most from the product’s consumption, such as recipes or party tips.
By leveraging the mobile device, brands can now be there with the consumer at the moments that matter, and do so with previously impossible context and relevancy. This kind of co-traveling with the customer on their purchase journey is rapidly becoming the norm. Going forward, a brand’s ability to identify those moments that matter and then interact with the consumer to be a part of each moment of the journey will define its marketing success.