Media Planning & Buying

Sales Funnel Dead at 110

Posted by Daniel Flamberg on September 30th, 2010 at 8:00 pm

The sales funnel, the oldest, most illustrated and beloved marketing paradigm passed away today of old age. Originally, constructed to approximate the rational buying sequence for B2C and B2B customers, the Funnel leaves no immediate heirs.

Shopping was never really linear. Prospects take multi-directional, multi-dimensional and idiosyncratic paths to surface needs, identify buying criteria, list potential solutions and fall in love and purchase. Easy digital access to product information, testimonials, video demonstrations, user-generated or professional reviews, peer opinions and comparative pricing tools creates a more dynamic, unpredictable and emotional landscape than the Funnel ever portrayed.

The implications for marketers and merchants are that marketing strategy, messaging and media must shift. The number of inflection points has multiplied. Rather than aim messages or media units at a particular point in a reasonably predictable cycle, marketers now have to array their brands in ways to cover a much larger, expanding and morphing digital Main Street or mall and interact rather than interrupt.

A shift in consumer behavior to digital channels was documented in a recent study of more than 2000 US shoppers, titled “2010 New Shopper Journeys Survey,” conducted by Carat and Microsoft Advertising

The two big take-aways are

1. Brands have to engage customers across 3 or more screens. During a buying cycle and use each channel and each digital meme to its best advantage. Brands will meet customers in several settings during the purchase time frame so that specific aspects of the brand story and value proposition can be parsed through specific digital assets.

2. It’s Not Over with a Purchase. Customers almost instinctively use digital and social media to share and validate their purchases, review and recommend products, comment on customer service and plan subsequent shopping expeditions. In the survey, 48% of responders recommended a brand by name and 30% recommended a retailer. And while this fundamental behavior has always been true, technology accelerates the speed and scale to increase the impact on future sales.

The Funnel is dead. Customer behavior is in-flux. The search for a new paradigm has begun.

3 Responses to “Sales Funnel Dead at 110”

  1. I completely agree with your conclusions and points. But the Funnel reference isn't entirely accurate. The Funnel still exists, it just has a filter in it that no one realized and a Coriolis force no one ever decided to acknowledge. These are consistent with your points.

    The point that the engagement does not end with the purchase is an ancient concept that is just being revisited. For companies in it for a "quick buck", that's where engagement ends. For companies building long-term customer relationships founded on repeat business. This is the model for sustainable businesses, and there has been a strong trend away from the import of this factor over the past 30 years.

    The funnel's not dead. Just a lot more complicated than many thought.

  2. AndyG says:

    Not sure I agree here. I believe the funnel has changed, no doubt about it. However, visitors/potential customers do tend to follow knowledge paths during their purchase process. Smart marketers are the ones who holistically can see these paths across a number of media touch points and provide help/information where and when people need it.

  3. Greg Giersch says:

    Your point about "multi-directional, multi-dimensional and idiosyncratic paths" and the need for a new paradigm are dead on. We are at or past the tipping point in the way we decide on a purchase.

    I do believe, however, like most transitions from traditional to internet, the rumors of its death are premature. We still, for the most part, move through a sales funnel or hourglass buying process. Though its rarely a neat path from top to bottom.

Leave a comment