Purchase funnel
Customers shop both within and beyond the purchase funnel.

“Consumers are moving outside the purchasing funnel – changing the way they research and buy your products. If your marketing hasn’t changed in response, it should.” The Consumer Decision Journey – McKinsey Quarterly 2009 Number 3

As marketers, we’ve all been taught to embrace some variation of the “funnel.” But when we leave the office, we take our marketer hats off and we put our everyday consumer hats on. When I’m home watching TV with my wife, I either mute the TV ads or look at her and ask, “What was that commercial trying to sell me? I don’t get it.”

When we marketers put on our consumer hats, we get how to seek out the opinions, knowledge, and experiences of our friends, family, and peers. When most of us shop, the first thing we do is go online and look for product reviews. So why, as marketers, are we still spending billions on creating advertising that research shows as increasingly ineffective?

As stated in McKinsey Quarterly’s “The Customer Decision Journey,” the fundamental assumption of marketing has changed: “Consumer-driven marketing is increasingly important as customers seize control of the [decision] process and actively ‘pull’ information helpful to them.” McKinsey took a stab at building a consumer research model that maps more to reality than to theory. They broke consumer research down into four phases:

  1. Initial consideration set. Consumers consider an initial set of brands, based on brand perceptions and exposure to recent touch points.
  2. Active evaluation. Consumers add or subtract brands as they evaluate what they want.
  3. Moment of Purchase. Consumer select a brand at the moment of purchase.
  4. Post-purchase experience. After purchasing, consumers build expectations based on experiences to inform their next decision.

The implications for brands who do not adopt models centered around user-generated content such as product reviews are costly, as brands can waste resources and seem disconnected from the customers.

Rather than build marketing campaigns that tell consumers why you’re great, empower your customers to sell and market for you in their own voice. Build touch points like user reviews, Q&A, and experiential stories to engage your advocates and collect content to place where consumers are looking: Google, Facebook, Twitter, brand sites, retailer sites, etc.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to think about how you and your friends and family shop. Do you look to brand ads to tell you what to ultimately buy? Or do you go online to research products? When you go to sites like Amazon, do you scroll past the marketing copy straight to reviews?

Answer these questions for yourself, then put your marketer hat back on. Do your brand’s marketing efforts align with how you arrive at a purchase decision as a shopper?

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