We like to say the purchase funnel is dead. I’ll add the caveat: yesterday’s funnel is dead. Today’s funnel isn’t so much a “funnel” as a Teflon water slide covered in Crisco. Through mobile and the ubiquity of the internet, consumers rocket from their first thought of checking out a new product through consideration to purchase in a few quick clicks. The zero moment of truth can be (and increasingly, is) the only moment of truth.

That said, as consumers zip from ZMOT to the buy button, there is a role for word of mouth at every firing synapse. So your strategy is simple: get your satisfied consumers talking, everywhere, and amplify those conversations, everywhere.

Seed the need

All conversations can draw in consumers who may not have thought of your brand before, for every need – not just goods. Take travel: over half (56%) of social users say seeing friends’ vacation updates makes them want to travel more. Get your fans sharing their opinions on Twitter and Facebook, chatting with their friends over coffee, documenting their experiences on Youtube and Instagram.

How do you get consumers talking about you? By delivering exceptional experiences worth talking about. And then, by asking them for their photos, feedback, videos.

Narrow the selection set

They want a product like yours; now, use word of mouth to make them want yours. All brands claim their offer is the best, the hippest, the highest quality, the most desired. Consumers don’t believe you – they believe each other. Online, where 73% of consumers research word of mouth content before making a purchase. And in stores, where 84% of smartphone owners use them to enhance their in-aisle shopping.

They want the brand others are talking about and are satisfied with. So again, get your consumers sharing in every channel. Shoppers who visit a retail site from Twitter, for example, spend significantly more than shoppers from any other source. And it’s especially important to curate these opinions (tweets, posts, reviews, etc.) where consumers can immediately buy. The presence of consumer reviews on retail sites, for example, drives a 15-45% conversion lift on average.

Eliminate lingering doubt

“Is this product truly right for me?” Conversations will show them that it is. Let them ask specific use and feature questions on your site and social presences. Consumers read this community Q&A show 2-14% fewer returns, on average. Be there with expert answers, and encourage your consumers to answer them as well for added trust.

Treat your consumers like individuals, and word of mouth will direct them to the product right for their individual needs. Let them narrow your product lists by their specific criteria – for example, television screen size, brand, display type, wall mounting. Connect them with opinions from other consumers like them who share their specific needs – parents, business travelers, dog owners, anything.

Delight post-purchase

Don’t simply dump consumers at the end of the purchase “water slide” – others might lure them to a different ride. Show them you care by inviting their feedback. Send an email after their purchase, asking for a review. Request their pictures and videos on networks like Instagram and Facebook, showing them using your products. Share this original content with your own followers to make contributors feel appreciated. Showcase them in your paid media to make them feel special.

Then prove that you truly care by acting on their likes and concerns to deliver an even better experience next time. Keeping the conversation going turns the slide into a loop, bringing them straight back to your brand when they next have a need – as Andy Sernovitz discusses here. And it’s these conversations that seed the need for your brand in new consumers, starting the ride over again.

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