Published May 7, 2014 by the Harvard Business Review
One of the central concepts of marketing and sales is the funnel — through which companies are supposed to systematically move prospects from awareness through consideration to purchase.
But consumers are now more informed, connected, and empowered than ever. Does the funnel still work in a digital, social, mobile age?
We asked some of the leading marketers in the world — from companies like Google, Intuit, Sephora, SAP, Twitter, and Visa — to assess the relevance of the marketing funnel. What we found says as much about the future of business as it does about the future of marketing.
One popular alternative to the funnel is the Customer Decision Journey popularized by McKinsey. A key advantage of this model is that it’s circular, rather than linear. Prospects don’t come in the top and out the bottom, but move through an ongoing set of touchpoints before, during, and after a purchase.
The Customer Decision Journey is an improvement over the traditional funnel, but some marketers see it as incomplete. The problem is in the name itself. Brands may put the decision at the center of the journey, but customers don’t. Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, believes that for customers, “the pivot is the experience, not the purchase.” The Customer Decision Journey might be circular, but if the focus is still on the transaction, it is just a funnel eating its own tail.
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