Remember the Marketing 101 customer journey "funnel" that was used to understand consumer purchasing decisions? It went like this: Awareness drives familiarity, resulting in consideration and then a purchase, which builds loyalty. That linear journey has evolved drastically, with the addition of multiple channels, digital marketing, social media and more competing for consumers' attention. It's time to toss the funnel and reexamine how consumers become customers — and adjust our integrated marketing plans accordingly.
As McKinsey & Company's report points out, the customer journey has now transformed into a loop. Let's explore each step of that loop and what these steps mean for digital marketers.
1. Initial consideration: In this phase, customers begin to consider an initial set of brands. Marketers need to understand that customers are much more savvy and active in searching out products today. They're no longer passively sitting in front of TV spots, waiting to be told what to do. This is why SEO marketing, cross-brand channel strategies and social media campaigns are now key components of a successful marketing mix. Our job as digital marketers is to provide multiple touchpoints that ensure your brand is where it needs to be when a consumer is ready to consider.
2. Active evaluation: In the "funnel" days, this meant asking friends and family for recommendations, but today, that has expanded to include social media crowdsourcing, Yelp reviews and retargeted advertising. As Smart Insights outlines, this phase will require a way for customers to weed out the brands that don't satisfy their requirements and engage with the ones that do. During this phase, it's crucial for marketers to give potential customers direct, opt-in channels that give them a way to learn more about their products. Examples include outbound email promotions, Facebook and Twitter campaigns.
3. Purchase: This is the goal of all the investment and work of the previous phases. The customer has done his due diligence, researched competitive offerings and is now pulling the trigger and making a commitment to a specific brand. But as a marketer, your work is far from over.
4. Post-sale experience: This is the moment in which the consumer forms a complete opinion of both the product and the brand — and it's up to you to make sure it's positive. All the work you invested in capturing this customer must now be qualified with such tactics as encouraging customers to take satisfaction surveys, complete reviews and post social media messages about your brand.
5. Loyalty: It's this simple, according to the new loop: loyalty is what triggers repeat purchases. But before you implement a loyalty rewards program, consider this: Retail TouchPoints reported that customer engagement in so-called loyalty programs — the kind that involve a special card the customer must present at each purchase — are on the decline. Instead, loyalty should focus on building a customized individual program based on customer data and past behaviors, such as special birthday discounts.
Beyond the new marketing loop, it's important to consider the human elements of a long-lasting relationship that keeps customers coming back for more. The key element — trust — is built by always following through on promises, excelling at customer service and providing good products that suit the customer's unique needs.