Marketing Funnels - Are they still relevant?

A marketing funnel at its simplest form, is a set of stages or a journey that a potential customer moves through in order to become a loyal customer. As previously talked about in our journal - How Your Digital Platforms Contribute to a Purchase - the customer’s journey is now more convoluted and hard to track than ever before, but the basic principles of a marketing funnel are still as relevant as ever.

While it is an old school and overused 'marketing term' - the principle and format remains an effective and simplified way to map a customer journey. By bringing visibility to every stage of connecting with a potential customer you can easily identify what action or learning you want a person to take at each step of the process. It’s called a funnel because at the start of the funnel (awareness) there is a huge pool of potential customers. As potential customers take the next step (interest), people drop out, and so on, so the potential customer pool narrows, so visually it looks like a funnel.

At its most basic level, a marketing funnel has 4 key steps; Awareness, Storytelling, Desire and Action

Awareness

This is the Top of the Funnel and is made up of people who don’t know you or your brand, and is, therefore, the largest pool of people. These people need to be educated about you and your brand. These people often don’t know they have a problem or an interest, so you need to make them aware of that through your content. In the awareness stage, you don’t want to be shoving product in front of people, let’s educate first. Content that works well at this stage of the funnel is informational and engaging - who you are, why are you different, what problem are you trying to solve? In the offline space, this is where magazine articles, billboards, and events come into play. This is the type of content that can be repurposed for use across your digital platforms. We find journal articles, video content, or long-form written content with campaign imagery work well at the awareness stage for fashion and lifestyle brands.

For a brand e-commerce this would be viewing an advert or visiting the site for the first time.

Interest

This is where we start to get into the Middle of Funnel. Your potential customers have been introduced to the problem they face, as well as your brand and who you are, and have shown some interest, so are eager to see what you have to offer. These people want to be further educated about your solution or product - who makes the product, how is it made, why are you better? Content at this stage of the funnel that we find goes well here is strong product imagery, video of product, and descriptions for introducing your product. People are inherently nosey, so the more information the better at this stage!

For e-commerce this would be a ‘product view’.

An illustration of the AIDA model by Strategy D.

Desire

While a very cheesy marketing term, this is the stage where your customers are deep into the middle of your funnel. Here, is where you want to develop a further emotional connection with your customers to your brand - we want to move them from liking your product to wanting it. Content that works particularly well here is social proof - user-generated content, influencer content and reviews in particular. On top of this, the ability for your brand to connect with the customer personally and emotionally - things like live chat on your site, or if potential customers are asking questions about the products across any platform responding efficiently and going over the top.

For e-commerce this would be a ‘add to cart’.

Action

This is the bottom of your funnel. For anyone, but in particular fashion and lifestyle brands, you want the action or purchase stage to be as frictionless as possible. This is where you want your purchasing journey from ‘add to cart’ through to ‘initiate checkout’ and ‘purchase’ to be the simplest journey possible, with all necessary information spelled out. There is less content needed at this stage, but if people do drop out during this stage, retargeting adverts and abandoned cart emails become extremely important to drive people back to the website.

For e-commerce this would be a ‘purchase’.

Beyond these 4 steps is loyalty and advocacy of a brand. This work is done post-purchase and the re-engagement of those customers to your brand. This can be done through many forms, but is often done through direct marketing - physically when people buy products, or even through email. This is an area often ignored by many brands, but the customers that return to buy multiple times are the most valuable customers, so putting the work in to get that is hugely important.

One of the biggest benefits of a marketing funnel, especially online, is their measurability. Set-up properly, you can see where customers are dropping off through the funnel and make adjustments accordingly. With proper planning and analysis, a marketing funnel helps businesses or marketers make decisions on where to invest valuable resources in order to drive greater brand awareness, more sales and increase loyalty.