McKinsey change the purchase funnel!

Everyone knows the purchase funnel gets narrower towards the end, right? The entire marketing process has been aligned to this principle for more than forty years.

Well, now we can think again. McKinsey’s recent global study shows a definite change in the way consumers research and buy products. And that opens up ways of smarter marketing.

McKinsey have replaced the traditional purchase funnel with the ‘Customer decision journey’. At the beginning of this journey, the consumer begins with an ‘Initial consideration set’ of brands or products. So far, so much the same.

Now, moving towards a purchase, the consumer enters an ‘Active evaluation phase’. And here’s where the real difference is. Instead of the funnel getting narrower at this point, it actually becomes wider. The number of purchase options increases!

During this active evaluation the consumer is reaching out for information to inform their imminent purchase. They are doing Internet searches, talking to friends and family, and listening to what’s being said in forums and discussion groups.

And this is exactly where the opportunities are, especially for companies who cannot spend massive bucks on advertising. While many companies are still focusing their messaging on getting noticed (i.e.: advertising), the smarter ones start focusing on getting evaluated. And that means online pr.

When you publish content on the web that doesn’t ‘sell’, but ‘informs’ you establish a relationship with that customer that increases the chances he will come to you, not your competitor.

Every time you publish your press releases, your thought leadership blog posts, every time you enter an online conversation with a ‘customer service’ instead of a sales headset, you are visible as a trusted resource.

And this means you are much more likely to close a sale. As a bonus you will also be rewarded with much better word of mouth, which will make your brand a part of the ‘initial consideration set’ of future buyers. And so the journey starts again: all without a single bit of advertising. Nice!

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  • adamson

    Michael, I read this McKinsey article a couple of times and while I agree about the purchasing decision changing dramatically through social media etc I am not sure I agree with their fundamental starting point.

    I am living on another planet? I see the funnel as a commercial sales paradigm which has been taught forever for people managing incoming sales opportunities. The funnel is a system to eliminate spending time on those who the sales people don't believe are worth the effort.

    It has nothing to do with buyers and how they assess and behave, now or then, or at least only in the most trivial sense of narrowing our choices to a final decision. But who believes that consumers or buyers on the consumer side ever deployed a "sales funnel"???

    I think McKinsey are just overextending themselves by trying to make something grand out of a simple observation and have somehow fallen into group think on the wrong model.

    An I wrong?

    Walter Adamson

  • Michiel Gaasterland

    Dear Walter,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You are right that McKinsey is making a pretty big deal out of 'launching' their new model. Or should I just call it 'drawing' ;-)

    I ran into an article from Cathy Clift, dated March 2006 (!)( who was already talking about the 'purchase funnel' being dead with pretty much similar conclusions as McKinsey.

    The fact that the number of considered purchase options expand during the consumer decision process, is important to emphasize. It has massive impacts for online marketing communications tactics (as my colleague Steve Seager says in his post about this topic

    And alhough this fact was already known:
    1. it is now backed up by proper science (McKinsey's research covers more than 20,000 people over 5 continents)
    2. it's now articulated by an authoritive consulting firm such as McKinsey.

    I still see many companies in Europe and The Netherlands (where I'm based) who are focusing their messaging on getting noticed (i.e. advertising). I'm working on raising awareness for what Online PR, and social media as a channel, can do for your business.

    This research helps people to understand how they can adapt their messaging to changed consumer decision behavior.

    All the best,

    I think the big win for the Online PR and Social Media is

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