It's 2020 and the new marketing funnel has arrived

Rachel Tipograph

“The Marketing Funnel” ... the most basic of all concepts used to guide consumer marketing strategies. Developed in 1898 (yep, it’s that old!) by ad exec Elias St. Elmo Lewis, the traditional funnel has graced hundreds of Madison Avenue boardrooms and even more Marketing 101 lecture halls; made countless appearances in decks and late-night whiteboarding sessions over the media team’s leftover “lunch and learn” sandwiches. The infamous one-size-fits-all, perfect little upside down pyramid used to neatly guide customers from awareness to consideration and then towards purchase, has been used in marketing plans for over a century.

By now you’ve seen all the headlines ... the funnel has flipped. It’s been turned on its side. It’s actually an hourglass. Regardless of the shape, the key takeaway is today’s consumer behaviors confirm the traditional funnel is in fact (gasp!) dead. But don’t break out the tissues yet. We’ve got some tips for how to win.

The consumer journey has changed from a linear, single path to a multi-channel marketing adventure.

Today it can seem impossible for brands to reach consumers at the right touchpoint, at the right time.  Every path to purchase is unique. Consumers are learning about products through online retailer websites and marketplaces, social, influencers, mobile videos, ads, and more. And they’re consuming content way differently than even 5-10 years ago.

Today,  product discovery happens much differently than before.  

Consumers are first discovering products in mobile/social feeds via ads or influencers, today described as social commerce. And then on the flip side, you have online retailers operating like national advertising platforms to drive awareness. Just look at Amazon, Target’s Roundel, Walmart’s Media Group, to name a few. Who would have thought that digital marketing teams would need to look at retailers the same way they look at social channels. It’s really happening.

Our favorite example is the beloved Amazon coat of The Upper East side. The Coat’s rise to fame as a fashion phenomenon started as word-of-mouth between some of the Upper East Side’s most fashionable influencers. As its popularity skyrocketed, the media took notice and and it was talked about everywhere, including the New York Times and eventually was declared  one of Oprah’s  “Favorite Things” in 2019.  The rest is proverbial retail history. Marketer’s take note: there's no actual brand behind the Coat. It is produced by a random factory in China that sells on Amazon who happened to make more money in January 2019 than in all of 2017.  

As marketers we need to break down internal silos of brand marketing and shopper marketing. Let’s go build shopping experiences that provide amazing consumer experiences in the right format, across all entry points of the marketing funnel. 

While it might seem as if brands have lost control of reaching consumers during the key stages of their shopping experience, the opposite is actually true -- but only if brands and eCommerce marketers are willing to come together and embrace #thenewfunnel. 

The silver lining here is the odds are NOT, in fact, against us as marketers. It just means our jobs are changing and we need to be more collaborative internally. Accessing the right eCommerce analytics and insights across the shopping journey is critical to truly understanding consumer preferences -- from channel discovery, to what SKUs and color ways/styles -- all the way through to where they want to shop and on what device.

The good news is modern marketers who stay ahead of the curve now have the right tools they need in their arsenal to find consumers, deliver them thumb-stopping shopping experiences that woo them, and shorten their path to purchase. It’s a win-win for everyone internally -- from brand and social media teams to CRM, shopper marketing, eComm and consumer insights.

We don’t know about you, but our New Year’s resolution is simple: help more multi-channel  brands understand the distinct nuances of #thenewfunnel and what it means for the shopping journey and our jobs at large. Those who do, will better understand their consumers, forge stronger relationships with their online retailer partners, and make smarter decisions, faster.

We hope you’re with us. 

Rachel Tipograph

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