What makes a customer decide to buy a product from your brand instead of another? This information that any company wants to know - what does the public think of your brand? And how can I influence that decision process?
The traditional concept of "introduction of a product" to "final purchase" has been thought of as a ‘funnel’ approach. Consumers begin with their want/need, are then introduced to several options, and narrow down their options before ultimately making their singular decision. In order to push consumers through the purchase cycle, companies would use direct advertisements to sway consumer decision - a very linear cause-and-effect method of driving consumer decisions and purchases.
But now, there’s ample argument on the internet over whether the sales funnel is “dead” or not.
“Dead” may be an extreme word, but thanks largely to the internet and more conversational and inbound focused marketing practices, this funnel process has largely been altered. A more accurate way to describe the current process is as a spiral – more specifically, a double spiral.
The Inward Spiral
Instead of shoppers being treated like raw pieces of meat being shoved through a sausage grinder, the spiral of consumer product decisions happens slowly, gathering information from a variety of sources and experiences. As the consumer spins down the funnel, different touch points create a shared representation of a brand: a recommendation from a friend, a Facebook post, or maybe watching a brandlive event are all factors in making a product decision before the consumer even decides that they want to purchase something. When the time comes for the consumer to purchase a product, there has already been extensive background exposure to the brand, as well as research done on the product thanks to widespread availability of information on the Internet.
No longer does a consumer make a purchase based on a single touch point (e.g. a television advertisement) or conversations that are tightly control by ad agencies and marketing departments. A collection of various touch points, absorbed by the consumer over the course of months or even years, are what ultimately guide the consumer towards their purchase.
Much as the cycle has changed, so too has the sources for effective touch points. The touch points that influence consumer behavior are now focused on emotion and relationship-based connections, rather than simple interruption marketing. Conversations drive brand/consumer relationships. Companies don’t have nearly as much choice in what conversations take place. They merely have the choice of how they participate in them - not control them.
Before consumers pulled the purchase trigger, they have more informed preconceived notions about your products - meaning your reputation is the start of any meaningful connection with a potential customer.
With so many more purchase influencers in this spiral model - or touch points - there are many more factors for brands to be aware of. If you don’t play nicely and join the conversation, you are more likely to get left behind.
But if you play your cards right, and participate by meeting consumers where they are, there is far more to gain than just a singular sale.
We will go over this in the Part 2: The Outward Spiral.