How today's marketing channels
fit into the consumer’s purchase funnel.

The purchase funnel is the journey a customer takes to buy a product or service. The funnel appears as an upside-down pyramid. There are six stages to the funnel: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation and Purchase. The time the buyer spends in each stage varies on the type of product and our past experience with the brand and/or product. The price and durability of items will affect the time shoppers spend in the different stages as well. Buyers don't move from one stage to the next sequentially, but can easily bounce back and forth between two stages as they move down the funnel. The digital world has changed the latter part of the funnel. Before the internet, shoppers would visit the physical retail location to travel through the last four parts. Now most buyers go through the latter part of the funnel on their phone, tablet or desktop computer. The last four parts of the funnel are even more complicated by the fact many buyers will use their mobile phone while at a location to assist them in their buying decision. Google refers to that timeframe as the Zero Moment of Truth.

The Awareness stage correlates with name recognition and branding. Think of questions like these: How do people know you sell New Balance running shoes? Why would they buy them from you? What are the opinions other buyers have on New Balance brand? Are you the first place buyers think of when they want New Balance products? Word of mouth is the best awareness marketing product, but it doesn't necessarily occur at the right moment. That is where marketing fits into the puzzle. Many times, retailers say that “my customers know the products I carry”. However, if customers become aware of other retailers that carry the same product you do, they could easily switch where they purchase future items. This occurs when other retailers show their benefits through marketing. Both traditional and digital media can build Awareness. It is important in the Awareness stage to connect emotionally with potential buyers. The marketing assets used in the Awareness stage should show the benefits of products. Advertisers often make the mistake of focusing on features of products.  Benefits can be conveyed through print products, commercials, billboards, paid social and banner ads. Multiple channels must be used in today’s world to reach every audience. The images used in ads are the single most important element. We make most purchases emotionally without a lot of regard to logic even though we think we are acting logically. Our time today is splintered into thousands of directions. Future buyers must be touched many times in the Awareness stage to create interest in products. We believe a buyer must be engaged with a message a minimum of 10 times before we can have an expectation of moving them to the interest stage. A local business occasionally touts their location as a reason for them not to advertise. This is an interesting example because location is significant for most businesses to realize success. However, if it was only about location, why does Wal-Mart advertise? Virtually every resident in a town knows where Wal-Mart is located. Wal-Mart realizes that the best location is part of the equation, but marketing must be coupled with location. This is why Wal-Mart uses commercials, digital ads and print products to reinforce the benefits of shopping at their locations. Otherwise, they would not be able to maintain their market share. For most businesses, the opportunity for growth would not exist without marketing. You can apply this example to online merchants as well. Everyone by now has heard of and most people "believe" Amazon has the lowest prices. Even with Amazon's tremendous name recognition and brand identity, it still runs commercials, print ads, banner ads and utilizes email campaigns.

We enter the Interest stage when our need arises for a product. A shopper looking at New Balance running shoes becomes interested when their shoes wear out, or good marketing in the Awareness stage showed the benefits of new shoes. The marketing products used in the Interest stage are the same as the Awareness stage. Because we are touched with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of marketing messages daily, businesses must consistently deliver the same messages through multiple channels. A saying I heard once was "repetition builds recognition". Companies can’t predict when the need arises for a buyer to purchase a product. Life events can drive buyers from Awareness to Interest. Once they are in the Interest stage, the purchase can occur very quickly. Advertisers must understand that buyers will move back and forth between Interest and Awareness. The print ad showing the benefits of new running shoes will drive a shopper to the Interest stage; but if the shopper isn't ready to buy, they will return to the Awareness stage. This brings us back to the importance of consistent advertising. The use of compelling offers can incentivize people to buy even when they don't have the need. The more compelling the offer, the more likely a buyer will move from the Awareness Stage to the Interest Stage.

The next three stages are Consideration, Intent, and Evaluation.  The digital age has transformed these stages from always occurring in a retail location to a blend of website browsing and visits to a store. The shopper can also blend in-store shopping with their mobile phone while moving through these stages. Using our New Balance example, the shopper is likely to go to the store to try on the shoes. The shopper the majority of the time researches the product on their phone while in the store. The two most common reasons for researching the product online would be to compares prices and read reviews. A business’ website plays a crucial role in selling products when shoppers are moving through these three stages. The business’ website should contain ample product information. If their website doesn’t contain enough information to answer shopper’s questions, the shopper is likely to visit a competitor’s website to find the information they need to make a purchase decision. The shopper then might buy from that competitor. This is why content creation on websites can play two roles. Many times we only discuss the value of content from a search engine perspective; that is, trying to perform well in search results when people search for your products. The technical term is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, for many businesses, content on their website facilitates the sale of items from direct traffic or traffic that can originate from your website through other forms of marketing. If your website doesn't contain the information a shopper needs to make a purchase, the shopper will find the information on another website. Search engine marketing works well for these three stages. Search engine marketing is when a user searches for a product through a search engine like Google. Then Google will show Google AdWords that match the keywords of the search. Paid social or banner ad retargeting campaigns can also be used during this stage. Retargeting ads are based on a user’s activity on a website. An example would be when a shopper goes to a New Balance retailer’s website to view a specific running shoe. The retailer then pays to have banner ads shown on other websites to the shopper for the shoes the shopper viewed. Shoppers can become annoyed if retargeting ads are shown at too high a frequency or aren’t relevant. Digital marketing works best when the focus is very narrow.

The last stage is Purchase. A business should not view a customer’s purchase as the end of the relationship. Businesses should implement a strategy to obtain product and business reviews. Recall, that reviews play a critical role in driving the user to purchase, once they enter the three stages prior to purchase. Businesses can utilize email or text marketing to attain reviews.
In today’s world, a business must use multiple channels to be successful with their marketing strategy. Each stage of the Marketing Funnel is best addressed with various types of marketing. We cannot time the needs of a consumer; therefore, consistency and frequency of the marketing message are crucial.