Digital Marketing Funnel: Past and Present Development

Guest post by Ash Salleh | July 28, 2019

A mile a minute. That’s how fast digital disruptions are changing the way we do business. As soon as owners catch up with the latest technological change, another one comes along that renders their business models obsolete. 

But just because digital innovations “disrupt” doesn’t mean they are bad for business. On the contrary, owners who embrace the newest technology usually end up in a far better position than those who stick with their old legacy systems. 

We can say the same thing for marketing. What used to be a linear traditional marketing funnel has evolved into a more complex diagram. Today’s marketing strategies leverage technology and data to reach and engage customers in more ways than ever before.

Let’s look at the traditional marketing funnel. It features a simple, straight-through process from awareness to action and assumes that all customers begin in the same spot:

Source: Campaign Monitor

Until now, mass marketing methods such as TV and direct mail use the marketing funnel above. It was the only marketing funnel that existed, until customers began using digital technology and realized they can get unique experiences and targeted offers at any point in their customer journey. 

Campaign Monitor came up with a new marketing funnel that recognizes the evolution of technology and the nonlinear way today’s customers interact with businesses. This flexible diagram makes room for technological change and unique customer journeys. Others call this diagram the “loop funnel” or the “flipped funnel”:

Source: Campaign Monitor

So what else is different? Let’s break down how this new marketing funnel works.

  1. You can lose customers’ attention, and that’s okay.

In the traditional marketing funnel, it was near impossible to coax customers into a purchase decision after a business failed to generate interest. Today, business owners can use various digital platforms to engage and re-engage potential customers and drive conversions, even if at first they did not succeed. 

It’s easy to panic when new subscribers fail to follow-through on initial online activity, but don’t fret. Everyone is overloaded with information and options, and it is perfectly normal for them to veer off in other directions. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing. 

Take this time to get to know your customers better and come up with an attractive re-engagement campaign. Let them know they can come on board whenever they wish. Unlike the traditional marketing funnel, customers can begin in the middle and make their way to bottom by skipping some stages and going back to others.

You can also ask them to help refine your customer segments. This way, they’ll receive the updates they want, when they want it. Here’s an example from Animoto:

Source: Really Good Emails

  1. Consistency is worth the effort.

Nowadays, customers can be reached through various digital marketing channels, from social media to email, SEO, display advertising and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Some of them will find out about you on social media, subscribe via email, and purchase through a PPC link.

The challenge for your business is to deliver the same message and build the same brand across these channels, without a single channel going out of sync. 

Say you’re a travel company offering discounted flights to various destinations. Unless it’s clear that fares vary per platform, the prices should be the same, whether your customer chooses to book on the website or the app. On top of this pricing detail, your customer should be able to enjoy the same seamless user experience on both platforms. 

Many companies market their app as the better alternative to their website, since customers these days are always on-the-go. Here’s an example of how Privacy used email marketing to launch their new app, as part of the omnichannel user experience:

Source: Really Good Emails

  1. Use automation to maximize the funnel.

Everyone knows how email marketing is a tried and true method to get good returns from your online marketing strategy. Using automated email workflows, you can also maximize the new marketing funnel and see how and why customers move in and out of each stage. 

The more personalized your email marketing campaign is, the easier it is to track your customers’ online activity. Armed with the data that you now know, you will be able to place where specific customer segments linger in the new marketing funnel. Thus, you will be better informed before you make significant business decisions.

If you notice that many of your potential customers are stuck in the consideration stage, perhaps it’s a good idea to send them an automated email with personalized recommendations. Here’s an example of how you can move your customers to the purchase stage:

Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

Marketing funnels have been in existence for more than two hundred years. It’s 2019, but the basics remain the same—your business exists because you offer a benefit that customers are willing to pay for. 

On the other hand, many things are new. Technology has changed the way the game is played so that customers no longer follow a step-by-step process. Today’s marketing funnel highlights this major difference.

Customers may subscribe to your newsletter today, unsubscribe tomorrow, and still purchase your product a day after. Once they check-out their carts, you have the opportunity to retain them and transform them into brand advocates. They also have the choice to wait and see. 

Ash Salleh

Ash Salleh

Ash Salleh is the Director of SEO at Campaign Monitor, where he works closely with content, copy, and analytics teams to improve site-wide optimization. Prior to his time at Campaign Monitor, he also provided SEO and digital marketing expertise at Zappos and Axiata Digital.

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