Marketers have long used the famous funnel metaphor to think about touch points: Consumers would start at the wide end of the funnel with many brands in mind and narrow them down to a final choice. Companies have traditionally used paid-media push marketing at a few well-defined points along the funnel to build awareness, drive consideration, and ultimately inspire purchase. But the metaphor fails to capture the shifting nature of consumer engagement.
Block That Metaphor
In the June 2009 issue of McKinsey Quarterly, my colleague David Court and three coauthors introduced a more nuanced view of how consumers engage with brands: the “consumer decision journey” (CDJ). They developed their model from a study of the purchase decisions of nearly 20,000 consumers across five industries—automobiles, skin care, insurance, consumer electronics, and mobile telecom—and three continents. Their research revealed that far from systematically narrowing their choices, today’s consumers take a much more iterative and less reductive journey of four stages: consider, evaluate, buy, and enjoy, advocate, bond.
Then: The Funnel Metaphor
For years, marketers assumed that consumers started with a large number of potential brands in mind and methodically winnowed their choices until they’d decided which one to buy. After purchase, their relationship with the brand typically focused on the use of the product or service itself.
Now: The Consumer Decision Journey
New research shows that rather than systematically narrowing their choices, consumers add and subtract brands from a group under consideration during an extended evaluation phase. After purchase, they often enter into an open-ended relationship with the brand, sharing their experience with it online.
Consider & Buy
Marketers often overemphasize the “consider” and “buy” stages of the journey, allocating more resources than they should to building awareness through advertising and encouraging purchase with retail promotions.
Evaluate & Advocate
New media make the “evaluate” and “advocate” stages increasingly relevant. Marketing investments that help consumers navigate the evaluation process and then spread positive word of mouth about the brands they choose can be as important as building awareness and driving purchase.
If consumers’ bond with a brand is strong enough, they repurchase it without cycling through the earlier decision-journey stages.