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The Purchase Funnel is Dead



The purchase funnel is dead.

Last month we began a discussion about how the traditional purchase funnel has been bent, folded and mutilated beyond recognition. 

There has been a great deal of discussion on this topic from any number of really smart people.

Take McKinsey. They declared the passing of the funnel (no one says death anymore) in a Valentine’s Day article in The Economist this year.

McKinsey has done a lot of research on this, and it is foundational to understanding the new approach to purchase decision research. 

They say the funnel is dead.  And, many would argue this must be true.

But there’s more. 

There was a recent blog by Courtis Hougland who tells a story about his non-social-media-using father-in-law wanting to buy a Porsche 911. 

It turns out that during his purchase journey, he went to 50+ unique websites to research and read reviews about his purchase. Ergo, online sources were very important to the sale.

But not so fast, fair readers.  A commenter pointed out that the selection of the Porsche 911 was the culmination of years and years of Porsche engineering, marketing, advertising and image building. 

All the online searching was predicated on this.

This is why we may refer to these shopping passageways as the dark caverns of social media.

The emergence of social media does not obviate all other media. To the contrary.  It necessitates the integration of advertising, marketing, and PR across all media channels. 

The other complication is the end goal of the purchase journey – is it a relationship or is it a transaction?

Relationships engender loyalty and advocacy. 

Transactions commoditize categories and kill brands. 

So which communications channels foster relationships and which foster transactions? 

This is what those of us who are focused on acquisition need to understand. And this is where understanding the purchase journey comes in. That means doing the research to know what levers to pull where.

But as Economist Emily Oster says, “All’s fair in love and purchasing.” 


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