The concept of Consumer Decision funnel – anachronistic in the digital age?

The concept of Consumer Decision funnel – anachronistic in the digital age?

Kumar Ramanathan

CEO & Managing Director, Positive Integers


The word ‘funnel’ implies a wider mouth – many choices, narrow tip at the bottom suggesting fewer options of interest and a journey between the two. That this axiom has outlived its utility in the new world has been well chronicled.The world of how consumers make their purchase decisions is becoming increasingly non linear. There are phases to this process and lines between overlapping & separation of the processes are increasingly blurred. This non linearity will call for increasingly powerful analytical capability to understand the diverse portraits of consumer behaviour.

This article is set against the changing paradigm of consumer decision making. A bit about the new consumer to start with, followed by the behaviours governing decision making and finally a peek into the imperatives of marketers to adapt to the changing scenario.

The new age consumer – Gen C

Today’s consumer is referred to as Generation C (It’s not an age group.It’s a digital lifestyle / also referred to as digital natives); and in order to make a connect with them, one needs to think differently. The first thing about these consumers is that they are “always on”.This “always-on” status means that consumers are constantly gathering information about brands and forming opinions, seek information as they wish from any source and in any order.

Getting Comfortable with the Digital Natives

Members of Generation C are virtually omnipresent, yet elusive. Everything they do, think and experience is shared through multiple networks. They’re demonstrative, don’t hesitate to share and are most vocal and open.There is very little need to guess and we can study their conversations & connections in near time.

One to One: Understanding /creating Unique Customer portraits

First operative principle – this generation doesn’t want to be treated as a single segment; they belong to different groups/ play different roles and have different expectations. The congruence of a person’s needs, expectations, communities, behaviours and demographics will help form a unique profile or consumer segments.Potential customers are asking questions in social networks, comparing prices using mobile apps, reading real-time reviews and watching videos with product information. They might decide to buy—or not to buy—without ever interacting with your brand; but you can’t just force your way into the conversation.The key is to capture their attention and gain their interest—even kindle their desire.

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This can give a marketer an unbelievable canvas to paint.

Consumer Decision Journey – Buying cycle

The old multi layered funnel has perhaps given way to a simple, 3 step process by which brands and consumers connect with each other.From a consumer perspective, the three steps are

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Action

And, from the point of view of the brand custodian,

  1. Listen
  2. Converse
  3. Convert

Consumer Behaviour

The consumer decision journey is no longer linear or invariant; nor is the momentum consistently forward. There is progress; but that can be piecemeal, with one step forward followed by two steps back.People actually start in their initial consideration of a brand with a relatively narrow list. Most brands are too fixated with just being in the consideration set. They seldom do much as the buying cycle advances.

However, once the consumer decision is made to buy a product, they move into a stage that we call active evaluation. It is here that the number of brands they are considering increases. This is exactly the opposite of the premise of the funnel – going from broad to narrow; and is the stage when the consumer is intent on purchase. Clearly the surplus shifts to the consumer.

The main facet is for marketers to go beyond building awareness and moving the brand into the consideration set. The need for tuning the marketing activities by brands/ companies to these dynamics is of utmost importance. The most important thing for marketers to do is to make sure that their marketing activities are aligned against how their consumers research and buy products. The imperatives are to listen better & converse with the customers.

Touch Points – Company driven versus Consumer driven

There are two types of touch points — company driven versus consumer driven.

In the earlier consideration it was still very much company driven — the advertising was a very critical part of the touch points that influenced the consumer. According to empirical data, when consumers got into active evaluation, two thirds of the influence of the most powerful touch points were from consumer driven touch points — word of mouth, talking to friends and family, searching on the internet.

In consumer driven, the consumer is reaching out to get information — they’re talking to people from various social sets they belong to, doing internet searches, seeing what’s said on third party sites; And that is a very big change!

You therefore, need to develop ways for people to talk about your product, so that word of mouth works.

Here in come the limitations of the traditional media vehicles as well. They worked well where companies used demographic data as the basis for segmentation and hence, communication.The ‘typical consumer’ is no longer typical. Today’s consumers are multichannel, active, engaged and in control. Now these consumers can choose their experiences with a brand; and the brand’s success or failure is determined by how intimately you know your customers.

You no longer sell to them; They choose to buy from you!


Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.

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Sunil VargheseKumar RamanathanmmAnkit Jain Recent comment authors
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Ankit Jain
Ankit Jain

Very the consumer behaviour is changing , we as marketers have to reinvent ourselves to be able to effectively talk to consumer at his touch point and bring the brand more effectively in his consideration set

Kumar Ramanathan
Kumar Ramanathan

Appreciate your feedback

Anindita Lakhani

An article from Mr. Ramanathan has to be gripping and an eye opener too

Kumar Ramanathan
Kumar Ramanathan

Appreciate your generous feedback

Sunil Varghese
Sunil Varghese

Nice piece Kumar. So the funnel has become a pipette now if i understood U right


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