Traditional Model of Consumer Behavior

Customer behavior is not an exact science. But we do know enough about the process they go through before they actually buy a product to understand that consumer purchase decisions have changed drastically over the last 10 years.

The traditional model of consumer purchase behavior is represented by a funnel, with the largest population of potential purchase options signified by the top, or widest part, of the funnel, and the field of choices narrowing as the consumer goes through a linear decision-making process.

Marketers have long attempted to use this model to impact the awareness and familiarity stages of this funnel through advertising and other media placement to convince the consumer to include their brand in a “considered set.” A purchase requirement is triggered, followed by package design, promotion, store/service environment and point-of-sale messaging as a final push tactic once the consumer has narrowed the field to a few choices.

Problems with the Traditional Purchase Funnel

1. Too Much Information: With communication and information flowing at the speed of light, consumers can get product information anytime, anywhere in a matter of minutes. While creative advertising will still get noticed by an interested consumer, the explosion of products, services and media outlets in the past 25 years has created a clutter of messaging that the human mind just can’t process. It is estimated in this time period that the average number of marketing messages a consumer receives daily has almost doubled – to almost 7,000 per day.

2. Unresponsive to the Consumer: The funnel model treats the consumer as passive until the consideration stage, by which time that were believed to have eliminated a large number of purchase options. In fact, the consumer is continually bombarded by new offerings over multiple media and is dynamically making preference decisions.

3. The Assumption of Static Brand Loyalty in a Dynamic Environment: After the initial connection between a brand promise and brand experience (trial purchase) the funnel implies that the population of brands from which a consumer creates a longer-term commitment (repurchase) is now limited to those brands residing in their original considered set, again treating the consumer as passive.

McKinsey’s New Model: The Customer Decision Journey

A new study by McKinsey & Co., forms the first quantified analysis that challenges the funnel model. It finds the following about increasingly informed and empowered consumers:

  • Consumers begin with a much narrower list of purchase options and perceptions, based on what they have stored in their brains for later recall.
  • Consumers then expand their consideration set considerably during a phase of active evaluation, paying attention to relevant advertising, shopping, researching reviews and opinions on the Internet and seeking out recommendations or related experience from friends and family.
  • Consumers are not as methodical as previously thought and often enter a store or purchase environment with a much larger list of possible options than the funnel model represents.
  • Consumers often aren’t as loyal as marketers want to believe, actively considering options during a post-purchase experience and becoming much more receptive to ongoing competitive exposure.

4 Takeaways For Marketers

1. Company-driven advertising must be targeted. You must understand the purchase decision process of your potential consumer and reach them with relevancy while they are in the stage of active evaluation.

2. Your brand or company must have a high-quality, informative and interactive website and engage in social media. You need to develop ways for consumers to learn about you, talk to you and talk about you by working with independent sites that follow your brand and monitor what is being said about your brand.

3. Create a positive delivery point – whether it is your store, a retailer that carries your product, a service outlet, your office, your presentation when calling on clients … even those environments such as a warehouse or a bill paying desk … EVERY customer touch point can and will be evaluated by the consumer.

4. Find ways to reward and promote loyalty. Affinity programs and frequent customer rewards keep your customers from wandering after initial customer capture.