A Better Way to Track the New Consumer Journey

The consumer journey of today’s tech-savvy shopper is much more fluid and complex than ever. Easy access to information has empowered customers to follow a complicated path to purchase as they bounce between multiple devices, sites and social networks, leaving behind billions of data points every day. They no longer solely rely on advertising and marketing messages when determining what to purchase, instead choosing to educate themselves by reading product reviews and recommendations.

The Purchase Funnel Can’t Accurately Capture the New Customer Journey

Marketers are struggling to keep up with empowered consumers; in fact, less than 50% of marketers are confident that they fully understand the new consumer journey. Using the purchase funnel as the defacto consumer journey framework doesn’t help. While the purchase funnel used to be an effective way to understand the path to purchase, times have changed and this model fails to capture the new, complex path to purchase in two key areas:

  1. The Purchase Funnel Ignores Consumers’ Varied Paths to Purchase: The purchase funnel assumes that all consumers follow the same basic process: become aware of a product/service, become interested in features and benefits, decide they want it, and then make a purchase. However, the new consumer journey varies from consumer to consumer; marketers no longer can rely on controlling a predefined set of touchpoints.
  1. The Purchase Funnel Assumes a One-Way Conversation: Within the purchase funnel framework, consumers are passive recipients of marketing communications. However, consumers regularly do their own research and share product experiences with other like-minded consumers. Marketers need a systematic way to respond to proactive consumers and manage word of mouth.

New Consumer Journey Framework: McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey

McKinsey Consumer Journey Loop

In 2010, McKinsey designed a better framework to capture the consumer journey. According to McKinsey research, the consumer journey is not a funnel, instead it’s more of a circular process with four primary phases that give off varying consumer signals, which makes it tough for marketers to not only track them, but reach them effectively. These four phases include:

  1. Initial Consideration Set: At the start of the process, consumers are already aware of products and brands, based on ad exposure, product reviews or store displays.
  2. Active Evaluation: Consumers use input from friends, brands, reviewers and retailers to determine what they add or remove from their consideration set.  
  3. Moment of Purchase: Consumers purchase a product or services from a given brand.
  4. Post-Purchase Experience: Consumers engage with the product or service purchased.  Consumers who are happy with the product are likely to advocate for it by word of mouth, while unhappy customers are more likely to sever ties with the brand and even share their disappointing experiences.  

What Makes the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey the Better Model?

Unlike the purchase funnel, the McKinsey consumer decision journey doesn’t rely on pre-determined touchpoints. Instead it focuses on identifying where consumers are on their decision journeys and then providing messages that are most relevant at that point in time. The consumer decision journey enables marketers to both create and cultivate customer relationships at ANY point in the journey.  

The marketing space is crowded and consumers have limited bandwidth for brand messaging. By using the McKinsey consumer decision journey, marketers can better maximize the impact of their campaigns by delivering the right message in the right place and at the right time.