Remember the days when marketing and sales funnel used to be linear and simple? Things have changed, thanks to Social Media. Consumers today do more research prior to purchase, look for deals and recommendations and are more likely to share their experiences before, during and after the purchase.

Here’s one way to look at this non-linear sales funnel, as mentioned in the McKinsey paper we referred to in this post, “Demystifying Social Media”.

The Forrester research report titled “It’s Time to Bury the Marketing Funnel” provides another viewpoint on this problem. The paper notes that marketing is continuous and the classic marketing funnel is no longer effective. The report makes the point that the customer life-cycle model (Discover, Explore, Buy, Engage) is a better fit for how leading marketers conceive, execute, and measure in today’s digital dominated environment. The customer life cycle, shown below on the right, is as clear and usable as the funnel but provides a far better fit with marketing in the 21st century.

Forrester defines the Customer life-cycle model as:

Customers’ relationship with a brand as they continue to discover new options, explore their needs, make purchases, and engage with the product experience and their peers.

Of course there are a variety of views on this topic but there’s general agreement about the shifting landscape for shoppers and consumers and the important role of social media and social analytics in this major shift.

What does this mean? If your business is not using social inputs to understand consumers and shoppers, you are disconnected from the digital reality.

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