The marketing funnel, or purchasing funnel, is a consumer-focused marketing model which illustrates the theoretical customer journey towards the purchase of a product or service.
In 1898, E. St. Elmo Lewis developed a model which mapped a theoretical customer journey from the moment a brand or product attracted consumer attention to the point of action or purchase. St. Elmo Lewis’ idea is often referred to as the AIDA-model, an acronym which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. This staged process is summarized below:
- Awareness – the customer is aware of the existence of a product or service
- Interest – actively expressing an interest in a product group
- Desire – aspiring to a particular brand or product
Action – taking the next step towards purchasing the chosen product
The Purchase Funnel is also often referred to as the “customer funnel”, “marketing funnel”, “sales funnel” or “conversion funnel”. The association of the funnel model with the AIDA concept was first proposed in Bond Salesmanship by William W. Townsend in 1924.
This early model has been modified by marketing consultants and academics to cater to the modern customer and is now referred to in marketing as the purchase funnel or buying funnel. Many different business-to-consumer purchase models exist in marketing today, but it is generally accepted that the modern business-to-business purchase funnel has more stages, considers repurchase intent and takes into account new technologies and changes in consumer purchase behaviour. As a model, the buying funnel has been validated in a variety of domains, including searching, keyword advertising, and lead generation but also modified to include previously unconsidered steps and metrics such as outbound sales and internet impressions and Sales Funnel Stages.
The purchase funnel concept is used in marketing to guide promotional campaigns targeting different stages of the customer journey, and also as a basis for customer relationship management (CRM) programmes and lead management campaigns.