Dodgem Cars, Giant Slides and Digital Marketing

Patti RennerStrategists often use the abstract concept of a funnel to explain the process of consumer engagement. Marketing funnels, purchasing funnels, branding funnels, sales funnels –all help create a rational framework around something as irrational as consumer behavior.
In the recent eMarketer webinar “Integrating Search and Display” sponsored by Knotice, analyst David Hallerman began the discussion with details on how today’s funnels are even more complex because consumers no longer flow down the funnel (or straight through the awareness-to-conversion process) the way they used to. Instead, they bounce around inside through a series of sporadic touchpoints. The path of their bouncing depends on how they respond to the marketers’ pitch in different ways at different times. Each bounce (or marketing touchpoint) helps to build valuable momentum to move things along – but none of this is as smooth and clean a process as it used to be. This is why integrating online search and display efforts can be so valuable.

From my perspective, it also explains why having a multichannel approach to your direct digital marketing is so important. Designing your marketing approach based on actionable data can help to bring order to the chaos within today’s frenetic funnel. Instead of sending out one message through one channel, most experts agree you need multiple touchpoints to keep conversion rates on track.

With summer upon us, the evolution of funnel behaviors reminds me of classic amusement park rides. Remember those giant slides? You’d grab your burlap mat from the bin, run as fast as you can up a dizzying flight of stairs, get to the top, sit, then soar down the chute to the bottom. Then do it over and over again. Classic.

This is what the marketing funnel used to be like. A pile of slick messages (the mats)… building up consumer interest step by step… until the customer adopts the message and takes the plunge to enjoy the purchase , sliding into conversion.

But things are no longer this simple.

Recent research by Forrester on the purchase path of online buyers shows that consumers respond better when exposed to multiple touchpoints or channels versus just one.

With that in mind, many marketers have left the giant slides behind (single channel) and are taking a “dodgem cars approach.” They bounce consumers between channels and messages at random – SMS, display ads, search, email, website visits, etc. – always trying to find the right position for greatest impact, hoping consumers will bump into one of their various messages and respond. Trouble with a dodgem cars approach is, sometimes the target audience gets stuck spinning or trapped in a corner (like when an email campaign isn’t properly optimized for mobile), or they get bounced so much their head hurts (like when the messaging and branding between channels isn’t in sync). The dodgem approach to multichannel could be fun – or it could be a pain in the neck.

In today’s frenetic funnel environment, using the data you already have about your customers is one of the best ways to keep the marketing process flowing in the right direction. It’s like tracks on a rollercoaster. By using the data stored in a profile-based software platform, you can better control the process. Whether your customer prefers riding down big hills (a single channel) or getting tossed around with thrills and spills (with multiple channels), you can lay the tracks for what they like best – managing your funnel touchpoints from a single platform, responding in real-time to behaviors and other information. From serving up targeted online display ads to dynamic website content to triggered email delivery – having actionable data gives you greater control and better lift than before. Funnel cakes, anyone?

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