Searching for Success? It's Being Funnelled to the Palm of Your Hand
The recent news from Google that mobile-based searches have exceeded those coming from desktop and laptops has prompted one Google exec to suggest that the purchase funnel is officially dead. But that's just polarized thinking -- the purchase funnel isn't dead; it's just pointing into the palm of your hand.
So how do you put this information to work for you?
First off, avoid the rush to embrace hyperbolic statements. The purchase funnel isn't dead -- the inputs and outputs may have change; how you choose to move prospective clients through it may also need to be adjusted, but the process is very much alive.
The Purchase Funnel exists in many slightly differing variations, but for the most part it follows a similar path: Awareness to Consideration to Preference to Purchase (with some adding Retention at the end)
Some people split up consideration and opinion; others shorten the initial stage, but add in terms like "loyalty" and "advocacy."
Personally, I've never liked the idea of a funnel, because it implies spitting something out at the end and leaving it. Whereas I believe the retention/loyalty/advocacy aspect should be highlighted and attached back to the beginning, creating a perpetual motion.
Think of it as my Purchase Zen Fountain.
But what the Purchase Zen Fountain (or Funnel if you must) illustrates is our behaviour process. That remains consistent. When it comes to solving a problem with a purchase, we must be aware of it. Then, we search out options and providers that will help to solve that need. We think about our actions, we research, and ask our friends and colleagues (or read on-line comments/testimonials). We identify our preference and, if it meets our expectations of price, service, and quality, we make a purchase.
What social media allows us to do, then, is to become brand advocates or critics. If we like our purchase, we can (but usually don't) sing the company's praises; if we don't like our experience, we make sure to let everyone know about it. Bad news travels fast on the web.
Why should mobile search supersede that process? Instead, it should be seen as just another tool used to facilitate the process. And that's where you need to focus your business efforts.
The purchase funnel is not dead. But how it's accessed -- and the time frame in which it's referenced -- has changed. Things may happen much faster, but they still happen in the same order.
So how are you making it easier for your customers to travel along the purchase funnel/fountain? Are you presenting them with the information they need at key points along the journey? Are you factoring in how to balance images, price, and information? Are you making it easy for them to get additional information or review testimonials?
Is your site optimized for mobile at all? If not, then the least of your concerns is how it will impact your mobile search ratings on Google. What's it going to do to your user's experience? Trying to navigate a non-mobile-friendly site on a phone or tablet can be an exercise in frustration at best.
And once you've captured their purchase, have you made it easy for them to share their experience? Have you put in place measures that will allow them to express their inner joy to the world? Or, conversely, have you given them an outlet to express any frustrations they may have -- frustrations and sentiments that you can use to improve upon your performance?
The purchase funnel hasn't changed; the way we interact with it has. And as more people move towards mobile search and browsing, you need to ensure your efforts are meeting the actions -- not the behaviours -- of today's consumers.
After all, our motivations and needs remain the same. It's only the tools we use to fulfill those that may change.