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Marketing Funnel, Growth From Traditional To Digital

In a rapidly progressive world, there has been a growth of the marketing funnel from a traditional to a digital platform. There are many changes, upgrades, and updates, in the digital-frenzied world. It is but natural that traditional marketing strategies also change. Traditional marketing has metamorphosed to suit digital marketing. Before we talk about how traditional marketing is now obsolete, let us be aware of some basics. Today, let’s discuss marketing funnels and growth from traditional marketing to the digital marketing process.

Marketing Funnel, Growth From Traditional To Digital

What is a Marketing Funnel?

In simple terms, it is a map of the customer’s journey from the initial stage of intent to the stage of buying, encompassing everything in between. A careful analysis gives insights on how to drive potential sales and conversions to increase brand awareness. A marketing funnel is of absolute importance. It is a primary requirement in any business, small or big.

American advertising and sales pioneer Elias St. Elmo Lewis, in 1898, created a marketing model depicting the stages of the customer’s journey. He termed it the AIDA model. Scientific management insights were a basis for creating the AIDA model. As per this model, every purchase involves four cognitive phases leading to the purchase. They are:

  • Awareness (or Attention): The prospect becomes aware of a problem. The prospect is aware of possible products/services as a solution.
  • Interest: The prospect expresses interest in the product/service.
  • Desire: The prospect evaluates a particular brand under possible solutions.
  • Action: This is the natural result of moving through the prior three stages. The prospect purchases the product/service.

In 1911, Sheldon added a fifth element to the AIDA model, that of “permanent satisfaction” or retention, leading to repeat sales. The AIDA model served as the backbone of the sales strategy for the longest period.

Digital Marketing Funnel


Marketing Funnel Example:

For a deeper understanding, let us take an example. Let us assume the example of you watching a movie.

  • You are seeking out some entertainment. You come across a movie advertisement deployed through advertising mediums. The medium could be print, display ads, etc. Here comes the Awareness (Attention) The awareness of the problem (boredom) leading to Attention to the movie banner.
  • The moviemakers then stream a teaser/trailer of the same. This further piques your interest.
  • Post watching the trailer; you desire to watch the movie.
  • Ultimately, your action is to buy a movie ticket and watch the movie.

The funnel is a unified whole. But for convenience’s sake, it is segregated into TOFU (the top of the funnel), MOFU (middle of the funnel), and BOFU (the bottom of the funnel).

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Benefits of a Marketing Funnel:

Now that we understand the working principle, we will discuss the benefits of the same. Mapping every stage of a consumer’s journey gives invaluable insights. The insights can optimize the process at each stage for a better conversion rate. It is a powerful tool that provides transparency at every stage. The ability to quantify is perhaps the biggest benefit. The funnel provides the wisdom of which stage needs a better approach and what approach converts a prospect into a customer.

What Is A Digital Marketing Funnel?

The traditional marketing funnel is now obsolete. Consumers no longer pursue a static linear path to buying a product/service. The consumer journeys now are either a loop, a linear path, a mix, or a “flipped funnel” as we call it.

A new age demands everything new. Success in business today calls for adopting digital marketing and, therefore a digital marketing funnel as well.

With the overwhelmingly fast digitization in progress, with ease of access to the internet, and with 2.71 billion smartphone users, change is inevitable.

Because of the swift and speedy globalization, people have access to a huge amount of information. In fact, it is information overload! Information across social media, YouTube, product reviews, articles on products/services have all changed and influenced the buying behavior of the consumer. It is now a more customized and non-linear approach.

The fundamental concept is the same, that of the consumer’s journey from being a prospect to becoming a customer. What has changed is the means to achieve the end. The path is no longer the same in all cases.

Also, no one model fits all circumstances. Different companies call for different models, altering the basic model to suit their marketing strategies. Adapting to the changing digital marketing trends is the way to go forward.

The new (digital) vs. old (traditional) marketing funnel.

Traditional Marketing FunnelDigital Marketing Funnel
The approach is vastly linear.The approach is vastly non-linear and at multiple levels demanding a multi-faceted approach.
The model consists of four or five stages.The new-age model has greater than five stages.
This model relies on traditional methods of making the consumers aware of the products/services.The modes of awareness about a product/service are mostly through digital platforms.
It conforms to universal user behavior.It concentrates on behaviors driving the user.
This model focuses on overall funnel layers.This model focuses more in-depth on consumer behavior at every stage.

What are the benefits of a digital marketing funnel?

Due to rising competition and swift digitization, new and innovative ways to generate leads and retain them are the need of the hour and have led us to modify and optimize the traditional marketing funnel, making it more agile and suited to the present scenario. A good digital marketing funnel focuses on conversion optimization and, ultimately revenue.

“If content is king, then conversion is queen.” -John Munsell

A good digital marketing funnel helps businesses in the following ways:

  • Increases sales through customized and personalized lead nurturing.
  • Has detailed data-backed insights on consumer behavior at every stage.
  • Relies on process automation to save time and improve efficiency.
  • Process automation also ensures a decrease in errors.
  • Improves brand value and awareness.
  • It generates more leads and closes deals faster.
  • Eliminates guesswork with data-backed strategies ensuring improved chances of success.

Types of Digital Marketing Funnels

With change being the only constant in nature, the pathway of a consumer journey has also evolved. It is no longer a simple linear pathway and also differs from consumer to consumer.  Therefore, it is not constant for any given business. The fundamental objective of a marketing funnel is to help determine, comprehend, and follow the stages of a consumer lifecycle. The three most common forms of digital marketing funnels we come across are:

  • Hourglass.
  • Looping.
  • Micro-moments.

The Hourglass Marketing Funnel:

Digital Marketing Hourglass Funnel

Ideally, a marketing sales funnel varies from company to company but only minutely. The marketers might segregate the sections further for convenience’s sake, but broadly speaking, the modern sales funnel comprises of the stages of Awareness, Engagement and Consideration, and Conversion. The next newly added key stage that adds value is Retention. Let us analyze the hourglass model in some detail.

This model perhaps adopts the most detailed approach towards the customer journey and beyond. In the pre-purchase phase, it involves:

  • Engagement: Creating brand awareness.
  • Education: Identifying the problem.
  • Research: Finding a solution.
  • Evaluation: Assess how a product/service resolves the problem.
  • Justification: Validating the decision to buy the product/service.
  • The final action of actually buying the product/service.

In the pre-purchase phase, the consumer may enter at any point, and the approach is not necessarily linear. For example, the consumer may discover the brand when going through other competitive options, or the consumer might even identify a problem before brand awareness.

The hourglass model believes in mapping customer journeys, even post-purchase of the product/service. The post-purchase stages involve:

  • Adoption: Is using the product/service.
  • Retention: Is ascertaining satisfaction and success.
  • Expansion: Includes up-selling or cross-selling.
  • Advocacy: Loyalty and revival, becoming a brand advocate.

In the post-purchase phase, the consumer journey is mostly linear.

The Looping Digital Marketing Funnel:

Looping Digital Marketing Funnel

The looping model is also known as Closed Loop Marketing. This model gives new buyers the same degree of attention as new visitors. The looping model is less structured and more agile. It is flexible and unique to a consumer’s journey. The stages involved are:

  • Awareness: Identifying and being aware of the problem.
  • Consideration: Assessing solutions.
  • Research and Discovery Loop: Discovering possible solutions and potential brands.
  • Purchase: Transacting/buying the product/service.
  • Post-purchase experience: Enhancing customer experience.
  • Loyalty Loop: Ascertaining consumer loyalty for repeat business or expansion of the business.

The flexibility and nimble nature of this model make it functional across industries/businesses. As with other models, it can be tailor-fit to an industry/business with some modifications.

The Micro-Moment Digital Marketing Funnel

Micro Moments Digital Marketing

As the name suggests, this model takes inspiration from the micro-moments, a concept developed by Google. It essentially focuses on the thoughts that drive a consumer’s entry into the funnel. The micro-moments marketing funnel includes:

  • Want-to-Know Moment: This is when the consumer is researching but is not definitely in the purchase stage yet.
  • Want-to-Go Moment: This is when the consumer is on the lookout for a local business to buy a product/service.
  • Want-to-Do Moment: This is when the consumer requires help to complete a task.
  • Want-to-Buy Moment: This is when the consumer is decided about making the purchase but needs help on what to and how to buy.

A good digital marketing strategy will consider all these micro-moments as potential opportunities for conversions.

If we understand the people during their micro-moments and provide them with resolutions, they are most certainly going to convert into loyal customers. So, as an ideal marketer, you should anticipate the micro-moments of your consumers, commit to being available to help them with such critical moments, and provide the experience relevant to their needs.

Being proactive and responsive to the consumer is the key.


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Strategy for Every Stage of the Digital Marketing Funnel:

The consumers at the top of the funnel are the biggest opportunity for any business. They are the target audience that is ready to explore and buy your product/service. Influencing and convincing them can turn them into potential buyers.

The TOFU Audience:

The various ways to reach out to the top of the funnel (TOFU) audience include:

  • SEO: Search engine optimization improves the overall visibility of a business in the relevant segment. Consequently, it builds brand awareness.
  • Content Marketing (storytelling): Content marketing is of paramount importance. Be it listicles, articles, infographics, or blogs, consumers are digital-savvy today and expect user-focused, easy-to-understand content. More so, as 80% of users today research online before buying a product/service. Not forgetting the advancing voice search, 50% of all search queries expect to be voice-searched in the coming years, and hence, you need to improve and optimize content using long-tail keywords. Storytelling is the most effective mode of content marketing.
  • Video Marketing: Video, coming under the realm of content marketing, is the most powerful medium of marketing today. In 2019, an estimated 80% of traffic was from video marketing alone. The videos could be in a question-and-answer format for FAQs, informational videos, how-to videos, or other creative videos to grab the attention of the TOFU consumers. Video marketing has a bigger impact than one can imagine.
  • Social Media Marketing: In the present day, there is no reach like social media reach. It is one of the best ways to reach a target audience. The rise of influencer marketing, Instagram marketing, FB marketing, etc. is an example that social media is possibly the best platform to reach out to a larger consumer base. The hitch is finding the right platform based on the target audience.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Using AI in all business modules at some stage or the other is inevitable. The recent trend is the implementation of chatbots to enhance the consumer experience. These chatbots provide consumers with basic information in a human-like manner.

The MOFU Audience:

The MOFU is a tricky phase. It is the research phase and consumer behavior differs most in this phase. The consumers might focus on one brand or compare brands to determine what best suits their needs. What is crucial is that businesses must build authority at this stage and acquire consumers. The marketing tactics to leverage for this phase include:

  • SEO: The top three paid ads garner an average of 41% of clicks on a search results page. Good SEO practices ensure your brand is out there and visible for consumers.
  • Content Marketing: Again, the importance of content marketing cannot be stressed enough. Today almost 92% of shoppers read reviews online during the research phase. Most customers prefer watching videos about a product. These statistics are proof enough to provide top-of-the-class content marketing strategies.
  • Email Marketing: Most websites have a CTA (Call to action) inviting consumers to become subscribers and benefit from exclusive content, updates, or promotions and offers. A good email marketing strategy can ensure your information reaches out to all those who want to know more about you. It is yet another efficient opportunity to build awareness and authority.

With research being the keyword, the ideal marketer must be responsive to all touchpoints during this phase to ensure the consumer is convinced of the brand value and proceeds to make the buying decision.

The BOFU Audience:

The consumers at this stage offer the most value to a business. They have made up their minds and are now are ready to make the purchase. Just the last bit of persuasion is what it takes to convert the almost ready prospect into a for-sure customer. Digital marketing plays an important role at this stage. Modes of persuading consumers in this phase are:

  • SEO: Search engine optimization is something that has to be taken care of at every level of the funnel. SEO at the bottom of the funnel generally focuses on high-value keywords that imply a “call to action.” It implores and convinces the visitor/shopper to make that purchase!
  • Email Marketing: Never mind the rapid advances in all fields digital, email marketing remains dependable and how! It has the maximum potential to generate leads and a tested way to make an impression on the BOFU segment. Understanding user intent is crucial at every step. Even an email marketing campaign can be devised based on user intent. Be it a reminder about abandoned shopping carts, an interest in any product/service, a coupon code/promotional offer, or gently coaxing the consumers for a repeat order; email marketing can handle it all with finesse.
  • PPC: Pay-per-click advertising is extremely beneficial in converting consumers at the bottom of the funnel. Why do you ask? Simple, it is because they have finished their in-depth research, are done with the comparisons across brands, have assimilated enough information, and are ready to take the plunge and buy the product/service. PPC also serves to target the return visitors and remarket the product/service. Understanding the user’s needs and intent and using that information to develop a PPC campaign within a feasible budget is the ideal way to ensure consumers click on your advertisement and become your customer.

What about the newly developed Retention Stage?

Of course, there are strategies to go about this stage as well.

In any business, it is easier to take care of the existing customers and have them become repeat customers than it is to generate new leads and convert them into potential customers. If the customer is happy with your product/service, he/she is most likely to purchase again. They may even advocate your brand, spreading awareness, and generating word-of-mouth business.

Be connected with your existing customers and reach out to them for reviews, or with surveys for feedback, and this could be via email, or on social media apps that the consumer base uses most. Make their experience with you memorable; strengthen the bond with the consumer offering coupons or freebies on their special days, etc. There are many retention strategies out there, find the one that best suits your digital marketing strategy.

Strategies that work at any touchpoint of a digital marketing funnel.

There exist a few tried and tested strategies that work wonders at any given point of the digital marketing funnel. These include:

  • Be available. Provide customer support 24/7, in the form of live support during the day and as chatbots, FAQs, Guides, and more valuable information on your website. Be of value to your customers and see the number growing.
  • Go beyond the metrics and understand user intent. Undoubtedly, the data obtained from various metrics is extremely useful and critical. You can get enormous insights and learn so much about your target audience. But, go beyond being data-centric and understand the user intent. Only then it is possible to deliver useful content.
  • AI and Machine Learning. This aspect, no business should ignore. AI and machine learning help in analyzing enormous amounts of data, which in turn significantly help in predicting user intent, personalizing user experiences, and also in finding the keyword and relevant content potentials.
  • Understand who your target audience is. Understanding and narrowing the target audience promotes business.
  • Enhance brand value. Connecting with your target audience, sharing their views and values, and providing them with products/services that they require goes a long way in promoting and enhancing the brand value. Any brand that shares the same ideology as its customers and makes the customer feel important is sure to scale great heights and have maximum conversions and revenue. Design an impressionable and impeccable Brand value and enhance loyalty by catering to the needs of the audience and aligning your product/service to benefit them and meet their expectations.


If you are still relying on the traditional sales marketing funnel, in all probability, you are feeling the pinch of not many conversions. Change over to the new digital platform. Make that all-important switch now to a digital marketing funnel and align your sales strategy with current trends suitable for today’s digital-savvy consumers. Be in tune with new-age technologies and spruce up your digital marketing funnel to accommodate and leverage platforms of social media, artificial intelligence, mobile technology, and voice search. Adapt the digital approach and watch the increasing conversions resulting in increased sales and revenue.

Image Source: Google.

Aarti Kalra is a certified SEO content writer at IIM Skills. She has a penchant for all things creative and is an avid reader (everything from science, fiction, to medical, and educational). Currently enjoying being a wordsmith in the diverse field of content writing.

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