Resources Hub » Blog » Evolution of the Digital Marketing Funnel: Past and Present

Marketing funnels used to be pretty cookie cutter: First, you’d create awareness, then have consumers consider a purchase, and finally they’d convert. But thanks to the technological age we live in, the traditional marketing funnel has evolved.

We live in the digital age, meaning traditional marketing methods don’t cut it anymore. In fact, the ideal digital marketing funnel is ever-changing.

Regularly updating your digital marketing strategy means you need a funnel that shifts and adapts with you. That also means marketers must stay up to date on the changing trends in digital marketing.

So, how do you go about accomplishing all that? Brands need to understand the history of the marketing funnel before you can build a new one.

Why the traditional marketing funnel is obsolete

Marketing 101 teaches individuals that a basic funnel will get consumers to your product or service in a simple, streamlined manner.

This concept is still valid, but over the last thirty years, we’ve seen a significant change in how consumers find products and services.

The traditional sales funnel moved prospects from awareness to interest, then to desire, and finally to action. Thus, business owners would base their marketing activities around each stage of the funnel.

The traditional purchase funnel moves from awareness to interest, then to desire, and finally action.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sure, this funnel is still relevant in some ways. However, marketers should know that consumers no longer receive information exclusively from traditional mass marketing methods, such as television or direct mail.

Instead, a report on the direction of marking in 2020 found that everything is going digital.

No surprise there.

In fact, consumers use social media platforms, the web, and mobile devices for every stage of the sales funnel these days, from casual sharing and searching to researching the products and services they desire.

In fact, consumers use social media platforms, the web, and mobile devices for every stage of the sales funnel, from casual sharing and searching to researching products and services they desire.

Image Source: Smart Insights

These findings prove that consumers look for solutions to their pain points online, and they want them now.

Digital marketing trends

It’s essential for your business to investigate what channels work, growing your brand, and which ones don’t. This is the only way to ensure that a business’ digital marketing funnel will work the way they intend it to.

Once upon a time, marketing was all about creating the mythical solution and selling it to the masses. Now, people don’t want the mythical. They want the truth, and, once they find it, they’ll share it with everyone they can.

“Now more than ever, consumers expect brands to understand them,” said Nick Worth a contributor at MarketingLand. He went on to say that consumers also expect brands to treat engagement as if brands truly want to get to know their audience as individuals.

To put it simply: Consumers aren’t looking to get to know you, they want you to get to know them. If you can do that, then consumers will spread the word that your company is genuine and worth consumers’ investment.

This is why the standard marketing funnel is changing.

Social media

Social media can be a great platform to reach your audience. However, it’s vital that brands know their target audience since not everyone uses the same platforms and even those that do use those platforms for different reasons.

Take Facebook for example. While Facebook used to be the king of all social media platforms and was created with college students in mind, it’s been losing favor with younger generations thanks to a laundry list of well-publicized issues. In fact, the Digital Marketing Institute states that 41% of Facebook users are over the age of 65.

Mediums such as podcasts and videos, meanwhile, are rising in popularity, especially for the Gen Z market. One study states that 95% of consumers have watched a video to learn more about a product or service. That same survey stated that 81% of people were convinced to buy by watching a brand’s video.

Michael Stelzner, founder, and CEO of Social Media Examiner stated that “the pendulum” is moving away from “active social interactions” and back to other mediums such as “podcasts, reading, and watching videos on platforms like YouTube.”

Audio and voice technology

According to a report, 50% of all web searches will be done via voice by 2020 with voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri.

It’s not enough for a brand’s website to be mobile friendly. These days, they must also be voice ready as more and more individuals turn to hands-free technology like voice search.

Similarly, brands will need to update their SEO practices as well in order to stay ahead of the voice tech trend. Making your site voice-ready may include steps such as adding “near me” keywords to your pages. It could also mean adding common user questions to your site. That way when people say “hey Google,” the search engine will know exactly how to find your content.

Logan Baird, member of Design Services here at Marigold, stated that in 2019 brands need to make sure their emails (and other marketing assets) “can be read by voice-assistive devices.” Not only do your materials need to be voice-friendly, but they also need to use “strong and compelling copywriting” along with “solid and effective accessibility practices in email development.”

Content marketing and storytelling

Content marketing and practicing proper SEO is still vital, but now more than ever it is essential to hone your storytelling abilities. According to John Bucher, this year enthralling storytelling and “location-based experiences” will help draw customers to brands at a rate never seen before.

When trying to close the gap between your brand and consumers, you’ll have to meet them where they are. That means talking to them in in a relatable manner that feels natural.

In fact, one of the reasons storytelling is so important is that it adds a layer of authenticity to your company and authenticity will only become more important to consumers in the years to come.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Many businesses have begun to implement artificial intelligence (AI) on their sites to make the consumer experience more enjoyable.

In 2019, the artificial intelligence market is projected to grow by 154%. A recent survey also stated that 80% of brands plan to use AI chatbots by 2020.

Artificially intelligent chatbots are interactive software platforms—such as live chats—that can interact with the consumer on your company’s behalf in a human-like manner.

These chatbots ensure that potential customers receive answers to basic questions without taking any of your team’s time away from other, more high-level tasks.

Artificially intelligent chatbots are interactive software platforms—such as live chats—that can interact with the consumer in a human-like manner.

Image Source: GEC Designs

The new marketing funnel

With an understanding of why the traditional marketing funnel has changed, along with the current digital marketing trends, you can start to create your new digital marketing funnel that will increase conversions and drive revenue.

The standard marketing funnel entered consumers at the top and if they weren’t lost along the “interest” stage, it then funneled them through to the “purchase” stage.

This linear method is long gone, and the new model has a variety of different names, including “the loop funnel” or the “flipped funnel.”

The new marketing funnel treats a consumer as an individual instead of merely as another prospect. This means that marketers now have a hand in every step of the consumer’s journey.

Sure, reaching out to generate leads is still essential. However, prospects do a lot of their preliminary research online first, meaning consumers come across products or services on their own. This means they may come into the funnel at a different stage than just the top.

Yes, consumers will then go through to the purchase phase. However, some leads can potentially come in at the retention or even expansion phase.

Why? Because you’ve gone out of your way to connect with prospects. This leads others to your brand through word of mouth and other channels as well. Connecting with prospects as humans ensures a unique experience for each customer, something that will score you big points in the end.

Connecting with prospects as humans ensures a unique experience for each customer, something that will score you big points in the end.

Image Source: Campaign Monitor

Wrap up

Consumers refuse to be a number anymore. They want brands to get to know them as individuals and deliver quality solutions to their specific problems. But if we’ve learned anything from our marketing past, it’s that technology will continue to change and so will we.

That’s why brands need a funnel that will continue to adapt and grow with their strategy.

This means providing a funnel that can adapt to changes in:

  • Social media
  • Voice searching technology
  • Mobile technology
  • Artificial intelligence

Campaign Monitor’s VP of Marketing, Shane Phair, said it well:

“Email marketers should prepare for a stronger emphasis on personalization in 2019. Serving content tailored to your audience’s preferences will be paramount. 1:1 email marketing will finally replace 1: many.”


Need help creating personalized customer journeys? Campaign Monitor’s unique visual journey designer can help generate more timely emails that will keep your audience engaged. This is all thanks to our marketing automation services.

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