NEWS26 June 2009

Purchase behaviour in need of a rethink, says McKinsey

News North America

US— Traditional models of how people choose and purchase products are out of date, say McKinsey researchers.

In a paper entitled ‘The consumer decision journey’, David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susie Mulder and Ole Jorgen Vetvik argue that the traditional ‘funnel’ analogy for understanding how consumers narrow down their choices no longer applies.

“The funnel concept fails to capture all the touchpoints and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed customer,” they write. “A more sophisticated approach is required to help marketers navigate this environment, which is less linear and more complicated than the funnel suggests.”

The model they propose is circular rather than linear, and based on constant ongoing exposure to brands. At some point a trigger starts the process of initial consideration, which is followed by active evaluation, during which the number of brands being considered could go up rather than down. It also takes into account the effect of post-purchase experience on future decisions.

The researchers say companies should align all elements of their marketing and integrate all their customer-facing activities.

“Companies need an integrated, organisation-wide ‘voice of the consumer’, with skills from advertising to public relations, product development, market research and data management,” they write.

The full paper, based on a survey of 20,000 people across three continents, can be found here.



13 years ago

Well done, McKinsey researchers for an important piece of work. But beware of generalisations. An individual person may not make all their buying decisions in the same way, or over the same timescale, for all products and markets. People are not 'constantly exposed to brands' for all products and markets. In some markets, eg infrequently purchased products, they may be unaware of many/any brands till they need a particular product. The important thing is for each and every company to understand how the buying process works for its own market/products AND to understand that every product and market has its own segmentation of buyers, with a range of motives and decision-making behaviour. Apply a one-size-fits-all model at your peril.

Like Report

13 years ago

Great article, thanks for the insight. It's clear that the traditional purchase funnel needs to evolve fast to keep up with internet technology. Some businesses have been too slow to update their behaviours and are suffering as a result. The internet will continue to challenge the marketing paradigm for years to come and eventually the industry will catch up!

Like Report