It’s time to officially put the idea of a sales funnel out to pasture.
It’s an idea reassuring in its consistency and logic: At the top of the funnel, many people (most of whom will never be your customers), become aware of your product.
As time passes, their awareness increases through repeated exposure to your clever marketing—banner ads, landing pages, special offers, irresistible content.
The uninterested eventually drop off. But if everything is functioning smoothly—if you have a lot of people enter your funnel, or if you’re particularly skilled at herding cattle—a certain percentage of people will convert to paying customers.
What’s wrong with that?
The problem, of course, is that technology is changing everything.
Customers are connected 24/7, and the internet is embedded into nearly all aspects of their daily lives.
They have access to more information than ever before, and more every day.
They can size up your brand or product by reading the opinions of other customers through online reviews, personal blogs, and social media posts.
Assessments happen nearly instantaneously. And just as a customer can add an item to cart and check out in a matter of seconds (and at any time of day), he or she can abandon the cart, never to return.
“The balance of power has shifted,” Dan Pink writes in To Sell is Human. “We’ve moved from a world of caveat emptor, buyer beware, to one of caveat venditor, seller beware.”
Technology will continue to change the way we do business online, too. Artificial intelligence, for example, will likely bring about faster, smarter virtual assistants.
The funnel is actually a continuous cycle
The answer to the outdated sales funnel is the customer journey.
No longer is it about figuring out how to most effectively push users through the funnel—it’s about learning what your visitors are trying to achieve and understanding the path to purchase from their perspective.
It’s about understanding their intent-driven micro-moments and how you have the opportunity to meet their needs during those times.
It’s also about understanding that there’s value beyond AOV, RPV, and other revenue-focused metrics.
How Slack gets it right
Slack, the messaging app for company teams, is a brand that understands that the customer journey is a continuous cycle.
It’s smart software that’s integrated into workers’ everyday activities. Customer feedback drives feature changes and new releases.
Recognizing the importance of having fans and advocates—and understanding that those people aren’t always paying customers—they make their free plan nearly as robust as their paid plans.
Slack’s conversion rate from free to paid customers is reportedly 30 percent—impressive in the industry—and the company today is valued at $3.8 billion.
What does all this mean for the future of testing?
Testing shouldn’t exist solely to help us build a better funnel. It should be grounded in customer-centricity, a clear and ever-evolving understanding of who our customer is and where she wants to go.
It should be led by a desire to meet customers’ needs and surpass their expectations, all while identifying and working toward our own business goals.
At Click Summit 2016, experts in testing, optimization, and digital analytics came together to discuss complicated topics like this as well as other issues in testing, such as:
- Identifying opportunities for personalization
- Creating effective strategies for mobile testing
- Gaining executive buy-in for a testing program
Download our most valuable insights from the two-day conference. Our 30+ page PDF is packed with the biggest takeaways from small-group conversations about the most relevant topics in testing.