Understanding the Modern Consumer: A Step by Step Guide Through the Digital Marketing Funnel

  • January 14, 2019

If we compare how we live our lives now from the way things were 20 years ago, one of the more obvious differences is how we behave as consumers.

This, of course, extends to how companies interact with us consumers. Back in the 90s, you might have gotten an occasional fax or two as a promotional ad. These days, we doubt that members of Gen Z would even know what on earth a fax machine is.

Because of the rapid development in the kind of technology that promotes easier connectivity, companies were forced to keep up with the times to be able to reach their audience.

It wouldn’t make much sense for them to rely on the old-fashioned ways of marketing, considering that pieces of tech become outdated faster than they used to. No one would be caught dead sporting a brick of a phone that has no internet capabilities anymore, that’s for sure.

That’s due to the fact that there are so many conveniences that are available to us, but, obviously, they can only be accessed through modern tools.

Now, the old marketing funnel has essentially become obsolete. We’d be surprised if you recently made a purchase because of an ad you saw on the newspaper. These days, it would be considered bold if you were to make a purchase without being fully informed.

The new marketing funnel has adapted to how consumers have come to behave. It is now based on the consumer’s activities online.

Below, we have tried to lay out everything as simply as possible, walking you through every step of the modern online marketing funnel model.

Should you want to know how to create the most effective strategy to reach your audience and drive in more sales with this modern tool, then we’ve got you covered.


digital marketing funnel


The stages of the modern digital marketing funnel model

The new digital marketing funnel is fairly broad. Basically, it’s a guide that demonstrates the flow that consumers follow before, during, and after the purchasing process. Back then, it was pretty straightforward and consumers were less likely to deviate from it.

In truth, it would be misleading to even call it a “funnel” anymore. It’s more like loops within a loop. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

There are phases that were adapted from the old model. These are:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration, which contains the research and discovery loop
  • Purchase
  • Post-purchase, which contain the loyalty loop

See? It’s not that much more complex, but let’s break everything down just so we can have a good understanding of this.

To illustrate a consumer’s typical buying cycles, let’s consider Emma – a 35-year-old homeowner and single mom of two. We’ll examine three cycles – one for an online purchase, one for a need-based service, and another for a want-based one.

SCENARIO 1: Emma gets in on a skincare subscription box service

  • AWARENESS: While scrolling through a friend’s feed on Facebook, Emma notices an ad for a skincare subscription box. She checks it out and remembers that she has been meaning to do something about her developing crow’s feet.
  • CONSIDERATION: The next day, on Instagram this time, she notices an ad for the same skincare subscription box in the form of a photo. And this ad has about 1000 comments from women who are loving what they’re getting from these boxes. Again, she remembers worrying about the fine lines on her face and finds herself on the Instagram page of the subscription box service itself.
  • AWARENESS, CONSIDERATION: A little bit more interested now, Emma goes on Google to search for the products that have been previously included in these boxes, making calculations as to whether it’s just a rip-off and if it’s better to just purchase them individually. She also checks out other skincare subscriptions boxes to see if they carry the same products.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma looks at the company’s website and sees a banner on the front page, saying that they’re offering a month-long trial for the subscription box.
  • PURCHASE: This is what finally makes up her mind. She subscribes to the trial.
  • LOYALTY LOOP, PURCHASE: Emma is happy with the initial results, so she stays on the subscription. She follows the company on social media and learns that they advocate all natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare products. She’s happy about this.
  • AWARENESS: Emma notices that her fine lines are slowly fading, so she’s more confident about the products that she’s getting. She knows they’re effective. Because Emma follows the company she gets the boxes from on social media, she finds out that they’re coming out with an all-natural household product line.
  • LOYALTY LOOP, PURCHASE: Because Emma trusts the company now, the consideration stage is skipped and she immediately subscribes to their other new line.


purchase funnel


SCENARIO 2: Emma needs to have the plumbing checked out

  • AWARENESS: First, Emma notices a growing water stain on her living room ceiling. She checks all the upstairs bathrooms to figure out where the leak is coming from. No luck.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma grabs her smartphone and Googles, “water stain on ceiling” to see the possible causes and what she’ll have to do to get it fixed.
  • AWARENESS: Emma goes on Facebook to hunt for recommendation on a good plumbing company.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma weighs her gathered recommendations, looking to see which one is the most reputable and has gotten the best reviews, which one she can afford, which one is closest to her house, and which one can work at hours that are most convenient for her.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma now has zeroed in on a few plumbing services, so she logs back in on Facebook and asks her friends who have had previous experiences with these services.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma comes across an ad by one of the services she has been keen on and they’re offering discounts.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma chooses a discount and continues to read and watch videos about the said plumbing service. She’s now very convinced.
  • PURCHASE: Emma gets in touch with the company and finally schedules an appointment.
  • LOYALTY LOOP: Emma gets her pipes ripped out and replaced. There are no more leaks and the value of her old house has increased. She’s pleased with the results. She gets an email from the plumbing company, asking her to leave a review and she does.
  • AWARENESS, CONSIDERATION, PURCHASE, LOYALTY LOOP: Since got lucky, having bought a mid-century home for cheap but had to remodel it herself, a year later, their water heater breaks down.

She decides that it’s time to get a new tankless water heater installed because it’s more energy efficient and she wants to keep updating her home.

Through the email newsletter of the plumbing company, she finds out that they’re offering a discount on tankless water heater installation. She clicks on it and schedules a new appointment.

Her family doesn’t have to deal with cold showers anymore and she leaves glowing reviews again.

SCENARIO 3: Emma wants her backyard redesigned

  • AWARENESS: Emma has finally saved up enough to update her backyard. This wasn’t high up on her priorities when they first moved in the house. But it has been a couple of years since, so the budget is not as tight and this is the last part of the property that she has yet to renovate.

She wants to have major landscaping done and she wants a pool installed for the kids.

  • AWARENESS: Emma goes on her favorite site, Pinterest, to pin cool backyard ideas, looking at plants and pool shapes.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma picks her favorites and searches for a reputable contractor that includes landscape design in their services.
  • AWARENESS: This takes a while and she can’t make up her mind whether or not to hire a freelance landscape artist. She goes Facebook to ask her friends for advice.
  • CONSIDERATION: Her friend, Marco, just so happened to have gotten his lawn redone by one of the designers she’s following on Pinterest. He can’t say enough nice things about the service and he sends her photos of the finished project. Emma is impressed.
  • CONSIDERATION: Emma contact the landscape company and books an appointment to have her property looked at.
  • PURCHASE: The designer arrives at her home and they discuss what she wants and the designer tells her what’s doable within her budget. After a few days, she is sent a couple of designs to choose from based on her preferences. Emma selects the one she’s most happy with and signs on for the contractors to begin work.
  • LOYALTY LOOP: Emma takes pictures of the entire process, documenting every stage and posting the photos on Instagram.
  • LOYALTY LOOP: The new backyard looks amazing. She posts photos from a barbecue that she recently held at her backyard on Facebook, including photos of the kids enjoying the new pool. She gets tons of positive comments.
  • LOYALTY LOOP, PURCHASE: Five years later, Emma gets an amazing job opportunity from out of state. She decides to sell the house and buy a new one in the state that she’s moving to. She has to have the front yard updated to make it the property look more attractive and to increase its value.

She remembers how happy she was with the backyard remodel, so she hires the same designer and contractors again without considering any other service.


marketing funnel stages


The one marketing funnel model and framework that you should absolutely follow

To simplify this cycle even further, we always reference Avinash Kaushik’s model. This is as simple as it can get and it takes consumer intent into account very accurately through each stage.

The stages are:

  • SEE: reaching the widest addressable qualified audience who may or may not have commercial intent yet
  • THINK: reaching the widest addressable qualified audience who does have some commercial intent
  • DO: driving in the widest addressable qualified audience who already has a high commercial intent
  • CARE: reaching customers who have already purchased products or availed of services

These stages can be linked to the basic model that we touched upon earlier.


Exploring every stage of the STDC model


Within the “see” category, you will want to reach your widest addressable qualified audience, meaning consumers who might not know who you are, but has the chance to be interested in what you’re offering.

Obviously, your goal here is to increase your visibility, so that they become aware of your products or services and what they’ll gain from purchasing these.

You’re trying to drive them to the “think” stage, where they might start to consider purchasing something from your company.

How do you get them there? Through a combination of SEO and SEM, with a particular focus on marketing on various social media platforms.

Within platforms of social media, there are online communities. These communities thrive on information exchange. This is one of the main ways consumers get to know companies and gain confidence about their purchase decisions.

Let’s look at some stats:

  • Facebook population

88% – aged 18 to 29

84% – aged 30 to 49

  • With all internet activity, almost 17% is spent on Facebook. 25% is spent on a mobile device.
  • Instagram population

59% – aged 18 to 29

33% – aged 30 to 49

  • YouTube population
  • GEN-X – 58%
  • The average time spent on YouTube is 40 minutes per session

Some forms of social media marketing are more expensive than others, but some remain relatively cheap and some don’t even cost anything at all.

In essence, posting a high quality infographic on Facebook shouldn’t cost you a penny. However, companies who are serious about their social media marketing strategies often have skilled teams of marketing experts and creatives behind their brand. That will cost you money.

This is to ensure that their company has optimal content that is more likely to convert more potential customers.

Establishing a solid online presence through social media platforms is the perfect way to let your audience know what you’re all about. This humanizes your brand, encourages trust, and sparks interest.

It’s also important to note that in this day and age, consumers, especially millennials, expect companies to have some sort of social media presence. That’s something to keep in mind.

Aside from having a strong website, you should also invest in PPC display ads, which is an SEM strategy. This is especially useful if you haven’t built up much of a reputation and you’re not sure where to get started.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are exactly what the name implies. They’re ads that cost you a small fee whenever a potential buyer clicks on them.

To understand how powerful ads are, let’s have a quick overview of the cell phone theory.

This theory hails from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Alan Brown and a team of researchers conducted a study on the human attention span. It basically states that we’re still subliminally aware of everything that’s around us despite any kind of distraction.

As time goes on, these subliminal surroundings become a part of the inner workings of our brain. They remain there and that’s why they seem to be more and more familiar.

This implies that something as inconspicuous as ads can stay in our minds even as we’re doing something else.

What can we take from this? This phenomenon is essentially what builds up brand recognition. Why do you think household brands are so ingrained in our psyche? Because we’re constantly bombarded by images that are associated with these brands without us even realizing it.

customer funnel


Assuming that you have already caught your target audience’s attention, we can now move on to the “think” stage.

This is the part where the average consumer does the most research. The consumer will weigh his or her needs and wants, and what options are available to address these.

This is the stage where it’s important that you outshine the competitors in your market. Here are some stats of an average consumer’s activities during this stage:

  • 71% of consumers start to learn about the products that they’re interested in through a search engine like Google.
  • A staggering 92% of consumers read and watch online reviews before buying a product.
  • Out of five customers, four prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it.
  • The top 3 paid ads on a search engine results page get 41% of clicks.

From this, we can gather that the modern consumer is much more informed than consumers from 20 years ago.

The caveat is that consumers can be more selective and corporate ads receive a lot more judgement than before.

We also have to take into account that different individuals have different buying patterns. You have to make sure that you address all potential customers in whatever stage of the marketing funnel they might find themselves in.

What strategies can you put into action to achieve this? Let’s get into each one.


SEO is the process of building an organic following for your brand. This is applicable for every stage of the marketing funnel.

SEO done right ensures that your site will be among the top hits on search engine search results and you have tons of links leading back to it from other platforms.

As a internet user yourself, you might agree with us that you rarely ever get to page 2 or 3 when looking something up on Google or Yahoo.

Our best advice to be transparent about what your company offers. Make sure that you have top-notch content in the form of blogs and social media posts. Also, it’s important to optimize your website to make it easily navigable and mobile friendly.

More and more consumers prefer to be on their phones than with a desktop setup or laptop.

Furthermore, perhaps the most important element of this stage in the marketing funnel is garnering good reviews. Remember, 92% of online shoppers rely on reviews and base their purchasing decisions on them.

A majority of this these shoppers even trust these reviews as if they were personal recommendations that they would get from people who they actually know.

Our theory about this is that people are not really keen on advertising anymore. Naturally, companies would want to present themselves in the best light and they always have to put their best foot forward.

They’ll do this even though they might be working in shady operations. At some point, a lot of us have been disappointed with a purchase one way or another.

So consumers have learned their lesson. Most of the time, it’s better to rely on other consumers and their opinions on the said product. Companies will rarely ever admit to their weaknesses.

Now, reviews have become another tool that companies use to drive in more customers. The more glowing reviews they get, the more attractive their products are. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.


top of the funnel marketing



With the modern consumers’ dwindling attention spans, it’s no surprise that they would rather take in information visually. It’s a sad fact that reading has become a chore to most people.

But did you know that you squeeze in about 30,000 words into an 8-second video? And 8 seconds is roughly the duration of an average person’s attention span.

You can take advantage of this. We can attest to the fact that one video would be just as effective, if not more than, about 30 blog posts.

Factor in the time it would take to create such content. Obviously, creating a visually stimulating 8-second video would take a lot less time than writing 30 blog posts.

What kind of videos should you make?

  • Videos addressing frequently asked questions
  • Tutorials
  • Stories about your company (origin, advocacies, gatherings, outreach, principles, notable sponsored people etc.)
  • In-depth product descriptions

Ideally, all of these should be short, best kept under a minute. You or your marketing team can post these on YouTube and other social media platforms that support the video format.

Make sure that you publish with links that have landing pages to your main website or blog.


As an ethical decision, you want your company to have an opt-in email subscription for your customers. We say that because no one like receiving unwanted emails, as they can feel a bit invasive. Plus, that’s surefire way to clog your customers’ spam folder, which would be a waste.

The best thing about email marketing is that it’s the least expensive out of all marketing ploys. On top of that, it has a 4400% return on investment. This seems like it’s too good to be true, but it is.

Not convinced? Check out these stats.

  • 51% of all customers subscribed to some form of newsletter spend around 10 minutes to an hour browsing these emails per week.
  • 70% of these customers who have been looking into these emails in the past week take advantage of the promotions offered by the company.
  • In marketing through messaging, automated emails take the top spot when it comes to conversion rate, coming it at 66%.

The easiest way to stay visible to your customers is to be in their inbox. Since they gave you the permission to do this, this actually means that they want to stay updated about what your company is currently offering.


We’ve finally reached the part where it’s decision time for the customer. This is where you’ll give the buyer a final push.

The challenge here is to drive them to action. They might be interested in one of your products, but it takes something extra for them to actually click “add to cart.”

How exactly do you zero in on potential customers who are on the verge of purchasing? By going specific and optimizing your content and ads. Do the following:

  • Make sure you also purchase keywords that are related to the “do” stage like “buy,” bundles,” or “quote.”
  • Use reverse engineering and use terms that are more associated to your competitors
  • Have keywords that relate to having your customer getting in touch with you like “contact” and “request”
  • Have keywords that relate to potential buyers in a specific area like “city” or “zip code”
  • Try to be more personal. For example, when responding to a previous customer’s review. Thank them and use their name.
  • If your products are targeted towards different demographics, have ads that are tailored to each one.
  • Include case studies and testimonials as an advertising tactic.
  • Try to get on reviewed on reputable online magazines and journals. If you can’t them to review you on their whim just yet, pay for advertising.
  • Make sure to promote events like live demos and conferences.

If you do all these, you can expect to see an increase in leads that will eventually turn into sales.


marketing funnel



If a customer is happy with your product or service, the cycle doesn’t end there. You have to make sure that they stay loyal to you.

Another important thing to note here is that it’s easier to retain existing customers than to gain new ones. That’s why it’s crucial that you care for your audience even after the “do” stage.

The best part about having a loyal customer base is that they can do some of your advertising for you. Not only will they keep purchasing your products, they will also be more likely to recommend you to their friends and family.

So by raking in one customer, you gain, let’s say, 20 others. We’d say that’s worth the effort in trying to keep that customer interested.

The “care” stage is all about establishing a relationship with your customer or building an online community with them. Let them know that your company is not just some cold corporation that only cares about sales.

You can do this by responding warmly to reviews, thanking the ones that are positive. If you ever get negative reviews, make sure you apologize and offer some solutions to the issues that the customer brought up.

Share your stories through social media and get people in on how awesome your company work environment is. Customers like the idea that they’re being catered to by people who really want to help them.

Another easy way to do is to keep track of an individual customer’s order history. Shoppers love it when the ads that they see are tailored to what they’re most interested in. By taking their past purchases into account, you can provide a more personalized experience.

Formulating a strategy to stay present at every step of your customer’s journey

We know that this is a lot of information to take in. Every step is its own detailed aspect in this whole cycle.

Our parting tip: your company should keep track of its online marketing analytics. These strategies would not amount to much if you don’t know or understand the results that you’re getting.

In the first place, we doubt that any company could troubleshoot issues without knowing where the problem is stemming from. Similarly, they won’t know what they’re doing right if things ever start looking up.

Make sure that you record and analyze your metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). These include the basics like brand awareness and customer retention.

Yes, this can be a lot to handle. On top of keeping up with all your activities online, you also have to be able to interpret the data that comes with it.

This is why we recommend having a skilled marketing team like us behind you. We can manage your online reputation, so you can be free to focus on other aspects of your growing business.

Want to know more about what we can do for you? Get in touch with us today.


One of our experts is online, she will get back to you

Tanya Mendes

Marketing Manager