You're probably familiar with the purchase funnel, invented in 1898 by the colorfully named St. Elmo Lewis: he proposed that consumers go from awareness to interest to desire to action, gradually reducing the number of options or brands they consider along the way. This has been adopted, with some changes, as the standard across industries. But the funnel model is fading. Decades ago, consumers may have methodically winnowed their choices as the funnel describes. But today's consumers, barraged by information, are adapting their shopping habits to cope with the noise — and that has profound implications for marketers
In a survey of 7,000 consumers worldwide, we found the funnel is no longer the most common purchase path. In fact, only one third of consumers now use the funnel approach when they shop. Why the decline? The biggest reason, our research shows, is cognitive overload. Consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of choice and information they're exposed to, and marketers' relentless efforts to "engage" with them.