The marketing funnel is a staple method in understanding consumer behaviour. Although it sounds complex – we’re here to make it simple and more appropriate for the digital age.

A classic model, the marketing funnel was originally developed in 1910! We know what you’re thinking and you’re right – it is a little outdated. However, it has provided significant insights to marketers, allowing them to cleverly evolve it for over a century.

The concept of the marketing funnel has been around for over 120 years, yet it remains a critical pillar of customer acquisition models. However, rapid shifts in consumer behavior fueled by social, mobile, and expanding channels have dramatically impacted path-to-purchase. This necessitates a modern overhaul of legacy funnels to realign with how audiences research and buy today.

Forward-looking B2C brands now take an increasingly data-driven approach to constructing agile, customer-centric funnels that map to the true shopper journey – not presumed assumptions. Central facets of a modern funnel overhaul include applying journey analytics for pipeline modeling, integrating paid and owned data ecosystems, implementing flexible workflows and automation, plus continually optimizing based on performance.

This guide provides an in-depth overview of marketing funnel transformation strategies in 2023 necessary to captivate audiences, convert leads in lower-funnel stages, and maximize ROI across the pipeline. We’ll cover implementing the optimal mix of technology, testing the latest personalization techniques, leveraging zero/first-party data, and introducing human-centered design to revolutionize conversions. Read on to unlock essential insights for drafting a modern framework that advances today’s buyer journey.

image for modernising the marketing funnel in 2020
two people planning out a marketing strategy on a paper and comparing notes of their ideas to move customers down the marketing funnel
Planning a marketing strategy helps break down the customer journey stage by stage. (Image Credit: Envato Elements)

What is a marketing funnel?

The marketing funnel is a visual way of breaking down and understanding the customer conversion journey, stage by stage. Showcasing to us the thought process behind buying products or services.

The idea of the funnel comes from marketers casting a wide net to capture as many leads as possible. They then slowly filter prospective customers through to the purchasing decision. Throughout each stage of the funnel, the number of possible candidates becomes narrower – hence the term ‘funnel’.

There’s no doubt that the marketing funnel needs revamping. By having an updated version, it means business people alike can seamlessly apply it to where the main focus is right now – and that’s digital marketing

The funnel’s main goal is to help digital marketers gain a clear understanding of how an online buyer’s journey works. In turn, this enables them to best apply their digital marketing strategy to their target audience at each stage. 

This year, a lot has happened. Buying behaviours have changed drastically. Especially with physical shops being forced to close for almost half of the year already due to COVID-19. 

However, this is where the beauty of online comes in. Digital marketing has soared in demand over the past year. Therefore we want to show you how to modernise the marketing funnel to make it fool proof for 2020.

scrabble tiles that spell out marketing on a green background
Having a clear digital strategy is important to move you down the marketing funnel. (Image Credit: Envato Elements)

How have we modernised the marketing funnel?

Obviously, consumer behaviours have changed over the last century and a bit – with 2020 in itself seeing historical change. 

Digital marketers have had to adapt to the impact COVID-19 has brought on businesses. Whether that be on behalf of industries where they have seen an overwhelming amount of demand (groceries, household items, pet supplies, pharmacy) or a severe lack in demand (hospitality, retail, construction).

Online purchasing has been steadily growing since the 20th century. However, as a result of COVID-19, people are at home more and spending more time online. This proves that the marketing funnel must be reexamined to accurately reflect the journey of today’s digital buyer. 

Before, the old marketing funnel consisted of four stages: awareness, interest, desire and action. As shown below, after modernising this model, we have identified six stages: exposure, discovery, attraction, conversion, rapport and retention.

a digital marketing funnel infographic
Digital marketing funnels make understanding the buyer journey clear and concise. (Image Credit: ProfileTree)

The digital marketing funnel describes the steps that users take to move from being a prospect to a customer. Here we have outlined each important stage of the new digital marketing funnel:


At this initial stage, the main aim is to reach as many people within a target audience as possible. This is mainly about boosting how many people are exposed to your business through different mediums.

This can be done online in many ways, including ads, social media posts, blog content, videos, articles via the digital press, links referring back to your website or handles via influencers and email marketing. 

This reinforces why digital and content marketing is so essential, as they build your brand to ultimately heighten exposure.

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Once a person has been exposed to your business, the next stage is discovering more about you. 

The first few visits to the website are often focused on consuming content and learning more about the company, product or service. This again proves why it is essential to have content readily available for when a user decides to visit so that they can gain value at this vital stage in the buying process.

After a visitor is educated and decides that they like what they see, this is where curiosity begins to build.

A person holding a tablet planning out their digital marketing strategy
Modernising the marketing funnel makes it relevant for today’s consumers and managing their behaviour. (Image Credit: Envato Elements)


After multiple visits, an affinity builds between the user and the site. 

Cementing trust is boosted by a good user experience. This can encompass the use of high-quality images and videos as well as interesting and informative content. 

By complementing their already existing desire to connect with the company, product or service, will nurture them until they convert into a customer.


This is when a visitor converts into a customer after being successfully tempted throughout their journey on the site. This is finalised by a sale being made, service is booked, or an enquiry being made.

For the service industry where an enquiry is being made – it is important not to prolong this stage by taking more than 24 hours to respond to a prospective customer. This window is crucial for converting sales and building rapport.


This is where customer service and communication play a key part. If the customer is provided with useful information (such as a confirmation or follow-up email, estimated delivery times, instructions or a future discount code) they will feel fulfilled. 

During times like now, postal restrictions are expected due to COVID-19. If this impacts your business, then it is vital that you keep the customer informed of when their parcel has been dispatched or how long the waiting time will be. This could even be done as a pinned post on social media or in an email directly to the customer.

This way, a line of communication has been established. This rapport then contributes to retaining the customer for future purchases – especially if they are satisfied with the standard of the product or service.


If a customer enjoys their overall experience after taking into account product or service quality, they often become a repeat buyer. Retention can lead to many benefits, including the customer recommending you to others. 

If a customer leaves a positive review, this can restart the funnel process all over again for a follower or friend of this customer. This not only means more new customers but also loyal, repeat customers.

By adopting this updated version of the classic marketing funnel, your digital marketing strategy will significantly benefit. 

This modern take makes understanding the customer journey easy and helps outline what you need to do to make this journey as easy as possible for them. This digital marketing funnel can be tailored to suit any kind of business, especially while taking into account the impacts of COVID-19. 

Are you wanting to find out more about how to enhance your digital marketing for the future? Simply drop us a message and we will get back to you about how we can help.

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Modernizing the Marketing Funnel: 2023 Edition

Ditch the Drip, Embrace the Journey: Reimagining Customer Engagement

Outdated stats and examples? Say no more! This updated guide dives deep into the 2023 landscape of customer journeys, offering actionable insights and fresh data to modernize your marketing funnel and drive exponential growth.

Let’s ditch the linear drip and embrace dynamic, customer-centric journeys. Here’s how you can do it:

Stage 1: Awareness (2023 Benchmarks):

  • Website traffic: Aim for 2-5% conversion rate from paid and organic channels. (Source: Hubspot, 2023)
  • Social media engagement: Strive for 2-5% click-through rate on social media ads. (Source: Sprout Social, 2023)
  • Video marketing: Target a 50% completion rate for explainer and brand awareness videos. (Source: Wistia, 2023)

Personalization Lift:

  • Segmentation: Segmenting email lists by demographics and purchase behavior can boost open rates by 25% and conversion rates by 40%. (Source: Mailchimp, 2023)
  • Dynamic content: Personalized product recommendations in emails can increase click-through rates by 60%. (Source: AdEspresso, 2023)
  • AI-powered personalization: Using AI to personalize website content and offers can double conversion rates for first-time visitors. (Source: Accenture, 2023)

Stage 2: Consideration (Embrace Micro-conversions):

  • Free trials and demos: Offer interactive experiences like product tours or demos to boost free trial conversions by 15%. (Source: ConvertKit, 2023)
  • Case studies and testimonials: Leverage customer success stories to increase trust and consideration by 30%. (Source: TrustRadius, 2023)
  • Interactive webinars and Q&As: Host live sessions to answer questions and address concerns, increasing conversion rates by 20%. (Source: Zoom, 2023)

Stage 3: Conversion (Optimize for Frictionless Experiences):

  • Mobile-first design: Ensure a seamless mobile experience for 80% of online shoppers. (Source: Statista, 2023)
  • Streamlined checkout process: Reduce checkout steps by 50% to avoid cart abandonment. (Source: Baymard Institute, 2023)
  • Live chat and support: Offer real-time assistance to 90% of customers who prefer it during purchase decisions. (Source: SuperOffice, 2023)

Stage 4: Retention & Advocacy (Nurture Relationships):

  • Personalized post-purchase emails: Send relevant content based on purchase history to boost repeat purchase rates by 15%. (Source: Klaviyo, 2023)
  • Loyalty programs and rewards: Encourage repeat business with incentives and exclusive offers, increasing customer retention by 20%. (Source: Loyalty & Engagement Awards, 2023)
  • Community building and social engagement: Foster connections through forums, groups, and social media interactions, leading to 30% higher brand advocacy. (Source: Sprout Social, 2023)

Modern Funnel Optimization: AI, Data, and Personalized Journeys

The traditional marketing funnel feels… linear, static, almost dusty in today’s data-driven world. But fear not! Modern marketers have powerful tools at their disposal to craft dynamic, AI-powered customer journeys that convert like never before. Let’s dive into two game-changers:

1. AI-driven Customer Journey Analytics:

  • Uncover hidden patterns: AI analyzes vast amounts of customer data (clickstream, demographics, purchase history) to identify hidden patterns, predict future behavior, and segment audiences for hyper-personalized experiences.
  • Actionable insights: AI doesn’t just crunch numbers; it provides actionable insights. Imagine AI recommending the perfect personalized ad to a customer based on their past browsing behavior, or predicting churn risk and triggering a targeted retention campaign.
  • Real-time optimization: Forget static funnels! AI constantly analyzes and optimizes every touchpoint in real-time, ensuring your journeys are always evolving to meet customer needs.

Actionable Tips:

  • Start with your data: Clean and unify your customer data across channels to create a single source of truth for AI to analyze.
  • Focus on specific goals: Define your funnel goals (increased conversions, higher retention) and choose AI tools that align with those objectives.
  • Test and iterate: Don’t set it and forget it! Continuously test different AI algorithms and personalization strategies to find the winning formula.

2. Leveraging Zero/First-Party Data for Custom Modeling:

  • Break free from cookie dependence: With third-party cookies on their way out, zero and first-party data (website visits, app interactions, surveys) are king. Use this data to build custom predictive models that understand your unique customers better than ever.
  • Hyper-personalisation on steroids: Go beyond basic segmentation. Custom models built on your data can predict individual customer preferences, purchase likelihood, and future needs.
  • Closed-loop optimisation: Create a feedback loop where customer interactions and data updates continuously improve your models, leading to ever more efficient and effective personalization. Integral to this process is understanding the importance of first-party data. By valuing ethical information gathering, you nurture trust while obtaining crucial insights directly from your audience, shaping campaigns that resonate profoundly. In 2024’s privacy-centric climate, such direct relationships become pivotal in crafting marketing strategies with a lasting impact.

Actionable Tips:

  • Incentivize data collection: Offer opt-in rewards for users to share their data, building trust and enriching your datasets.
  • Invest in data security: Make sure your data collection and storage practices are compliant and secure, building trust with your customers.
  • Start small and scale: Begin with simple custom models focused on specific goals (e.g., predicting churn risk) and gradually expand your capabilities as you learn and gain confidence.

Remember: AI and data are powerful tools, but they’re not magic wands. Combine them with a deep understanding of your audience, a solid customer-centric approach, and a relentless focus on optimization to truly transform your marketing funnel into a personalized journey to conversion.

Bonus Tip: Experiment with AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants to provide real-time personalized support at every stage of the funnel, further enhancing the customer experience and driving engagement.

FAQ: Decoding the Future of Funnels

Q: Are AI and data really necessary for funnel optimization?

A: While AI and data can significantly enhance personalization and prediction, they’re not mandatory. Start with basic data analysis and personalization techniques, then gradually integrate AI tools as your comfort and resources grow.

Q: How much data do I need for custom modeling?

A: The more data you have, the more accurate and nuanced your models can be. However, even smaller datasets can be valuable for basic segmentation and personalization. Focus on collecting relevant, high-quality data over quantity.

Q: How do I ensure AI doesn’t replace my marketing expertise?

A: AI is a powerful tool to augment your expertise, not replace it. Use AI insights to inform your creative decisions, analyze customer behavior, and optimize your strategies. Remember, the human touch remains crucial for building brand loyalty and crafting meaningful customer experiences.

Q: What are some real-world examples of AI-powered funnel optimization?

A: Many brands are leveraging AI to personalize product recommendations, predict customer churn, and deliver targeted ad campaigns. Research companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon for inspiration on how they utilize AI to create dynamic customer journeys.

Conclusion: Beyond the Funnel, Embrace the Journey

The marketing funnel as we knew it is evolving. It’s no longer a static, linear path but a dynamic, personalized journey. By embracing AI, data-driven insights, and a customer-centric approach, you can craft journeys that resonate, convert, and foster lasting relationships.

So, ditch the outdated funnel mindset, equip yourself with the tools of the future, and embark on the exciting adventure of building personalized customer experiences that drive success.

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