Evolution of the Digital Marketing Funnel: Past and Present

To understand a digital marketing funnel, we should look at what marketing of the past, pre-digital, looked like. This should help us, at a base level, gather some reference points by which we can understand the modern digital marketing funnel and how it is used.

A marketing funnel is essentially a customer journey which starts out in the world where your business or products are unknown. The funnel directs prospects through by raising awareness of your brand, educating on the benefits of your products or services and finally through to converting the prospective customer into a sale.

Traditional Marketing Funnel

At the top of a traditional marketing funnel is the promotional material. This could be a flyer delivered through your door, a poster on the side of a bus stop or some PoS (point of sale) material in a shop window. The top of the funnel raises awareness of your brand, products or services.

The middle of the funnel would represent the prospective customer considering the product or service. They seek out further information about your brand, products or service. This could include speaking to friends, visiting your shop for brochures or other informative material to aid their decision.

During this stage, they may speak to an employee or salesperson from within your business. Their job is to create a desire in the prospective customer, aiding their decision in choosing your product or service. Reviews in local or national publications could also be seen as the middle of funnel, with the prospect aware of you brand, such material serves to reinforce their confidence in making the decision to purchase.

The bottom of the funnel is the final step of the journey. With a decision made to commitment and purchase the product or service, the new customer completes the traditional and linear journey.

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Digital Marketing Funnel


In today’s modern and digitised world, things are a little different. The promotional material used to lure your prospects in are Google Ads, emails, videos, SEO and other materials and techniques designed at directing traffic towards your website.

Building on brand awareness and pulling in traffic, as well as existing customers are all functions for top of funnel marketing strategies.


Building on confidence in your brand, products or services forms a large part of your middle of funnel. Your MoF efforts should focus on presenting solutions to your prospective customers. Through targeted ads and emails, you can present customer reviews and stories, in depth videos, blogs and content aimed at presenting you as a thought leader in your field.

Middle of Funnel customers are still researching and deciding whether to buy from you. The top of the funnel brought them into your shop (your website), your efforts now are to close the sale.


The final stretch of the journey focusses on those who are almost certain they will make a purchase. It is possible they have left an item in their basket, or you may have brought them back to the site through PPC efforts.

The bottom of the funnel sees your prospective customer make the purchase, reported as a conversion you can now identify at which part of the process your new customer came to make the purchase. This valuable feedback means you can tailor your approach to maximise conversions.

Your efforts have paid off, but out the end of the funnel, you still have some work to do if you plan on getting repeat business. Follow up emails requesting feedback gives you more fire for your top and middle of funnel. This also helps build rapport with your new customer.

But wait… This Surely Creates Another Step?

Rather than the linear journey of the traditional funnel, which was used in earlier digital marketing strategies as well as in non-digital campaigns; a business can now loop the bottom of the funnel back in at the top or middle with a little extra work.

This method helps with customer retention, but also with brand awareness and confidence. By requesting feedback, you help other prospects make their decision.

So, more a Loop than a Funnel?

Post-Purchase Experience

What we are left with now then, is less a funnel and more a loop. With customers leaving product reviews, encouraged to share and like social pages and posts, they become an integral part of the process.

With the bottom of the funnel feeding back in to the top and middle sections through the post-purchase experience loop, businesses optimising for this process can benefit exponentially. The more reviews, the more chance of conversions and the more conversions the more reviews.

Google my Business (GMB)

A whopping 9 out of 10 online shoppers read reviews before committing to a purchase. Setting up Google my Business is a great way to bring your reviews to the forefront of your prospective customer’s journey.

GMB ensures you are discoverable and that your business details are all correct and present. The reviews of your business are easily accessible and GMB also allows you to make posts, upload images and lets customers contact you at a click of a button.

By capitalising on the simplicity of GMB, you maximise the chance of conversions.

Follow up Emails

This stage of the digital marketing loop is also why follow up emails are important. When a customer has a good experience, they are less likely to leave a review. Prompting reviews for good service is the best way to bump up high quality review numbers.

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Changes in Customer Behaviours

This extra step has come around through a shift in consumers online activity. The wide availability of products and services, at the tips of your fingers 24-hours-a-day, has driven up the customer’s expectations.

As we mentioned, 9 out of 10 customers will read reviews before committing to a purchase. The modern shopper also looks at company ethos and sustainability as part of the decision-making process. For this reason, engaging positively with your reviews, both good and bad, in spaces such as Trustpilot and GMB gives the prospect or returning customer an insight into who you are as a business.

In the modern world, businesses can remain largely faceless. Having pictures of you and your staff on your website, your GMB page or social channels can really make the business seem more personable.

The age-old cliché, people buy off people has never really disappeared. Keeping a personable element to a digital business can pay dividends to your digital marketing loop.

If you’d like to read up more on some top of funnel marketing techniques, why not check our blog on Writing Killer Ad Copy that Converts.

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