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Since the publication of my research piece, the “Long Road to Conversion: The Digital Purchase Funnel” earlier this year, clients have been asking the institute if we could get them a purchase funnel for their industry. In many cases it just isn’t possible, but in the case of online telcom advertisers (VOIP, Cellular, etc..) I was able to get enough data together to do an analysis. The result is the funnel chart on the right. In most ways, it looks like the cross-industry funnel.
In the first week prior to conversion we find search at the very bottom of the funnel. No surprise there. Search is the ultimate deal-closing tool for many online businesses and it looks like telecommunication services are no different. Affiliate networks disappear as they weren’t a significant presence in telcom conversion histories.
Moving up higher in the funnel, some of the largest differences between the cross-industry funnel and the Telcom funnel appear. In the general purchase funnel, a handful of product research focused publisher categories lived In this 7-14 day range. But, these publishers disappear in this funnel.
Some categories such as Autos have dropped off the map because these kinds of sites aren’t visited regularly by a large segment of people considering telcom products. Others such as Finance related sites (think bankrate.com) have moved from being low-mid funnel in the general funnel (median 13 days) to an upper funnel publisher (median 21 days). Because the consideration phase publishers from the DMI either disappear or slid up-funnel, the Telcom funnel does not have any publishers from 2 to 14 days before conversion.
This gap highlights one of the important implications of the purchase funnel for both advertisers and publishers. Using the last-ad attribution model favors publishers at the bottom of the funnel. But, by the time consumers visit these publishers they are already likely to make a purchase and the marketing task is to close the deal. The majority of publishers who reach a consumer earlier in the decision-making process are left out in the cold.
The Telcom funnel looks almost identical to the general funnel, once we move past the first two weeks prior to conversion. This upper-funnel region is the home of many classic content publishers such as entertainment, sports, portals, and news. Most of these publishers have exactly the same median time before conversion or are a day off of their cross-industry position. Two exceptions to this are Social Media publishers who move down the funnel from 21 to 18 days before conversion.
Publishers with content focused on kids and young adults also moved down from a median of 28 to 21 days. These moves within the high funnel group are probably driven by the demographics of users within a publisher category. My off-the-cuff guess is that teens through to adults under 35 are probably the most promising demographic for telcom advertisers. I’m sure that comScore or Nielson panel numbers would show both categories have higher concentrations of that particular demographic.
This brings up another key take-away from the purchase funnel research: a publisher is often a high-funnel publisher simply because their content draws a large and diverse audience and is not directly related to the product or service that generated the conversion. These publishers have a lot of reach and a mix of many different demographic groups. A small handful of people will visit a news site at the same time they are actively doing research for a new phone. The majority of the visitors to that publisher are simply looking for news. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in messaging to a particular group of consumes who you know are highly likely to be in-market at some point in the near future. It’s a mistake to use the same media messaging, strategies, and performance metrics on these sites as you would with a lower funnel site with a high concentration of pre-qualified consumers.
Some quick conclusions from this overview:
1.) The AIDA model behind the purchase funnel is robust and it helps understand the results in both the general and Telcom funnels nicely.
2.) Publishers showing advertising from the Telcom industry would benefit from an attribution model that considers more than the last-ad.
3.) Telcom advertisers would benefit from metrics and methods of buying media from high-funnel publishers that allow them to target specific demographic groups and measure their success at reaching them post-campaign.
Feel free to post questions or comments for more information.
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Did you notice a funnel indeed? eg were the conversion rates on Real Estate substantially lower than Social Media or other dosplay properties down the chart?
Last-ad conversion rates themselves are not a good measure of position in the funnel. They mostly identify sites that have a high concentration of qualified users - ie.e users who are emminently going to make a purchase. If a site has a large quantity of last-ad conversions than it is likelty a low-funnel site - but there are exceptions.
Also, it is hard to get fiar corss-site comparisons when we include publishers such as search engines because they do not report their total reach - only their reach to clickers. Higer funnel sites also have very different amonts of reach. Real estate and social media sitea simply have different quidence qualities - one is much more focused than the other. These differences in reach make a big difference in a conversion rate calculation but matter little to funnel position.
The time spans in which advertising is delivered to converters is a much less biased way to compare a site. It is also IMHO better aligned with the concept of a purchase funnel because this measure does not have a bias to a particular time built into it.
Great article, thanks for the insight. It's clear that the traditional purchase funnel needs to evolve fast to keep up with internet technology. Some businesses have been too slow to update their behaviours and are suffering as a result. The internet will continue to challenge the marketing paradigm for years to come and eventually the industry will catch up!