Classic Strategy Tools | Consumer Decision Journey

There’s a reason why McKinsey & Co is a household name. The number of classic strategy tools, methods and frameworks that originate from this stable is simply astonishing. This week we will be looking at yet another classic McKinsey framework, the Consumer Decision Journey.

This is the first time that we have looked at a marketing strategy method for our Classics series but we think this highly-rated approach will have been worth the wait!

For a very long time, people have been trying describe, analogize and comprehend the way that consumers choose what to buy. The ‘Purchase Funnel’ approach actually has a history going back to the late 1800s, and has been an extraordinarily useful tool for many years. It describes the process by which a consumer progresses from brand awareness to their final purchase decision. However, in the age of social media and e-commerce, the funnel no longer fully captures the more dynamic journey that a customer will take on their way to an informed purchase. This is why McKinsey & Co developed the Consumer Decision Journey.

Like the Purchase Funnel, the Consumer Decision Journey is a way of envisioning the steps through which a consumer will go on their way to making an informed purchase. But whereas the Purchase funnel is strictly linear, the Consumer Decision Journey incorporates an element of cyclicality. The Consumer Decision Journey describes a process that is ongoing after the moment of purchase and which feeds back into the consumer’s impressions of the product and brand. This model captures the ongoing nature of the relationship with the consumer.

With the all pervasive power of the internet, the post-purchase experience has become increasingly important. Research conducted by McKinsey & Co now shows that consumers conduct further research after having made their purchase. Perhaps this reflects the human needs for confirmation bias, to be reassured that we were correct to make a decision, but it also represents an extremely important opportunity for the marketer.

Here is the illustration that McKinsey themselves use to illustrate this process.

Classic Strategy Tools | Consumer Decision Journey

With a deeper understanding of how consumers make their purchasing decisions, you are more powerfully equipped to align your marketing strategy with your key targets. Some marketers may need to invest more time and energy into the brand recognition phase of the cycle, others to the customer loyalty and post-purchase part of the cycle.

While this is not the oldest strategy tool we’ve talked about, it is an evolution of a much older concept, and this variation shows signs of already becoming a modern classic. If you are interested to dig deeper into the this topic why not check out McKinsey’s own description of this process.