Personalized discovery: How the sales funnel is changing
Sales & Marketing

Personalized discovery: How the sales funnel is changing

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Over the last 10 years, how customers discover and buy products has evolved, but most marketing funnels still need to. Unfortunately, this makes some parts of traditional sales funnels irrelevant. So, how should that change your marketing tactics?

Well, it depends on your core audience and where their buying habits are in that evolution. Let's talk about the two major changes in the sales funnel.

Product discovery: How consumers buy products is changing

First is that discovery changed. It's less about print, radio, and TV ads, etc., and more about discovery via social media with influencers and AI recommendations through TikTok, Instagram Reels, etc.

This means advertisers have less control over when and how consumers discover their products and brands. As a result, brands must be more flexible in capturing leads in this new environment to drive subsequent sales.

Ad targeting: How identifying the right customers is changing

The second change is in targeting. Previously, it was much easier to narrowly target consumers, for example, with ads on Facebook or Instagram or with cookies on websites. But after the privacy changes with iOS and the impending death of 3rd- party cookies, advertisers have to change their approach from narrow targeting to broad targeting, which changes how they message those consumers to drive conversions. Here's an example:

  • Old way:¬†Narrow targeting with rich Instagram/Facebook data ‚ě° broad marketing communications (e.g., generic email/SMS welcome series)
  • New way:¬†Broad targeting ‚ě° enriched by other means ‚ě° personalized marketing communications (e.g., personalized email/SMS welcome series)

The difference here is that previously more targeted consumers entered the 'funnel' thanks to targeted advertising.

But things have changed. Not only are there increasingly more touchpoints thanks to multipoint/omnichannel commerce, but due to the privacy changes, you're much less likely to have the targeting data to know 1) who they are and 2) where they came from.

This means there really isn't a reliable funnel anymore.

The modern marketing funnel that works

The only reliable solution is for brands to 'bag and tag' consumers as they enter their channels (e.g., email or SMS list) by leveraging the 'social native' behaviors that consumers participate in on social media.

For example, on Instagram, users love giveaways. Typical Instagram giveaway rules might be "Follow, like, and tag friends in the comments." Instagram giveaways work well now, but brands must level up this tactic to drive meaningful sales. For example, a brand's rules should now be:

  1. Follow us
  2. Tag 2 friends in the comments
  3. Complete entry at our biolink

Then, in the biolink, the brand has a fun product quiz, like "Find your spirit animal's lip color" or another fun theme. Then, customers answer a few questions (to help the brand understand their needs/preferences) and enter their email/SMS contact details to participate.

Now, the brand has the data it needs to convert these new prospective customers into the right welcome series and include personalized product recommendations in the welcome email based on the quiz answers.

Why it works: Brands take control of their data

See how it's flipped? Instead of narrow marketing, it's now broad marketing, and the brand 'tags' them in a fun way when they join the list.

Now, that fun quiz-like experience could be on social, on the website, via an email newsletter, from an ad (LP), in a pop-up, or anywhere else. The point is a brand must now gather its own 'zero-party' data to understand the customer since there is no more traditional marketing funnel to rely on consistently. This also underscores the fact that brands must control their destiny and rely less on third parties.

This also elevates the importance of brand building, which was less important with the traditional funnel. Why? Because you don't have a funnel to lean on anymore. You need to rely more on brand recognition (or association through influencers) so people are interested in and excited to take your next quiz. Every time they take a new quiz and interact with your brand, you get more data to market to them even better.

We've discovered these emerging trends through our quiz data from thousands of Shopify stores, agencies, and other industry experts we work with. We've been referring to it as 'personalized discovery' because 1) how customers discover products is fundamentally changing and 2) personalized marketing is incredibly effective and more possible than ever, thanks to advances in AI and data availability.

About the author
Gabriel Mays, the Co-Founder and CEO of POPSMASH
Gabriel A. Mays
Gabriel Mays' Website
Co-Founder & CEO at POPSMASH
Before POPSMASH, Gabe was a Director at GoDaddy and founded two startups. He was also a Marine Corps Captain, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his wife and two kids on Cape Cod, MA.

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