An oft-used image describing the customer path-to-purchase is the “funnel,” a model that walks the customer from a broad process (reach) down through conversion to the point of purchase.  Today, Shane Johnston, lead experience planner, EffectiveUI, together with Rich Warnaka, manager of user experience, Cabela’s, challenged that model entirely during their session, “Using Behavioral Modeling to Engage Customers Throughout the Decision-Making Process.” The presentation took place during Day Two of Integrated Marketing Week (IMW).

Johnston projected an image of the proverbial funnel diagram on the screen, and pointed to it in front of a packed session room.  “This is looking at the way we engage with customers,” he said, “and not at the ways customers are engaging with us.”  He discussed common practices such as sending out a targeted email with a “Buy Now” button to a customer who had been engaged by an email or banner ad.  Johnston challenged attendees to question whether this was the best timing to send such an email.  “Respond to customers where they are,” he advised.  “Maybe a customer at the ‘engage’ stage isn’t ready for a purchase yet.”

Cabela’s used these insights to think about their site design and customer relationships.  As Warnaka explained, “Shopping is not a linear process. We want to design experiences that support our customers’ behaviors, rather than push them through a funnel.”  He described the paradigm shift that Cabela’s undertook to design a site that was more responsive to customers’ needs: “The customer does not live for the company; the company lives for the customer.”  With this rethinking of customer behavior, Cabela’s was able to determine priorities in terms of site architecture to build a site that emphasized education and engagement with customers.

With such a unique and iconoclastic presentation, the presenters received many questions afterwards from session attendees.  Does your customer behavior model require a paradigm shift?

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