Ditching Funnels, Servicing Need Points and Designing Device Agnostic Experiences

Posted by Kate Jurras on Tue, Sep 4, 2012

keith resized 600This post is part of the September blog series. With FutureM coming in October (do you have your pass yet?!), we're thinking a lot about marketers and consumers, and this series reflects that. We asked our writers to answer this question: "what is it going to take for marketers to catch up to consumers?" We'll be sharing several posts each week of the month. Stay tuned for diverse viewpoints and creative answers to this question. This post is by Keith LaFerriere, SVP, Director of User Experience at Arnold. From creative director to user-experience leader, Keith has taken on just about everything throughout his fifteen-year career. At Arnold, he works across all accounts and is responsible for establishing the customer experience across disciplines including information architecture, discovery, usability and business requirements.

If you’re a marketer, your primary goal is to accurately time and properly communicate to your consumer why your product or service is the right choice. But getting the right message to them at each point of the “funnel” can be tricky. What’s a marketer to do? I can think of a few things that might help.


The excuse that the funnel is easier to plan against because it’s presented in linear fashion is bogus. Additionally, the funnel more often represents what marketers would like consumers to hear rather than what they want.

Today’s consumers are constantly bobbing and weaving through a complex and highly competitive landscape where they are relentlessly bombarded with messaging ranging from makeup to McDonald’s. And it’s happening on every device they own.

Sure, retargeting is happening. But is it effective? Is it happening with the right mechanics? Once in a while, you get lucky, and the consumer (gasp!) interacts. However, to be really effective, retargeting has to happen in a way that makes it relevant. And that means understanding whether or not you can help them when they need it most.


In 2011, connected devices (PCs, tablets, phones, etc.) accounted for $489 Billion* in overall sales. Oddly enough, I think that figure is lower than it should be at this point. One part of the problem is that retailers, vendors, and even hospitals aren’t providing critical services in the midst of what I call a “need point." Let me explain:

Once the smart mobile era started, we saw an incredible uptick in efficiency, which led to increased multitasking, which led to heightened expectations, which led to transparency. It’s the last two points (expectations and transparency) that are causing slower-to-adopt companies to lose market share, break open the technology piggy bank and rush to action. And, in their rush to action, they’re making very weird and misguided mistakes.

Customers don’t want you to bug them, but they want to know if you’re able to help them (when they need it). The path to success, and fiscal efficiency for everyone involved, is the coordination of your offering in a way that not only displays correctly to every audience regardless of the device, but offers the correct experience on each as well.

For example, I use social media quite a bit. Thankfully, there are a number of sites at my fingertips that allow me to feed my connected self by offering not only an easy-to-use web experience, but also one that translates well to my mobile device.

More than that, however, is how it translates.

Let’s use Twitter as an illustration. Below are two of the design views you’ll get if you use both desktop browsing (Fig 1) and a smart phone (Fig 2).

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[Fig 1: Desktop browser]

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[Fig 2: iPhone screen]

Notice that the site, itself, is not created using responsive web design‡. However, it is a mobile-first approach that allows you to use the most typical features on a small screen. It very thankfully extracts some of the advertising and suggested following information and gets you right to your feed.

Some companies are starting to understand that the best way to catch up to their customers is to be there when they need them in the most useful way possible. Those companies are at least "in the game" and will keep working towards better ways to communicate (e.g. using big data to direct useful interaction, allowing customers total transparency to product development, etc…).


You may not have the proper funding or planning in place to kick off a reexamination of your digital marketing, but I’ll leave you with five things that will make a difference and help you catch up to your customer:

  • Don’t deluge the market with your information. Have timely, actionable information sent in a cadence that makes the most sense for your customers. Once they get to know your cadence, they’ll feel your groove.
  • Speak like a human. There’s nothing worse than the thought that you’re listening to a bot. Find lawyer-friendly text that also makes it seem like you know what the heck you’re doing.
  • Plan for spontaneity. Every day a newsworthy item (good or bad) explodes on social media. Be ready to join the conversation with your own viewpoint, but be very aware of how the conversation is trending so you don’t break your brand.
  • Analyze and (quickly) edit. Your customer’s behaviors on your site, app or banner ad will tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Be ready to quickly get a grip on where the most influential calls to action are occurring and edit the ones that aren’t giving you the ROI or conversion.
  • Innovate and move. It’s easier than ever to get a company with a great product launched and touted via social media. Smarter, younger, more aggressive and savvy marketers are waiting around every corner. Innovate and move. Innovate and move. Innovate and move.

* IDC: http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS23398412
‡ Responsive Web Design is a term coined by Ethan Marcotte as explained in his article on A List Apart