AIDA sales funnel and the buyer’s journey to purchase

AIDA Sales Funnel vs. Customer Journey -StratoServe

Businesses tend to wonder  about the effectiveness of their advertising spend in terms of what they actually sold that could be attributed to advertising.To understand how advertising works its useful to look at the hierarchy of effects AIDA sales funnel  credited to Advertising Hall of Fame member Elias St. Elmo Louis in 1898. No that was not a typo and check out the history of this kind of thinking called Hierarchy of Effects in the article by Barry (1987).

[Note: This post was originally published on April 22, 2014. We have many readers asking about the connection between the AIDA sales model and the Digital Customer Journey or Digital Buyers’ Journey. We are delighted to update the original post on March 5, 2021. Also, for simplicity we stop at conversion, but the real customer relationship starts after you have a customer. Loyal customers become advocates and generate referrals. We hope that this revised post will help all businesses come back after COVID as customers go through their AIDA process online.]

Initially the AIDA model was used to understand the sales process and train sales people both for both B2B and B2C sales. Long before digital marketing the idea was to “convince” the buyer through a face to face meeting and bring them through the sales funnel. For example, sales training included holding the pen pointed to the buyers side on a clipboard with the contract. To facilitate the customer’s signature on the dotted line! The customer was considered passive.

Later advertising folks started using the concept to understand how advertising works and why the buyer journey to purchase takes time as the buyer moves down the sales funnel and the four AIDA stages.

With the Internet and Social Media customers have changed and customers are no longer passive. They can do their own research with a few clicks. Hence, the customer or buyer journey is replacing the “push push AIDA model” with the “Customer Journey” where the customer is in control.

Digital marketing and analytics make it possible to track the customer through the customer journey. In the 2014 (April) Google Insights Research page the four stages were called Awareness, Consideration, Intent and Decision. The data in 2014 was collected from 36,000 Google Analytics accounts where the websites had e-commerce and were able to track e-commerce transactions.

In 2021, Google Ads Search Certification Study material list the Search funnel as Awareness,Consideration,Conversion while the Youtube marketing journey lists the stages as three stages as Awareness,Consideration, Action. Frankly, it’s easier for the advertising business (our clients) to visualize all prospects at either of the three stages of the buyer journey. For the digital journey of their customer, businesses need to ask themselves three questions:

  1. Is our customer aware of our brand? Do they know that we exist? [ Digital Marketing has ways of building brand awareness. It takes time.]
  2. Is our customer considering us in their evoked brand set? [ You can literally bypass the awareness stage if you have the budget. See an earlier post on evoked brand set.]
  3. Is our web visitor converting? Conversions could be signing up for a newsletter, an e-commerce transaction, a webinar signup etc. [ All businesses love this stage. It does need thinking through,discussion and small changes in your operations.]

Here is a brief overview of the older 4 Stage AIDA Sales model and the three stage digital customer journey :

  • Awareness ( same as Awareness in customer journey) is the early part of the funnel where the buyer must be made aware of what your brand offers. Unless you are a big brand like Coca Cola or IBM with along history, a lot of effort is needed to bring awareness to your target market. In digital marketing display ads and banners help to build awareness. Advertising your website on TV, is also very helpful.
  • Interest ( is part of consideration in customer journey) is the  enthusiasm you are able to generate in your buyer towards your offering. Here social media,paid search can help. It is that stage in retail stores that you are looking at some particular item with interest, and the salesperson comes by and says …”may I help you”?
  • Desire (is part of consideration in customer journey) is the stage of active consideration. At this stage the prospective customer has decided to buy the item. Here email marketing, paid search is helpful. Today customers tend to comparison shop online, just because it is so easy to do so. 
  • Action (is conversion in the buyer’s journey) happens when the customer actually buys from you. Action or Conversion includes actions that are valuable to you like newsletter sign-up, webinar signup, demo sign up for complex solutions.

Why is understanding the 4 Stage AIDA model and its link to the 3 Stage Digital buyer’s journey important?

Because it helps you understand that advertising is an investment and not a cost. The investment is in brand building and your brand equity helps across the AIDA funnel in the buyer’s journey to purchase. About StratoServe.

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