The business landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with digitization giving way to more online businesses. Statistics show that the global e-commerce market is expected to grow by close to $11 trillion from 2021 to 2025 (page 14), showing huge potential for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. 

Given the rising competition, it’s more important than ever to have an effective marketing strategy to reel in customers and generate sales. It may seem challenging to do this, but with the right tools and principles, you’ll get customers to notice your brand.

So, what exactly is the AIDA model of marketing in advertising, and should you use it to guide your ecommerce marketing efforts?

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Key Takeaways

  • AIDA was developed over 120 years ago. Long before social media and ecommerce, and shows its age when compared to modern shopping behavior.
  • Today, AIDA should be viewed as more of a “checklist” for your sales funnel, and less of a “user journey map”.
  • Even if it’s viewed as a map of the customer journey, AIDA still has its flaws.

What does AIDA stand for?

AIDA is a marketing model that stands for:

  • Awareness (or Attention) – capturing customers’ attention to create brand awareness
  • Interest – generating and maintaining interest in your product or service
  • Desire – creating desire and making customers crave your product or service
  • Action (Call to Action) – driving customers to take action 
  • Retention (used by some marketers) – retaining existing customers to build loyalty

The basic principles of the AIDA model are credited to an American advertising strategist named Elias St. Elmo Lewis. Lewis had extensive experience in the sales and advertising space, so he often wrote and spoke about different techniques to educate the public. 

In 1898, he developed AIDA as an attempt to explain how the selling process worked. Specifically, he wanted to know how to optimize sales pitches to improve success rates in sales. To do this, he analyzed the steps that salespeople went through when interacting with customers, which led to the creation of the AIDA principles. 

As you may notice, the AIDA model lays out the stages that customers go through when making a purchase. To better understand it, we’ll go through each stage in more detail below.

Awareness (“I know about it”)

Awareness, sometimes called attention, is the first stage in the model as it marks the beginning of the customer journey. Before anything else, you need to make people aware of your brand, product, or service. There are many ways to do this, from personalized ads to engaging content with catchy headlines. 

In this stage, it’s critical to know your target audience well since your goal is to hook them in. By understanding their pain points and what platforms they use, you can create relevant messages and display them in the right places. Regardless of what medium you use, remember to use powerful words that trigger emotional responses, along with visual elements that catch people’s eyes.
Additionally, for e-commerce businesses, you also need to optimize the technical aspects of your site. Loading speed, in particular, plays a key role in conversion. Studies show that 40% of consumers abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load. Thus, having quick loading times is critical to avoid losing potential customers before they even know your brand.

Interest (“I like it”)

After building brand awareness, it’s time to move to the next stage: interest. At this point, you want to pique your audience’s curiosity and sustain that interest.

Similar to the awareness stage, the key here is to know your target audience thoroughly—their interests, wants, needs, and problems. This way, you’ll know what information to include to keep your audience interested in what you’re offering. Essentially, the goal here is to tell readers that you’re listening to their problems and you want to help them, so they stay engaged.

Another way to generate interest is to talk about your brand’s story, values, and founding members. This helps create a stronger connection with customers and demonstrates how your brand matches their lifestyle.

Desire (“I need”)

Once you’ve captured your customer’s interest, you now want to turn that interest into desire in this third stage. Many times, this is the stage where customers start comparing brands, so it’s important to highlight your unique proposition. 

Establishing trust is also crucial here as this is one of the top factors influencing purchasing decisions today. According to Salsify’s 2022 Consumer Research Survey, 46% of US consumers are willing to pay more for brands they trust. Thus, shoppers now often research a company first to learn more about their product’s quality and customer service before buying anything.

With this in mind, you can stimulate desire by positioning your product as a solution to your customer’s problems. To do this, link its features or benefits to your readers’ needs to show them what value they get from your product. Make sure you also present your product well with readable descriptions and high-quality images.

Additionally, this stage is about nurturing your leads and demonstrating transparency and credibility. One effective way to do this is to incorporate social proof into your website. For example, you can add customer reviews or testimonials on your homepage. Case studies then provide more detailed accounts and show tangible results brought by your product or service.

Action (“I buy it”)

Finally, after generating desire for your brand, product, or service, the last step is to maintain that momentum and ultimately motivate customers to take action. To do this, you’ll need a powerful call to action (CTA) button that compels users to act immediately, whether to sign up for a newsletter or place an order.

Whatever the case, keep your CTA messaging simple and make the button visually appealing. Adding value-on offers like money back guarantees, new customer discounts, bundle & save deals, or limited time offers can also help entice customers to move quickly. Of course, make sure any steps related to this stage are easy and convenient to accomplish.

AIDA Applied To Modern Ecommerce Advertising

AIDA was developed over 120 years ago. Long before, social media and ecommerce, and shows its age when compared to modern shopping behavior. 

Prospective customers often make purchase decisions the first time they land on a website, and much has changed in consumer behavior with the development of the internet and advances in ecommerce & social media 

In the DTC/Ecommerce space, AIDA is more of a “checklist” for your funnel, and less of a “user journey map”.

Now, instead of purchases requiring multiple impressions from several ads in print medium, purchase decisions can be made in as little as a few minutes after clicking a single ad. 

Take a look at some examples below, to see how all of the “stages” of AIDA are compressed down to a single sales funnel.

Examples Of The AIDA Model Applied To Ecommerce Ads

Bulletproof Coffee

Step 1: Ad

Source: Facebook Ad Library

Step 2: Product Page

Source: https://shop.bulletproof.com/products/bulletproof-pumpkin-spice-creamer-14-8-oz

Bulletproof Coffee grabs your attention with an eye-catching ad. Here, they talk about a classic flavor—pumpkin spice—to elevate your daily cup of clean coffee. As a plus, they use the catchy tagline “It’s anything but basic” to hint at how their product isn’t anything like your everyday creamer.

Upon clicking the ad, you’re directed to the product page for their pumpkin spice creamer. Using high-quality photos and a short but straightforward description, the brand piques your interest. This is made apparent with the use of creative phrases like “better-for-you option” and ingredients like “real pumpkin, fall spices.”

Scrolling down the page, you’ll see how the brand uses multiple techniques to evoke desire. First, it elaborates on consumer-focused benefits, such as a rich and creamy coffee that provides sustained energy and doesn’t have artificial ingredients. Second, it compares Bulletproof Creamer to other regular creamers to hammer down on the brand’s unique proposition and show how it’s superior.

Finally, after giving you multiple reasons to want their product, you’ll easily find the “Add to Cart” CTA button that stands out in orange. If needed, the brand also included value add-ons like free shipping for orders over $35 and product bundling discounts to probe action.

Comrad Socks

Step 1: Ad

Source: Facebook Ad Library

Step 2: Collection Page

Source: https://www.comradsocks.com/collections/compression-socks-for-pregnancy

Step 3: Product Page

Source: https://www.comradsocks.com/collections/compression-socks-for-pregnancy/products/knee-high-compression-socks-stripes

This ad by Comrad Socks builds brand awareness and generates interest at the same time. For one, it’s eye-catching in that it features photos of mothers with babies to appeal to the target audience of pregnant women. Then, the caption proposes a solution to relatable problems like varicose veins and leg pain, which creates interest in their product.

After clicking the ad, you’ll land on the product catalog. Upon clicking on any product, you’ll find plenty of information on what specific benefits it provides, effectively creating desire. Moreover, the bottom portion contains customer reviews to serve as social proof.

Finally, once you’re convinced that you want or need the product, you can simply choose your size and click the “Add to Cart” CTA. Comrad Socks also encourages customers to purchase by offering a 10% discount if they get a delivery subscription.

Problem with AIDA as a user journey model – It’s too simple

As useful as AIDA has been in advertising and marketing, it’s not without its flaws. The main criticism against the model is that it’s outdated and doesn’t necessarily reflect the intricacies of the advertising space today.

For one, AIDA assumes that the buying process is linear. In reality, purchasing decisions are highly nuanced, especially with the advent of the digital age. Some customers may go through every stage of the model in order, but others might jump straight to a certain stage. For example, a user may deliberately search for a product they’re eyeing, jumping straight to “Desire” before they even go through “Awareness” and “Interest.”

Another problem with AIDA is it doesn’t consider post-sales activities. The model ends at “Action,” suggesting that your interaction with the customer ends after their purchase. However, disregarding post-sales marketing can lead to many missed opportunities, such as strong customer relationships and repurchases. In that sense, AIDA seems to focus only on first-time purchases, given that repeat customers wouldn’t follow the same four-step purchasing journey. 

Generally, critics argue that AIDA is “too simple” and overgeneralizes the consumer journey as a series of linear stages. Thus, over the years, many refined versions of the basic AIDA model have been introduced to address some concerns:

AIDAS: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, Satisfaction

AIDAS is a simple extension of AIDA. It retains all the main principles but with the addition of Satisfaction in the end. This last stage serves as the “post-sales” arm, which covers the initiatives needed to retain customer loyalty after their purchase in the previous stage. 

AIDCA (Modified AIDA): Awareness, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action

Similarly, the AIDCA variation still has all the stages in the original AIDA model. However, it includes a new stage—Conviction—in between Desire and Action. Essentially, after generating desire, you want to reassure users and give them more reasons to trust you so they become absolutely sure of their decision. Some strategies you can employ in Conviction include reviews, testimonials, and money-back guarantees. 

REAN: Reach, Engage, Activate, Nurture

Unlike the other two variations, REAN uses a completely different acronym. This model also doesn’t follow a sequence of steps, but rather provides a framework to analyze your marketing activities and create key performance indicators (KPIs). As such, you’ll find that most REAN templates contain four quadrants for the four components:

  • Reach – attracting people to the brand (impressions)
  • Engage – improving audience interaction with the brand (number of clicks, time spent on website)
  • Activate – pushing customers to take action (conversion rate)
  • Nurture – retaining and re-engaging with activated customers

AIDA As A Checklist –  Do’s and Don’ts

Despite its limitations as a user journey model, AIDA is helpful when used as a checklist of qualities to include in your funnels.

If you plan to use this for your marketing efforts, here are a few reminders to take note of:

AIDA Do’sAIDA Don’ts
  • DO personalize messages to attract your target audience
  • DO invoke emotions and use eye-catching visuals
  • DO show a deep understanding of your audience
  • DO present your product or service as a solution to your customers’ problems
  • DO highlight your unique proposition
  • DO back up your credibility and expertise with proof
  • DO offer value add-ons to trigger purchases
  • DO provide a clear call to action (CTA)
  • DON’T use vague words
  • DON’T enumerate features without showing the value that customers can get
  • DON’T oversell your product or service
  • DON’T bombard your audience with different options in the CTA
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    Zack Miller