Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

ZMOT Book CoverWinning The Zero Moment of Truth is a new e-book that has recently been published by Google Executive Jim Lecinski.

I’m not usually one for writing book reviews – in fact the last time I did was probably back at school when sitting my English Literature exam – but having sat down and read this in a little over an hour, I felt compelled to write something and to spread the word so to speak.

So the best place to start in this so-called book review is by probably answering the question ‘What is the Zero Moment of Truth’ – or ZMOT for short. Well to answer that we should first look at what historically has been the mental model of marketing. What is the mental model of marketing I hear you ask. Well mental models are the ways humans know, perceive, make decisions, and construct behaviour in a variety of environments. So when it comes to marketing it is the process that someone goes through from initial awareness of a product or service, through the decision-making process of which product to choose and then finally to purchase. For the last decade, marketers have been familiar with the terms FMOT (First Moment of Truth) and SMOT (Second Moment of Truth), acronyms created by Proctor and Gamble to define the two key points in the user purchase journey, which they believed were the moments during the shopping cycle where they had to stand out, the moments where they had the chance to delight consumers.

Marketing Mental Model

So what does a typical buying process look like, in the eyes of a marketer. Well historically it has been:

1: Stimulus/Awareness – This is when a potential customer first becomes aware of your product or a competitor’s product or even just a product category. Maybe they were watching TV, listing to the radio, talking to a friend. Wherever the awareness came from, their desire and interest has been piqued.

2: The First Moment of Truth – Store/Shelf – This is when your potential customer is in a store about to make a purchase decision and is presented with a range of products from various brands. Maybe a selection of digital cameras in their local electronics store. In the past, this moment was considered one of the most important marketing opportunities for a brand, as many believed that shoppers made up their mind about a product in the first few seconds after they had encountered that product for the first time.

3: The Second Moment of Truth – The Experience – This is when a customer uses or experiences the product. Not just the first time but each and every time thereafter. If the product breaks on the 3rd time of using, then the experience is a poor one. As Proctor and Gamble’s FMOT Director was quoted as saying: “The second moment of truth happens each time a customer uses the product.  So for P&G, each time somebody feeds their dog Iams, or brushes their teeth with Crest, it is another marketing opportunity. This second moment of truth occurs two billion times a day when consumers use P&G brands. Every usage experience is our chance to delight consumers.

Where does ZMOT fit in?
ZMOT Marketing Mental Model Image

ZMOT Marketing Mental Model

Today’s shopping experience has changed. The Internet has seen to that. Today’s shoppers are all digital explorers, exhaustively searching for information about products long before they enter the store or reach the point of purchase. Whether that be through social media channels, online review and ratings sites, product videos or peer recommendations, today’s shoppers are now swimming in information. In fact according to data from Shopper Sciences the average shopper in 2011 uses 10.4 sources of information to make a decision, up from 5.3 sources in 2010. That’s doubled in just one year and just shows how much harder it is for brands to get that all important cut through with consumers.

So how important is this information gathering stage. Well data from the same study showed that 84% of shoppers confirmed this point in the cycle as one that shapes their buying decisions. It is this point in the shopping cycle, this online-decision making moment, that Google has defined as the Zero Moment of Truth.

Clearly ZMOT is now just as important as the stimulus and the FMOT stages in moving customers from undecided to decided. Not only that, but the time spent by consumers during the ZMOT process is much longer than the time they’ll spend in store at the shelf, so brands who engage and join the conversation at the ZMOT moment will have a much better chance of influencing customers before they even reach the store. Indeed, IRI’s 2009 study on shopper loyalty shows that 83% of shoppers make their purchase decisions prior to even entering a store.

What makes a Zero Moment of Truth and where does it start?

Well in today’s connected world, it typically happens online. The rise of full internet adoption and increased search engine use means that consumers have easy access to information, any time, any place. Whether it’s on a laptop or a mobile phone, these ZMOT decision-making moments are taking place hundreds of millions of times a day. It starts when a consumer visits a search engine or sees a post on their Facebook wall from a friend who’s just bought a product they’re interested in and it’s this moment where marketing happens or should I say, should happen.

As Lecinski attests, “..there are no barriers to access research and information. Today’s shoppers carry access in their pockets. They create their own consumer guides a million times a minute with reviews, tweets, blogs, social network posts and videos for products of all kinds“.

What does ZMOT mean for marketers?

Well, consumer shopping behaviour has clearly evolved and modern marketing strategies have to evolve with the changing shape of shopping. It’s no longer enough for brands to stand back and let the conversations happen. If they want to influence decision-making, they need to engage with potential customers, be part of that conversation, ensure that a consumer has a consistent and positive experience throughout, and provide the information that consumers are looking for.

It means that brands need to make sure that they are with the consumer during every stage of the shopping cycle, from the Zero Moment of Truth to the point of purchase and beyond. Because as the ZMOT mental model above shows us, winning at at every stage is self-perpetuating. Consumers who have a consistent and positive experience throughout will happily feed back their experiences for others to find, when they are in the ZMOT moment.

One thing that is clear from the book is that if a brand is able to change their approach to marketing to include ZMOT, they will stand to gain a very big competitive advantage as they’ll be reaching and engaging with those 70% of people who according to studies say they now look at product reviews before making a purchase.

And if as a marketer working for a brand you read this and find yourself saying, ‘well this probably doesn’t apply to us as our products are impulse purchases not high value ones’ well you’d be wrong. According to the recent Wall Street Journal article ‘In-Store Sales Begin At Home‘, it may be well-known that consumers research expensive products online, but now coming out of recession consumers are more prepared to research their everyday essentials as well. A survey by consulting firm Booz & Co. showed that 62% of shoppers search for deals online before at least half of their shopping trips.

How to embrace ZMOT

For many consumers, the single most powerful motivation to buy is someone else’s endoresement. Not a brand telling them how great their product is but a friend or colleague in their social circle giving them a referral or someone on a review site leaving an impartial comment. Indeed Google’s ZMOT study found that 37% of shoppers find online social sources to be an influential driver when making decisions. And to put that in context, that’s nearly doubled since 2010 when the figure was just 19%. Google are so convinced about this that they’ve created the +1 button, which lets anyone recommend products, services and websites to friends with a single click.

For many businesses though, it’s still a leap of faith to a degree. So many business owners and marketers that I talk to still find the idea of opening up their sites for customers to write reviews, which are then out in the open and plain for everyone to see, just plain unsettling. The reason? They’re worried about the possibility of negative reviews. Interestingly though and perhaps not that surprisingly, according to Brett Hurt the CEO of Bazaarvoice, 80% of reviews on the site of a given retailer are written by the top 20% of their customers by lifetime value. And the worldwide average for product reviews? 4.3/5.0. It’s in our nature. People like to talk about good news and about the products they love most.

And what if there are bad reviews? Well as Sam Decker, former CMO at Baazarvoice points out, negative reviews are a gift. In his article he goes on to say, ‘…there are numerous case studies that show negative reviews, at least when mixed with positive ones, are a clear driver of sales.’ Why? Well for starters they add authenticity. Not only that, but they also offer a brand a perfect opportunity to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one and to turn a brand detractor into a brand promoter. If you need further convincing then just refer to how Naked Wines dealt with a customer issue they were faced with when out in the open for all to see.

Brands need to put their worries aside and realise that with our without them the conversation is already going on, whether they are part of it or not. They can’t stop it, so the only sensible thing is join in. So as a business owner, take the time to increase your digital footprint.  It’s imperative that your products and services can be found in multiple places – on your website, on review sites and across the breadth of social media channels available. You need to empower people to share their opinions about your products. Ultimately, you need to ensure that you have an active presence wherever your customers are searching during their ZMOT.

Conclusions

So where do you go from here? The answer is pretty simple really. If you’ve got people in place working to win at the stimulus, FMOT and SMOT stages – which we can assume most brands will – it’s now time to get someone in place to help you win at the Zero Moment of Truth as well. Go out and hire a Director of ZMOT as the book tells us. If you don’t then you are going to miss out on what is clearly now a vital step in the sales and marketing process. In fact your efforts at the FMOT and SMOT stages might be completely wasted as you might not even be part of a consumer’s consideration set by the time they get to those points. It’s not enough to hope that people find you and find the answers they are looking for, because we all know how the old adage goes, ‘Hope is not a strategy’.

Oh and one last little tip. If you’re now compelled to go out and read the book, get the ZMOT extended Kindle version which includes audio and video excerpts and greatly enhances the reading experience!

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One Response to Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

  1. Really good post… loads of useful information here. It will be really interesting to see if and how this concept takes off. I think that even if it doesn’t take off defined as ZMOT the fundamental ideas behind it are obviously highly relevant to us as online marketers… “Ultimately, you need to ensure that you have an active presence wherever your customers are searching during their ZMOT” How true this is.
    There is a Meetup event dealing with Social Proof and the ZMOT on the 22nd September http://www.meetup.com/Online-Marketing-London.

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