The Zero Moment Of Truth - ZMOT
The way consumers purchase products online has changed. Gone are the days when you might hear about a product, pick up some literary material, call up customer service with some questions and ask a couple of friends for their advice.
Today, the Internet has brought on a new way of shopping where potential customers can search online for information, reviews and social media signals. It has opened up a whole new realm of research to consider before making that purchase.
ZMOT is that moment when you take up your laptop or smartphone and start looking up that product you have your heart set on, to learn more about it before you buy.
Fig 1: The New Mental Model - WINNING THE ZERO MOMENT OF TRUTH - Jim Lecinski, Google.
The traditional 3 steps - stimulus, shelf, experience, in the buying process have evolved
ZMOT is now muscling in on the action with messages coming from online resources and other shoppers through many different routes, with digital word of mouth providing a large slice of the pie.
ZMOT slots in nicely between when a consumer's interest is first sparked, say by a TV advert, and the actual purchase transaction, with the shopper taking the time to search for product reviews, niche forums, social signals and further specifications on the product.
Post purchase, the savvy shopper will try out their new product and develop their own opinions (both negative and positive). They may then wish to share these revelations with the online community which helped them make their purchasing decision.
ZMOT therefore feeds back into the purchasing cycle, with the consumer going onto the likes of Facebook to post news of their new possession, tweeting about it, responding to posts on forums, debating or adding their own reviews to sites, putting videos online of the item and offering a new layer of information for the next line of potential customers.
So just how influential is ZMOT in driving decision making?
Google partnered up with Shopper Sciences and undertook research into the field of ZMOT to see just how influential this moment is in driving decision making. The data revealed the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, up from 5.3 sources in 2010, nearly doubling in a one year period! Those sources ranged from TV commercials and magazine articles, to recommendations from friends and family, to websites, ratings and blogs online.
In the study, 84% of the shoppers said ZMOT shapes their decisions. So it is now just as important as stimulus and First Moment of Truth in moving consumers from undecided to decided.
Figure 2: Sources used by net type
So, how do we go about supplying the potential customer with the right social proof?
It is important to understand what people are searching for when asking questions about your product. The first step is to include your 'zero moments' into your keyword research with terms such as "X reviews", "best Y". This can be done using the Adwords Keyword Tool which can pinpoint the most searched for zero moment terms. These terms can then be incorporated into search engine optimisation (SEO) campaigns as you would with any other keyword, optimising your on and off-page campaigns to include the zero moment terms.
A second option is to research those sites that appear first for the zero moment terms and explore the option of adding a page about your company/product. In today's economic climate, users are looking to ensure they get the best deals they can and many review and advice websites rank in high positions for the zero moment terms.
For example, when searching for the term "bank account reviews", the consumer advice website, which.co.uk, features in positions 1-5 on Google. When searching for "best bank accounts", money advice site, moneysavingexpert.com, takes the top 1-4 places. Research into the websites that offer reviews and advice about your product or industry and devising a strategy to optimise on these can support your positive social signals.
So what can we take away from ZMOT?
What we can take away from ZMOT is that those online sources of information are important when trying to convert a browser to a buyer. In terms of SEO, this means offering rich social proof of a product or company and ranking for search terms which shoppers may look for (such as product reviews). This will become increasingly important as the percentage of savvy consumers using the ZMOT will surely only be going up.
The third and I believe very powerful tool at your disposal would be the use of social media to interact with users and encourage positive experiences with your brand and product - the possibility of fielding questions and issues users may have through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Offering great customer service always makes a good impression and will further enhance the encouraging atmosphere and the social proof surrounding your products and brand. So when those savvy surfers come to their zero moments of truth, all the signals will be positive.
Figure 3: Online sources