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Digital Marketing for Dummies or the Zero Moment of Truth

9 August, 2011

I think most people in marketing are probably familiar with the concept of the “First Moment of Truth” (FMOT) – that critical moment when a customer makes the decision to reach for a particular brand of product.  According to Proctor and Gamble, who coined the phrase, a shopper will make a decision in the three to seven seconds it takes to register a product on a shop shelf.  In the past, this was considered the most important marketing opportunity for a brand and explains why so much store is set on product placement within a retail outlet.

The New Moment of Truth

However, extensive use of the internet means that the way we shop is changing rapidly and modern marketing strategies need to keep up with this and develop marketing strategies that address the way people are shopping nowadays.  This has led to the “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT) which is the title of a new eBook from Google’s Managing Director of US Sales and Service, Jim Lecinski.  The following video from Google explains a bit more about this Zero Moment of Truth:

While FMOT still plays an important part in the shopping experience, using the internet to research products before buying means that the consumer will already be fully informed about the product they wish to buy before they even see it on the shelf.  They will have conducted a fairly intensive online search to find out all they can about the brand or product before making a commitment to buy.  They will have made a detailed analysis and compared the product with similar offerings, they will probably know the cheapest place to buy, how the product measures up against competitors, the ingredients or components of the product and they will also have read several online reviews.  This is the Zero Moment of Truth – the moment when a potential buyer is learning all about a product that they are thinking of buying.
Zmot - Zero Moment of Truth

This Zero Moment of Truth happens via a range of different media – online comparisons on a home PC, at work while sitting at the desk or on the go via a smartphone with a web browser.  The rise in the use of mobile technology means that people can actually check out all the information available either on their way to the store or when they actually get there.  It seems that 79% of consumers admit to using a smartphone to help with shopping and 70% of Americans say that they read product reviews before actually purchasing an item.  A massive 83% of mothers say that they research products online after seeing a TV advertisement that interests them.  This means that the consumer is better informed than ever before, a fact that must be taken into account when developing marketing strategies.

In Jim Lecinski’s book he explains that:

  • The buying decision journey has changed and that ZMOT is the latest addition to the traditional 3-step process of stimulus, shelf, and experience.
  • What used to be a message is now a conversation – shoppers will find information about products that they will then share online.
  • Word of mouth is more influential than ever now that everybody can join in online conversations and present their views to a huge audience of other shoppers.
  • No Moment of Truth (MOT) is too small.  Consumers are willing to research online, no matter how small and insignificant the product is.
  • The MOT’s are converging as mobile phone use increases.

Modern marketing strategies need to take into account that consumers nowadays are “pre-shopping” and that the old ways of getting the message across may be coming too late in the whole process.  Engagement with the customer now needs to take place when they are doing their initial research before buying.

zmot traditional 3 stepThe traditional 3-step mental model for shopping includes Stimulus (seeing an advertisement for a product), Shelf (actually looking at the product on the shop shelf and speaking to sales staff about it) and Experience (getting the product home and actually using it).

zmot new mental model

There is now an extra step in that shopping process that comes in between Stimulus and Shelf and this is true for all sorts of products and price ranges, from small and cheap everyday items to the more expensive luxury buys.  It works from crayons to cameras, from handbags to holidays and from shampoo to champagne.  Once the potential shopper’s attention is grabbed by an advertisement, the first thing they will do will be to get online and search for the product, read the descriptions, the specifications, the technical details and compare prices in different outlets.  Then it’s onto the reviews, both amateur and professional, and the comments that appear from other users as a result of those reviews.  Shoppers today have more power than ever before to fully inform themselves about products before they buy and they are able to do this from the comfort of their living room without having to make much effort.

This means that marketing strategies need to change and include innovative ways of engaging with these consumers while they are actually doing their research on what to buy.  In 2010 a new consumer survey determined that the amount of time US households spent online equalled the amount of time spent watching television, yet Business Insider recently reported that only 15% of media advertising budget money was spent on online advertising as opposed to a whopping $60 billion on TV advertising.  This means that the majority of the advertising budget is being spent where it is just not effective any more.

We’ve reached a point where businesses need to take these facts on board and come up with innovative and exciting new marketing strategies that they can use to reach out to potential customers at the Zero Moment of Truth.  Leaving it too late is not an option here, only the companies that move with the times and engage with their customer base before they go to the store to buy a product will gain an edge over their competitors.

social network logos

There are many ways to communicate with customer (or potential customers) online – it’s not just advertising, you’ll need to use social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc) in order to get into online conversations with your potential customers at the crucial moment – the Zero Moment of Truth.  It’s no good just getting somebody within the office to start a Facebook page or a Twitter account and then hope for the best.  You’ll probably need to get some expert advice on digital marketing campaigns and how best to execute them.  Coming up with an effective digital marketing strategy is the only way to make sure that you don’t get left behind – the companies that manage to do this are the ones that will go on to enjoy growth and success in the future.

I’ve been Jonny Ross from And the winner is Pizza Express, find out why.

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  • […] if it is relevant to their needs.  If they cannot see something that interests them in the first second or so, then they’re likely to move on to the next website in their search results.  This means […]

    1. […] if it is relevant to their needs.  If they cannot see something that interests them in the first second or so, then they’re likely to move on to the next website in their search results.  This means […]

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