The online world is changing daily, so attempting to forecast what will happen a few weeks or months from now is a risky practice for us marketers.
This is precisely what makes Google’s 2011 report “ZMOT: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” all the more remarkable.
This eBook has been largely forgotten over the last 8 years. Google itself dropped the phrase ZMOT after about a year of using it in training courses. But it contains some insights that were prescient at the time and are still relevant today.
But first things first:
What Is a ZMOT?
To understand ZMOT, we must first go back to 2005, when Procter & Gamble introduced the 3-step mental model of marketing. The first step is the stimulus which tells the consumer they need something, like an ad on TV or the realization they are all out of a product and need to buy more. Next comes the First Moment of Truth (FMOT): when the consumer enters the store and compares various products. The Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) is the step after the purchase when the consumer decides if it has lived up to their expectations.
Google’s ZMOT (called ZeeMOT or ZedMOT, depending on your style of English) slides in neatly between the stimulus and the FMOT. Google created the term in recognition of what it correctly saw as consumers’ growing use of the internet to research and compare brands and products. The eBook also predicted the rise of mobile phones as “MOT machines” that consumers would use in their purchase decisions.
ZMOT is in many ways what we call the moment of intent. It is that moment when a consumer has decided they need something and is ready to begin comparing a few options.
Here are some examples from the eBook:
- A busy mom in a minivan, looking up decongestants on her phone as she waits to pick up her son at school.
- An office manager at their desk, comparing laser printer prices before heading to the office supplies store.
- A student in a cafe, scanning user ratings and reviews while looking for a cheap hotel for their next overseas adventure.
ZMOTs are All Around Us
ZMOT is a product of our society’s increasing reliance on the internet—and it is everywhere.
In Google’s eBook, Dennis Cary, former Chief Marketing Officer of Bally Total Fitness, is quoted as saying, “In the past, you’d go into the kitchen and grab the phone book off the top shelf and flip through it and probably not even know what category to start with. But now you go online immediately. The amount of brand and user-generated content available instantly at ZMOT is just amazing.”
Bally eventually went belly-up (sorry, couldn’t help myself), but Cary’s comment is still relevant today. In the 8 years since the eBook was published, the amount of content available at the Zero Moment of Truth (websites devoted to brand reviews and comparisons) has increased by countless orders of magnitude.
As part of their research into ZMOT, Google specialists joined forces with Shopper Sciences to find out how individual shoppers used the internet for shopping. The results are unusual in that the survey appears to have been conducted at a turning point in consumer interaction with the internet.
Here’s an example for you:
The average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, an increase from 5.3 sources in 2010.
Google concluded that the behavior of individual shoppers had become nonlinear. ZMOT had changed the customer journey. Shoppers didn’t always move through a funnel, narrowing choices as they go; with the ZMOT they could actually widen their options, it concluded.
Today we would call all these separate interactions or touchpoints “micro-moments,” another term coined by Google. ZMOTs, micro-moments—whatever you want to call it—they’re all around us.
So how do we harness the power of ZMOT to improve our marketing funnel?
Optimize Your Intent Marketing Strategy with ZMOT
Framing your intent marketing strategy around zero moments of truth can be useful. It’s worth highlighting the top 5 ZMOT actions taken by consumers, according to the Google-Shopper Sciences study.
So our user:
- Typed in an online search query
- Discussed the product with friends/family
- Compared several brands or products online
- Sought information from a brand or manufacturer’s website
- Read product reviews or endorsements online
Except for the second point, all the others provide limitless touchpoints for brands to meet the customer online.
Regarding the first point, brands can use online queries to separate high-intent users from everyone else. As we discussed in a recent blog post, users give away various signals regarding their intent while searching on Google. Transactional, non-branded searches like “cheapest car insurance” or “best dating sites” are where the greatest opportunities await.
The next thing is to satisfy user intent or, as the Google eBook states, to “answer the questions people are asking.” If high-intent users want to compare products, obtain information about your brand, or read more about your products before making a decision—help them. Each industry is subtly different in terms of what consumers are looking for.
Natural Intelligence recently conducted research on intent marketing trends in consumer finance. We had identified various ways in which users behaved differently when it came to personal loans, mortgages, and car insurance. Transparency about rates and fees appeared to work well across each vertical, and how-to-guides were also found to be an effective way of engaging users.
We’re now 8 years away from the initial publication of the ZMOT eBook by Google, but the findings are still relevant.
Try it now: list your users’ zero moments of truth and see how your marketing plan addresses each and every one of them.
These questions can help you in detecting the ZMOTs:
- What do they do when they realize they need your product/service?
- What do they do before they pick that product/service off the digital shelf?
- What happens to them in the time between the 2 previous touchpoints?
Now see if your marketing activities take these ZMOTs into account. Do it, and I assure you that apart from optimizing your funnel—you’ll also gain a clear understanding of your consumer like never before.
Meeting consumers at their ZMOT is an integral part of intent marketing, but it’s not the only part. Our marketing specialists are here to help you make the most of your campaigns. Contact us, and we’ll be happy to assist.