Traditionally there used to be a three step model of marketing to fit a three step consumer shopping cycle. The original consumer cycle was as follows: First the stimulus perhaps a TV ad campaign or printed marketing material. This was the consumer’s first awareness of the product. Second came shelf, this is the point of sale, or the first moment of truth. The consumer has experienced the product or service for the first time. Thirdly, the experience, this is the consumer’s second moment of truth, when they take the product home and use it for the first time. At this point, they can either have a positive or negative experience, depending on whether they like the product or not. People will often share this experience, telling friends and family, writing a review online or commenting on social media.
Google carried out a survey amongst 12,000 shoppers across a range of sectors to explore where in the shopping process they are influenced. They found that on average, shoppers used 10.4 sources in 2011 to research before purchasing, compared to 5.3 in 2010. Consumers are now spending more time than ever researching and learning about products before making an informed purchase.
So how has the shopping cycle changed?
Google noted that a fourth step appeared in the consumer shopping cycle, and named it the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). In between the Stimulus and the Shelf or point of sale, the ZMOT drives consumers towards a particular purchase or alternatively it might drive them away from one product to a different one.
The Zero Moment of Truth is when consumers do their research; they might read online reviews, compare alternative products and look for discounts or voucher codes before the purchase stage. Consumers have changed the way in which they shop and their decision making process. As marketers we must adapt our techniques and content strategy to fit this new model. Content is a vital part of the Zero Moment of Truth and the new consumer cycle.
Consumers have always wanted to gather information about a product before purchasing but the way in which they do this has changed. The consumer journey begins with search. This might previously have been asking friends and family for recommendations, but now consumers are searching across a whole range of platforms for resources. The ZMOT starts this learning journey. Consumers want to be more informed on what they are buying and find the best product for their particular needs.
The ZMOT needs to be part of any marketing strategy
Getting the right content and information in front of the consumer, so they can make an informed decision. It is now a multi-channel journey for the shopper, they might see an ad on TV, then read an online review or printed article, ask family and friends their opinions. But the largest category of search is still online search. This multi-channel and multi-device journey highlights the importance of running an integrated digital campaign using a variety of different types of content, from video and photography to blogs and articles they all play a part in consumer research.
All four steps of the buying model should influence marketing strategy
Finding out what people are searching for means that you can create the type of content people are searching for. Researching what content consumers are sharing and reading should impact content production and in turn content distribution. This links back to getting the right information in front of the right people at the correct stage in the buying cycle. The ZMOT has been described as a ‘window of opportunity’ in which to influence consumers. Valuable content should ‘answer’ any questions that the consumer might have during the shopping cycle.
This new generation of connected consumers are sharing their experiences through social media channels, if they’ve had a bad shopping experience they will quickly tell other people about it.
User and brand generated content must become part of an integrated SEO strategy to optimise the right content for each particular ‘moment of truth’ in the cycle and give consumers the information they want. At Zeal we integrate engaging and well-written content into each stage of our digital marketing strategy.
Whilst you might not always be able to beat competitors on price you can be there at the point of ZMOT with the information and content that they want. If you can understand the customers ‘journey’ and what they want at each point you can create tailored content to meet their needs.
Zeal is a full service online marketing agency who delivers bespoke marketing for any size company. If you want to get in touch and find out more about our services, feel free to call the office on 0113 887 3070.