ZMOT – The Consumer Journey

Part 3 of a 3-part series on today’s Consumer Psychology. In this part, Google's ZMOT and beyond!
The new consumer journey

Part 3 of a 3-part series on today’s Consumer Psychology. In this part, Google’s ZMOT and beyond!

For me, travel is a pain in the arse. I hate it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the arriving at the destination bit; the hotel, the pool, the city. It’s just the actual journey I don’t like. 

I’d swear that journeys have been designed to temporarily suck the soul right out of us. We go from being thinking individuals to some kind of automated zombie, reacting predictably every step of the way. 

I’d sooner scoop my brains out with a cactus plant than sit at an airport joining with the other poor wretches in staring hopefully at the screens, scanning for a gate number and hoping to avoid the dreaded ‘Delayed’ notice. Then, as if we are a single entity, we are prompted to stand and shuffle ourselves to our point of departure. We oblige our masters and sit where we are told to sit, then none of us laugh at the insanity of the safety drill that tells us how best to sit in our seats should the plane plummet to the ground from 40,000 feet. Drinks and snacks are served at a predetermined point in the journey, followed by our chance to purchase overpriced but beautifully presented goodies from the ’sky store’.

Eventually we arrive at another airport, shuffle off to the terminal, wait for our bags and reconnect with our souls as we finally exit the building. Predictable, should destroying, but pretty much essential. 

Even worse is the journey planning. Setting aside the choice of day and time of travel, there’s also a question of which type of ticket is best: economy, economy plus, business, first, aisle seat, window seat, front, middle, wing, back of the plane. Extra leg room? One bag or two? You want lounge entry with that? Car parking? Meet and Greet? Long-stay? Medium Stay? Short Stay? Standard room, King Bed, Queen Bed, Twin? Junior Suite, Exec Suite? Questions, questions, questions.

Sometimes I wish I had been born in the middle ages, where travel was straightforward: walk, take the horse, or maybe even hitch up the cart to the horse. Stay at the inn or slum it in the barn. Simple.

In the ‘pre-digital’ era, life was also simple. The consumer has a requirement, and so visits the store. Staff weave their magic and sale is made. Let’s take a moment to think about those good old days ………………… ahhh.  

Today our lives are packed with smart gadgets and ubiquitous web access (well almost), and the customer journey is significantly more complicated, challenging Evil Marketers like ourselves to become smarter, sneakier and downright demonistic about our business (is that actually a thing?). 

Let’s step back in time to 2005 when Mariah Carey topped the US song charts with ‘We Belong Together’ and the Pussycat Dolls ft Busta Rhymes – ‘Don’t Cha’ topped the UK charts.  Hurricane Rita became the third most intense hurricane ever. In the same year, the Wall Street Journal published a story about the seven seconds after a consumer first encounters a shelf full of products in a store. Procter & Gamble called that moment, the time when you are trying to make your mind up which product to pick up off the shelf, the ‘First Moment of Truth,’ or FMOT (‘EFF-mot’). 

This traditional model of a consumer journey essentially took three steps: Stimulus – what causes the consumer to take a decision to buy a product; FMOT – what causes the consumer to buy your product; and a Second Moment of Truth, or SMOT (‘Ess-mot’) – when the consumer uses (experiences) your product – and is delighted or not. 

This three-step model still holds true for some types of product, particularly grocery type shopping in stores, where habitual buying, impulse buying, and brand recognition play an important part in FMOT decisions. However today for many products and services, and especially those higher in the value chain, a fourth step has been added to the three-step journey of Stimulus, FMOT, and SMOT. In 2011 Google introduced the concept of a Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT (‘ZEE-mot’), a concept that still holds true in today’s world.  

The Zero Moment of Truth 

Often, when a consumer hears about a product or service, it’s probably online or via an app. Their first reaction is to research the product, research suppliers, research prices, and then make a buying decision. By the time they come to your store to make the purchase they probably already know more about the product and their purchase options than you do. You are already behind the consumer. 

In their free ebook, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth[Think With Google], Google describes the ZMOT as … 

“… a new decision-making moment that takes place a hundred million times a day on mobile phones, laptops and wired devices of all kinds. It’s a moment where marketing happens, where information happens, and where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world.”

A Zero Moment of Truth is the point when you use your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone to research a product or service you are going to buy or thinking about buying.  

The ZMOT is something I am sure we can all personally relate to. 

Today’s consumer now journeys from Stimulus (recognition of want or need) to ZMOT (research, filtering) – through to FMOT (buying decision) – and the SMOT (experience). It’s crucial that your business understands and embraces the concept of this new journey.  Let me give you some examples of each stage in the new customer journey. 

◦    STIMULUS – A friend may have mentioned a product to you, or perhaps you saw an advertisement on TV or in news/magazine. You may have noticed the ad online or have seen a show that featured the product. 

◦    ZMOT – You research the product by using a web search engine. You read product reviews and specifications online. You compare prices on a comparison site or on individual retail websites. 

◦    FMOT – You visit a store and look at the product packaging. You may experience the actual product (for example hold a camera). You may talk to a salesperson about the product. The purchase may take place at the store, or you may purchase online. 

◦    EXPERIENCE – You take the product home and take it out of its packaging. This should be a great experience! You use the product – does it meet or exceed your expectations? Does it delight you? 

At this stage, you may be thinking that this all sounds good for buying and selling online, but it doesn’t apply to your business, market sector or industry.  If you are, then I encourage you to download the Google ZMOT book and take a good hard look at page 39. On that page is a table, Figure 5-1: Cross-category chart. It shows 12 purchasing categories along with their corresponding statistics: the number of sources researched/consulted by a typical shopper of that product category and the percentage of shoppers influenced at ZMOT. It’s a real eye-opener. Let me share some figures with you. 

  • Automotive – Number of reference sources used by a consumer is 18.2, and the percentage of shoppers influenced at ZMOT is 97%. 
  • Travel – Number of sources used is 10.2, and the percentage of shoppers influenced at ZMOT is 99%. 
  • Grocery – Number of sources used is 7.3, and the percentage of shoppers influenced at ZMOT is 61%. 
  • Quick Serve Restaurants – Number of sources used is 5.8, and the percentage of shoppers influenced at ZMOT is 72%. 

The point I am making here is that you must ensure that you can deliver your messages into the consumer’s journey at the point of their ZMOT. 

The ZMOT happens online, at any time of the day, and increasingly on a mobile device. Your consumer embarks on a journey to explore an emotional need or want and will draw on multiple sources to arrive at their decision, including family and friends and even complete strangers. You need to do whatever you can to encourage them to engage with your brand during their ZMOT, and beyond. 

Winning the ZMOT 

So how do you win the hearts and minds of consumers at their ZMOT? Our friends at Google offer 7 strategies: 

1.  Put someone in charge 

If no one is responsible for the outcome, it is unlikely that anyone will act. You need to delegate the responsibility for ensuring that the customer journey is considered across your entire business. And if you are a solopreneur, it is down to you!

2. Find your zero moments 

Analyse the Consumer Journey for your product or service and pay particular attention to the ZMOTs. You can use search engines to research the results delivered when your products, services or market keywords are searched. 

3. Answer the questions people are asking 

Find out what people search for when researching your product or service and make sure that any questions they are asking are answered by your website. For example, they may be searching for product specifications, in which case create a product specification page on your website and on social media. You can check out what people are searching for online using the Google Trends tool [].

4. Optimise for ZMOT 

This is where you need to be a little creative because essentially this is all about search optimisation or getting found online. By adjusting your content to answer the questions people are asking and then combining paid, owned, earned and shared conversations you can ensure that consumers will find you during their ZMOT. We’ll come onto search optimisation and the concept of paid, owned, earned and shared later in this book.

5. Be fast 

As Google succinctly put it “in the world of ZMOT, speed beats perfection.” The message here is to be fast and agile. Responding to social media conversations, often in real time, can help drive your brand into the minds of the consumers. 

6. Don’t forget video 

Consumers tend to favour two kinds of videos: how-to, and product showcases. For B2B brands Google recommends creating case studies and thought leadership videos. These kinds of videos don’t have to be big-budget movie productions. Consumers equally appreciate low-budget, to the point videos that meet their need. 

7. Jump in 

Perhaps most importantly you need to act, and there is no excuse not to.  

The Ultimate Moment of Truth  

In his book “What’s The Future Of Business” [], Brian Solis suggested a further step in the consumer journey – The Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT). He argued that usually the last step of the journey, the Second Moment of Truth – Experience, is a solo experience. It’s how the consumer feels in using your brand. Now, with the proliferation of social media channels, we can add a further step beyond the SMOT. The UMOT is the moment where people convert their experience with the product or service they purchase and turn it into discoverable content shared across all their social platforms.  

4 Hacks We Should All Be Using

Consumer thinking should influence your entire business activity. It doesn’t matter whether your business model is purely commercial or not-for-profit, the consumer needs to take the central role in your digital thinking. Your user experience needs to be simple, attractive and functional. You need to inject your brand and product messages into the consumer journey; the right message at the right point, at the right time. And you need to make use of consumer psychology to steer consumers to your desired outcome. 

Hack 1: Make the User Experience a strategic issue for your business. Bake it into your business culture. 

Hack 2: Learn how consumers in your target audience think and learn how to influence them using the NLP devices identified by psychologists. 

Hack 3: Make the consumer journey central to your pre-sales, post-sales and marketing thinking.  

Hack 4: Power your first-time sales by synchronising your business to your consumer ZMOT

If you missed the other parts in this series, you can find them here:

PART 1: The Impact of Digital Business On Our Lives

PART 2: How To Influence Consumer Thinking

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Andy Wood

Andy Wood

My mission is to guide and empower you with the tools, resources, strategies, and tactics to help you succeed in your online business, and (of course) EXPLODE your income so you can live life on your own terms.

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