The mental model has changed. Consumers are digging for feedback earlier in the buying process and user-generated influence is making a more powerful impact than ever. Google has published an entire e-book entitled Winning the Zero Moment of Truth, offering heavy statistics to prove that the number of resources consumers consult before making purchasing decisions requires marketers to proactively engage with audiences across multiple touch points and over time.
Prior to the advent of online search, advertisers operated under this 3-step mental model of marketing:
a. the stimulus (i.e. advertisement, commercials, etc.) introduced the product
b. the next touch point was in the store, where the consumer was faced with choosing that product (First Moment of Truth or FMOT)
c. followed by forming impressions about their experience with the product (Second Moment of Truth or SMOT)
With the advent of online search, the ability, and thirst, for more information prior to visiting a store has increased to such a significant degree that Google has dubbed this extra step as the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT.
Here are some stats:
ZMOT – Zero Moment of Truth
- The length of the shopper’s purchase journey varies greatly by category. But even within a spontaneous category like restaurants, we see thoughtful behavior of several hours to several days leading up to decision.
- The number of sources used by any shopper for any average shopping occasion has almost doubled, from 5.2 to 10.4 sources used.
- 84% of all shoppers use ZMOT sources in the path to purchase.
- Searching online is at the same level or eclipsing friends and family as a source used in the purchase process, which is a first.
- While overall usage of online social and mobile sources are lower than other sources, they are on the rise. Among the group who use online social and mobile sources, they rank the mobile information as highly influential in shaping their ultimate purchase decisions.
The implications of ZMOT are monstrous. The need for user-generated feedback (i.e. product reviews, social suggestions) is more powerful, and the lack of such content or integration of reviews can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. A few months ago, I wrote a post about the Web Loop, highlighting the importance of engaging with consumers at every point along their path to purchase.
By engaging in the discourse and research early on, companies can leverage their visibility by both knowing and embracing the fact that their prospects are looking for the perfect solution. Companies like Bazaarvoice are helping to fuel earned media integration into the campaigns of their clients.
Get ZMOT Ready in 8 Steps
The ZMOT team’s master of measurement, Avinash Kaushik, broke the process down in a quick worksheet that can be downloaded here for free.
Step 1: Start with your bottom line
As you start thinking about ZMOT, remember that there can be only one bottom-line goal for your business. (And it can’t be “more of everything.”) For most businesses, that goal is profit. For a non-profit, it might be the number of clients served. For a college, it might be higher enrollment or better applicants. To do really well at ZMOT, you must keep a clear line of sight to that one bottom-line goal.
Step 2: Get ready to measure
It’s a lot harder to be successful at ZMOT if you don’t measure how you’re doing. For one thing, numbers are really the only way to see how changes affect your results. And to prove your point to your boss or to your team, you need to be able to say something like this: “Our focus on ZMOT has given us $2.1 million of value. It has given us specific ways to delight our customers and improve the way we market to them.” So a good way to start is by connecting your site to an analytics tool (if you haven’t already done so). It’s not hard, and you’ll have a record of every visit to your site.
Step 3: Begin with the basics
Ready to measure? Here are some key starting questions to ask yourself:
- How do people find our website now?
(HINT: Use a referring URL report to see where visitors come from.)
- What is the need that drives people to our site?
(HINT: Pay attention to your search keywords report.)
- What do people read, look at, or interact with most on our site?
(HINT: Look for top content in your content reports. To earn an extra hug, plot a head and tail curve.)
- Which navigation tools do visitors use on our site? What links do they click?
(HINT: Use the site overlay report and look for your top 10 most-viewed pages.)
Step 4: Keep your ZMOT promises
You did it: you found a potential customer. You showed up at the perfect ZMOT (it wasn’t easy) and you got them to click. Nice! Now ask yourself: When this visitor came to your site, did they find what they expected? Or did your ZMOT moment write a check your website can’t cash?
Avinash has some real wisdom to offer on this topic. His advice:
a) Look at your top landing pages report. It shows the popularity of every page on your website, starting (naturally) with the most popular. As Avinash says, one of the key things to understand is that there is no one home page for your website. Lots of companies obsess about their main landing page, but in fact people enter your site all over the place based on what they’ve searched for. So think of every page as a home page.
b) Now look at your bounce rate. This measures the number of people who see one page of your site and then leave. They don’t go deeper, they don’t take action — not even one click! They just leave. They probably didn’t find what they were looking for, and they probably weren’t happy customers. You want a bounce rate under 30%, as a good rule of thumb. That means only three out of ten people who come to
that page left your site immediately. So look for popular pages with bounce rates over 30%. That’s where you can do the most good. If you already use Google Analytics, try downloading this special custom report that can simplify the task of finding and analyzing those pages. Just log into your account, paste the link into your browser. Click “Save” to save the report in your Google Analytics account. Analyze and be awesome.
c) When you find these high-bounce-rate pages, your next step is to identify the gap between why each was created — its purpose, content, and calls to action — and why people are visiting it. Fix that and you’ll deliver on the promise your campaigns are making. To close the gap, you can change the page itself, or you can change the way you’re promoting it at ZMOT. For instance, if you sell golf shoes and your ad text reads “golf gear,” maybe you need to make the text read “golf shoes.” Or maybe you need to include other golf equipment besides shoes on the page.
Step 5: Follow the 10/90 rule
If you have $100 to invest in making smart decisions at ZMOT, you should invest $10 in tools and vendor services, and the other $90 on big brains: people who can analyze the data, learn from it, and pass the insights on to you.
The truth is, the best web measurement tools are available for free. Most any tool you can imagine for the five key components of web 2.0 analytics you can get free. So big spending isn’t needed there.
The thing that’s missing in most companies is the smart people who can pay attention to the data and make sense from it. That’s what will truly revolutionize your existence. Data can only raise questions; you need people to answer them.
Step 6: Get ahead of the game
Search terms are an iceberg: You have to move beyond the top 10 or 20 keywords to see what’s happening in the massive body of related keywords beyond. And don’t forget to think about videos, social media, and all the other places where conversations are happening.
Google Insights for Search, by the way, is a tool that has essentially all of Google’s organic search data from the entire world available — for free. It makes it extremely easy to type in any term and gauge interest in that term in the last week or last year, only in New York or in all of Germany, or with several other parameters. Other companies have tools that do the same thing.
Go to a search query tool now and search for the most prominent terms related to your business. What are some rising search terms in your category?
Step 7: Keep an eye on micro conversions
We’ll assume that you took Step 1 to heart and you’re focused on the one bottom-line goal of your business. That’s good.
In technical terms, that’s the macro conversion. Say you own a local pet supply store with an online commerce site. It’s pretty easy to imagine the macro conversion for that site: getting people to buy stuff for their pets.
When you’re ready to take the next step, start paying attention to micro conversions: the other jobs your site is also doing. Like encouraging users to sign up to receive email marketing promotions. Or to create an account and write reviews for products sold on the website. Or submit an entry for the Doggie Dream Giveaway, download pet care sheets, watch pet videos, print coupons, call the number listed on the website. You get the idea.
Every micro conversion adds business value. It may drive future sales, create a stronger connection with the pet store brand, or deliver higher customer satisfaction.
How much value does each have? To find out, try using a proxy.
For example, you could send an email blast to everyone who signed up with you via your ZMOT campaigns. Wait 30 days. Do a match-back analysis of how many of those email subscribers bought something on the website and how much total revenue they delivered. Say 1000 emails sent, 200 orders received, for a total revenue of $10,000. The economic value of every email address delivered by the ZMOT campaign?
$10,000 / 1000, or ten dollars per address.
With a little effort you can compute the value of every micro conversion. Videos watched, reviews written,
wishlists created, phone calls made, referrals, and so forth.
Step 8: Start failing faster
Your customers will tell you what they want at ZMOT. They’ll vote with their clicks. You just have to put your new ideas out there, then measure and learn.
So try not to think of ZMOT as a standard “business intelligence” process, with massive data sources and decision-making as agile as a one-ton turtle. That’s for when you make big decisions infrequently.
YOUR goal at ZMOT is to make small decisions constantly. Act fast on those decisions, measure the results, and do it all over again. That’s why we call it failing faster: the faster you fail, the faster you learn and the faster you get to success.
By the way, this is also a great way to appeal to your team’s competitive nature. Who can get the best results fastest? Who is the test-and-act champ?
Next time you make a change on the site, hold a predict-the-conversion-rate-change contest at $1 a guess. Give a prize to the person who figures out the most useful (or useless) metric on your dashboard. Or to the marketer who figures out the most creative use of VOC. Or . . . well, you get the picture.
The important thing is to get people failing, learning, and then succeeding faster.
Have you tried any of these approaches or have any stories to share about failing faster? This particular step of advice resonated with me.