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Google’s ZMOT – brilliant or bo***cks?

Google's framework for multichannel success

I appreciate the headline might be a bit controversial, but it's a genuine question. It's a natural follow-up to my previous post reviewing McKinsey's New consumer Decision Journey. After all - Google are saying that their Zero Moment of Truth model represents the death of the sales funnel. Really? I don't think so…

Of course we already know that P&G first realised the idea of 'moments of truth' in 2005, they said that the first moment was "in front of the shelf," and that the "second moment of truth" was gained through product trial and experience. So compared with McKinsey's Consumer Decision Journey, what is ZMOT adding? The aim of ZMOT is to explain how the consumer's research and decision-making journey on the way to purchase is now fundamentally different, that there's a step prior to P&G's first moment of truth, called ZMOT.

ZMOT also explains that this happens largely online, using multiple journeys and multiple devices. Feels about right, too? This video will help introduce it if ZMOT is new to you…

Great insight and content marketing from Google

The over-arching ZMOT thinking, led by Jim Lecinski at Google, is more great stuff for people trying to sell something to someone, it hails further signals that, as marketers, we all really need to wake up to. It's just as you'd expect from the might of Google's content marketing too; there's some fantastic insight and it's well researched based on insights from organizations such as Nielsen.

It's a concept orientated (though far from exclusively) towards online retailers, which makes sense given Google's commercial goals to sell retailers their advertising opportunities. Armed with 'ZMOT', Google are recognising the fact that for the next generation of consumers, the line between online and offline retail is already gone, 'ZMOT' helps Google brand a benefit orientated sales pitch to help retailers do something about it.

Google's Jim Lecinski starts by talking over his personal example ZMOT customer journey which I've paraphrased below…

  • Step 1: I need to get a new TV
  • Step 2: What springs to mind when I think of brands to shortlist?
  • Step 3: Do some research to create my best shortlist of brands
  • Step 4: Open a new browser window, are their any that come recommended by experts or commentators?
  • Step 5: Open a new browser window, type “[brand or model name] review” and repeat for all options, evaluate the general feeling
  • Step 6: 5-10 minutes later - find the best price for the product vs trust of the retailer, buy TV

Can you spot where the ZMOT takes place? Yep, steps 3-5.

So is the sales funnel really dead?

Not even close! Let's appreciate that Google wants to sell, they need a big campaign idea to promote with, so it's important to have some filtering in place in order that we can weed out the actual value vs the necessary creative hype that might blindly send us into a new obsession with mobile advertising 🙂

A little like McKinsey's fantastic and simple Consumer Decision Journey, I believe ZMOT to be a similarly re-engineered sales funnel, the funnel itself is very evolved and very alive, it's a funnel on its side... What Google are actually revealing is that the early major stages of activity in the funnel are different now. The *way* we research, the sources, methods and devices is much more complex. What remains common is that fewer and fewer people logically progress through the stages, the first and second moments of truth. So just like McKinsey's Consumer Decision Journey, I'd suggest that ZMOT is a funnel of sorts, more at the early stages and less at the latter.

McKinsey's Consumer Decision Journey and Google's ZMOT are very similar though differ in what they focus on in regard to post purchase behaviours. ZMOT appreciates that there's a likely response (positive or negative) based upon the product experience - where consumers might 'do something' such as share, rate, comment or post words, pictures or video somewhere about their experience, this in turn creates or supplements someone else's ZMOT. McKinsey, on the other hand, talk about the continuation of the shoppers journey into repeat purchase and loyalty. I think both of these models offer important perspectives post purchase.

The major ZMOT take-aways

  • Every shopper is unique: And, they always have been Google, we've not become emotive and human, we've become empowered to exercise that irrational nature with more choice just one one click (or finger flick) away. Without doubt Google's message stands true though: Be ready to meet shoppers their way. The key? Develop major persona types, market to those individuals as individuals, let them see real-time relevant content to aid in decision making, in taking micro (i.e email sign-up) and macro (purchase) decisions, over time. The 'over time' point is important, people will repeat visit over time, so consider lifetime value over one-visit or one-purchase value.

"Why would people make decisions based on the opinions of strangers? They don’t. They make decisions based on the opinions of people like themselves. Which is who they find at ZMOT" Jim Lecinski

  • Shoppers are multi-channel and multi device: This is the important point, as users now have more time to research and consider purchase (and let's not forget those of us that make massive impulse purchases!). The consumer jumps online, offline, word of mouth and back online again. This journey is not predictable outside of that you know you do this yourself. Google talk about T-commerce (tablet commerce, naturally). Understanding channel attribution modelling will become more important as a part of this.

  • Advertising is no longer the primary effective tool: You need to earn the attention of the consumer, the reality of high cart abandonment, high bounce rates and your brand or product generally being lost in a sea of noise. You cannot logically buy the problem out with advertising anymore, 99% of us just don't have the budgets to hand. Not that I'd recommend it if you did. Consider how you can earn attention at every step of the customer's journey and especially when they're on your site.
  • 80% of success is showing up: This is actually the most important point, what makes it easy to get started and near impossible to ever be perfect. You need to show up where the consumer is trying to solve their challenge. So how are you going to do that?

"The average number of information sources used by shoppers DOUBLED from 2010 to 2011" Professor David Bell

How do you be a part of your customer's ZMOT?

Google talk about winning at the ZMOT, I think that's possibly a little misleading. You don't win, you help the consumer on their journey and then monitor and measure the amount of attention and trust that you get as a result, ultimately in how many attributable sales that your efforts generate. Let's not make this complicated either, it's content marketing (or inbound marketing if you're that way inclined) at multiple stages of the buy funnel. Something we've covered before and created a content marketing info graphic to go with it.

Given that you're unlikely to be able to beat every competitor on price and warehouse inventory, Google advise that you need to beat those competitors at the point of ZMOT, where decisions are made outside of price alone. This is done whilst also bringing the same quality of content into your website by giving the consumer the information that they need at point of purchase to confidentially make a decision. Again it's relevant content at that point on the journey.

So what's the practical checklist for starting out in ZMOT?

  1. Collect the data about your brand across as many review sites, blogs, forums and social networks as possible. Do this through search or better using social monitoring search and listening tools that make this easier
  2. How do your compare to competitors - where are you in the market so far as the searching consumer is concerned?
  3. Define and understand your customer or persona types - more specifically map their journey to purchase, where do those individuals go to make informed purchase decisions, where do they get their ideas and inspiration and who or what do they currently trust (repeat this process regularly)
  4. Walk in the consumers shoes as much as possible, what is their experience of searching in your market, exploring intermediary or influencer sites, including how does your site and others in the market work in smartphone or tablet devices, and of course on a PC
  5. As the consumer hits your site, is it credible, does it demonstrate a trustworthy brand, making realistic promises that are valuable outside of price alone?
  6. Are you catering for those further up the sales funnel, those people (as P&G said in 2005) who are stood in 'front of the shelf' at the first moment of truth, are there reasons to make what Google call the micro decisions to register for or download some form of useful content from you?
  7. And, of course: Download the ZMOT guide guide (there's a new second edition for 2012); it's a little long, but absolutely worth your time

“There’s evidence that customers acquired by word of mouth actually have higher lifetime value than others.” Jim Lecinski

Careful not to upset the direct marketers

"UnderStanding lifetime value — that’s the way online marketing is headed," says Google, "Because the digital world makes it possible." I don't mean to be rude, Google, but the LTV thinking has been around for a long time now and might rile a few of those direct marketing traditionalists! Probably the best book ever written on customer orientated marketing remains Pepper and Roger's 'One to One Field book' (1999), in fairness they too were suggesting this some time ago. How do you find ZMOT? Brilliant or Bollocks?

Danyl Bosomworth

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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