At Google, Jim Lecinski, managing director of U.S. sales, became known as the thought leader for the concept of the "zero moment of truth" (ZMOT). It's an offshoot of the Procter & Gamble's (P&G) concept of "the first moment of truth," which describes the first few seconds consumers spend in a store aisle.
Lecinski wrote an ebook that Google will publish in June titled "Winning the Zero Moment of Truth." Along with companion videos uploaded to YouTube, the book explains why marketers should pay attention, and how the concept influences the sale of products and services.
The second half of Lecinski's ebook describes seven recommendations and best practices to succeed at ZMOT. It also goes into detail on practical applications beyond consumer products goods, which P&G focused on.
MediaPost: What are some practical applications for ZMOT beyond CPG?
Lecinski: We commissioned research through Shopper Sciences, which took a look at 11 product categories. Among the categories were financial services, CPG, healthcare, automotive, and elections. We asked for quantitative data as to what goes into the decisions to purchase products. The research firm grouped together more than 50 factors based on classic stimulus, ZMOT and at the point of purchase. They measured the level of influence in the purchase process, and found all three about equal.
Most marketers focus a lot on stimulus and on the point of purchase, but not on ZMOT. But consumers are equally considering all three before making a decision. Even when considering someone to vote for during an election. Voters will go to a search engine and enter keywords such as "policies" and "positions" to learn about what the candidate does. (Search provides that first ZMOT for nearly every topic category.)
MediaPost: How do you know that first stimulus is the impetus for the moment of truth?
Lecinski: Google has many free tools, and we illustrate how to do this in the book. For example, you know when you start typing in a search and Google completes the query with suggestions in a drop-down box. You type "dog food r" and the auto suggest will come back with "dog food ratings," "dog food reviews," "dog food recalls," or "dog food recommendations." Those are four zero moments if you're in the dog food category.
The first step is identifying the zero moments. So, if you want to know how prevalent each can become, the searchers can take "dog food reviews" and put it in Google's free keyword tool to determine in a specific geography how many times that zero moment occurred each month.
The second step is identifying when they show up. To do this, take the brand, product and category to determine what consumers use to decide on the purchase. All this is done before consumers show up at the dog food aisle at Wal-Mart.
In the B2B space the decision process often times occurs during a face-to-face sales meeting, but even before that meeting those attending will type into a search engine words that describe the event to research the topic. Are you there? Do you show up in the search results? If not, it makes it difficult to win in the sales meeting.
MediaPost: How does this relate to traditional marketers?
Traditional marketers thought of search engine marketing, social marketing and video marketing as a direct response strategy. If I'm Amazon and someone types in "kid's books 10% off," the content should show up in search results. For stuff not sold with a credit card online -- whether elections, dog food or jet engines -- what's happening is buyers continue to get smarter with online searches before the point of sale.
We once did this offline with a few categories in Consumer Reports way back in the day. As disposable income gets tighter, consumers can't afford to make a mistake, so they continue to transfer the pre-purchase decision-making process online.