The Moment Of Truth On The Path To Purchase

Type the term "moment of truth" into Google and you'll get a bazillion hits, most of them defining the term itself. One of the more visceral definitions comes from bullfighting, where the "moment of truth" refers to the matador's final thrust of the sword into the bull at the end of the fight.

In that particular case, there is truly only one moment of truth. Everything leads up to that point -- or doesn't -- but it's that moment that defines the battle.

In recent months, there have been a plethora of "moments" introduced for retail. The original concept of the "first moment of truth," or FMOT, was defined by Procter & Gamble. It included two moments: the first, when the shopper put the item in question into her cart, and the second, when she got it home and tried it.

From there, we've seen Google introduce a so-called ZMOT, or zero moment of truth. This is defined as the time between a purchase stimulus and the shopping trip. This is a new concept that attempts to capture the pre-shop research that consumers routinely engage in before buying something.



The easy access to information via myriad devices (PC, mobile, tablet) has put us in touch with all sorts of information about anything we might be interested in buying. From pricing, availability coupons and user reviews, we can access more data about any given product than we ever dreamed.

Since ZMOT, another moment of truth stepchild has appeared: the MOT-1. This is defined as the time before the ZMOT, which is essentially the stimulus that provokes ZMOT.

Going back to that ill-fated bull we began with, there is really only one moment of truth. In retail, it is when the shopper makes the actual purchase decision and puts the item into her cart. It's at that point that the marketing either worked or didn't, and all points leading up to the purchase decision connected for her -- or didn't.

One could argue that this is all a question of semantics and that may be. But to attempt to define multiple moments of truth or even to dissect the entire stimulus-research-purchase process (commonly referred to as the path to purchase) into discrete and individually addressable moments is futile.

Marketing -- even in today's world of massive data and analysis -- remains as much art as science. So much of what drives the impulse to make a purchase, whether for a soft drink or a new car, is emotional and infinitely variable. To be clear, there are specific touchstones that are definable and important in a majority of cases. But the human animal is a contrary and unpredictable one, full of conflicts and beliefs that often defy logic. In addition, the path to purchase is not linear, and none of the touchpoints within it can be swapped out in some modular do-it-yourself manner.

The connectivity of messaging makes integration critical. All of the various media elements must work together to communicate a consistent message, and all must be pointed at the only moment of truth that matters: the decision to make a purchase. Until the shopper makes that decision, everything else is academic. Even once she does, we can't be certain why we were successful, and we can't with certainty point to one element that made the difference.

The shopping event -- from stimulus through research all the way to the shelf edge and the final purchase decision -- is a collection of connections. Everything must connect for the shopper and work together to connect to the shopper emotionally. Only then is the moment of truth fully realized.

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