Google ZMOT: Marketing Purchase Path Becomes 'Flight Map'

Marketers need to discard traditional concepts of the marketing funnel and assume that consumers switch devices as needed to read reviews and ratings, and research prices before searching again. To make matters more complex, on 53% of conversion paths, the last click typically belongs to a generic keyword -- which means brands that do not show up in search engine results for generic keyword searches miss out on new customers, according to Todd Pollak, head of retail at Google.

Pollak, author of the latest ZMOT Handbook (Zero Moment of Truth), wants to debunk the myth that consumers go to a store to check out prices and purchase the product on the channel offering the lowest price.

Since consumers are doing much more research before making a purchase decision, only showing up some of the time means the brand misses out on what he calls zero moment of truth opportunities. "Once you know how much income you generate from search ad clicks, you can set your bids accordingly to make sure you're capturing profitable demand," he said.

Pollak calls the purchase path a "flight map," where shoppers bounce back and forth across channels. If 46% of consumers research the product on their smartphone and then go to a store to make a purchase, as he suggests, marketers must consider multichannel marketing through optimizing mobile Web sites, creating interaction on YouTube video ads, and enabling click-to-call search ads.

"Some 68% of consumers use YouTube to browse retail companies," he said. "That was simply not the case five years ago."

One of the major issues Pollak points to in the handbook is shopping cart abandonment. As 2012 began, seven out of 10 times consumers abandoned full carts. Many of them made a short hop somewhere else, such as back to a search engine to check for a better price, cheaper shipping, a coupon or a savings code by changing the keywords in the search term. While the path becomes more complex, supported by "self-directed and unpredictable" shoppers, more devices that means brands have many options to connect with consumers.

The latest ZMOT handbook also highlights a three-step plan for working with affiliate programs, mobile insights and managing the bids, rather than the budgets.

Marketers need to remember that mobile ads don't work for all product categories or age groups. Doug Schumacker, digital director of marketing at Braun Corp., a manufacturer of wheelchair-accessible vans and ramps, told MediaPost in an earlier discussion that mobile doesn't fit into his company's business model. The clients -- typically older -- won't use a smartphone like consumers ages 12 to 17.

The problem lies in focusing on the ad budget rather than on the bids needed to reach the most relevant customers. The goal -- to capture demand at a price the brand is willing to pay -- becomes the challenge and the reward.

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