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Do you remember the days of waltzing into a store and being enchanted by dramatic displays and must-have items dazzling every shelf? Do you recall the second you would see a product, THE product, on the shelf, and you knew in that moment that you just had to have it? Well, years ago, Proctor and Gamble labeled this phenomenon the “First Moment of Truth” (FMOT) – the moment at which a user first sees a product in a store, displayed on a shelf next to its competitors, and decides that he/she must purchase it.
Over the years, the idea that the purchase decision was made at the time of discovery began to shift as technology became more advanced. Access to the internet became widespread and affordable, and suddenly it was imperative for every store to have a website and to ensure that the website showed up in Google searches. Having the most marketable content/keywords on a webpage and bidding on relevant search terms became crucial in making sure that evidence of a company was shown whenever a relevant query was entered into a search engine.
Google, in particular, took notice of this, and in 2011 developed a new theory called the “Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)”. It resembled the FMOT, but with one important addition: a Google search. Unlike FMOT where the decision to purchase always occurred after the stimulus, i.e. viewing the product for the first time, the ZMOT could happen at any point in the buying process: preliminary research before walking into a store, real-time research of a product while in a store, later research of a product after the purchase, and so on.
I believe that the idea of ZMOT has shifted even further today with the significant addition of mobile. A lot of product research and other searches now occur on mobile devices – over the last five years, there has been a dramatic shift from desktop to mobile due to the increase in smartphone availability and usage. Not only is mobile research on the rise, but the idea of mobile research itself has dramatically shifted since the ZMOT theory was published. Relying on a simple Google search is no longer enough; users learn about brands in various digital ways: following social influencers on platforms like Instagram, reading customer reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp, watching unboxing videos and personal testimonials on YouTube, etc. Users will also judge and base their purchases on the usability of a company’s website and their social media presence and tone.
Brands have responded in kind to this mobile escalation by adding additional mobile experiences to ZMOT. There are now various mobile initiatives that seamlessly tie into a user’s overall shopping journey. These appear in many forms (and additional innovative ones are being created every day) and have become a major focus for many brands, especially retailers:
- Using phones’ geofencing abilities to alert users via app notifications that he/she is geographically near to a brick and mortar store (“…so stop on by!”)
- Tagging products on an Instagram story and giving users a smooth transaction process that never takes them out of their original app
- Implementing augmented reality to allow users to “try on” clothing items they’re interested in
Retailers are now present at every place of a buyer’s journey because customers are utilizing mobile throughout their overall buying experience.
Technology will continue to improve and make people and organizations more connected. Because of the rise of mobile, organizations across industries have stepped up their presence across paid and organic media, and have worked to meet the consumers where they are. This is a significant shift that puts the responsibility on the company rather than the consumer, forcing organizations to be present everywhere. Instead of the consumer seeking out more information about a company and their products and services alike, the company needs to be actively trying to engage consumers and inform them of their offerings. This latest stage is no longer just content-first or mobile-first; it encompasses any and all methods of engaging the customer wherever they are.