How will ZMOT help sell your brand?

ZMOT - The first moment of truth

ZMOT – The first moment of truth

If you haven’t heard of ZMOT yet, then its Google’s research into consumer buying behavior and stands for ‘Zero Moment of Truth’. It was conducted with 5,000 shoppers across 12 industries with insightful tips on how to influence prospects, profiling them by industry and habit. In this article I’ll summarise what you should be looking at and offer useful links and thoughts.

Why bother with another marketing acronym?
It maybe your website isn’t selling as effectively anymore? So apart from the research being from Google and FREE, it really supports the experiences and data of everyone I’ve spoken to. In 2011, Shopper Sciences discovered that 84% of Americans engage in ZMOT Activities. It’s clear the traditional 3-step selling process has ‘exploded’. The role of peer reviews, ratings and social proof providing another layer of emotive influences either positively or negatively which can be controlled.

In fact, buyers now consume in excess of 10.8 sources of data before committing to buy – this is up from a year earlier when it was just 5.3 sources.

But, in a few steps this article should help you evaluate and compare your own customer journeys and with that of Googles research and adapt your marketing program accordingly.

Firstly, What market are you in?
This is now critical, because buying habits alter depending on the products or markets you sell. You need to establish which market you’re in to understand and respond pre-defined buying patterns. Google’s data shown below is based on just 4; Groceries, Fast Foods (QSR), Home Electronics and Clothing/Apparel.


Chart showing the breakdown of Habitual, Impulse, and Research buying habits by market – data: Microsoft/Carat 2011. Reference

Secondly, who’s buying your stuff?

Each of us fall into 3 buyer type approaches: Habitual, Research & Impulse. Interestingly, we all change habits depending what it is we’re buying. Typically, it breaks down like this:

  • Impulse – Stuff like Cakes, Crisps and treats etc (no time)
  • Research – TV, Home electronics etc (major, big impact)
  • Habitual – FMCG – Bread, Toilet Paper

This means the buying process now looks more like a series of tangled events, illustrated here by Lego’s recent study:

Lego user journey

Diagram showing the traditional sales funnel has changed and is no longer an easily predictable, linea process. Ref:

Surprisingly, the role of offline is now more valuable than ever, making the lines between on- and off-line effectiveness now so blurred. Worth noting, that according to a recent survey by KPMG, 94% of all retail is still done offline, meaning the process of researching online and buying offline (ROBO) is still relevant and valuable to know. Albeit, now researchers check online, whilst instore using Smartphones and Apps. More here:

ZMOT in action
According to ZMOT, traditionally, there was a 3-step ‘mental’ model of the buying process. It begins with the ‘stimulus’ – where a person initially becomes aware of a product or brand. This could be any of the events below listed in order of effectiveness (source: Google Squared Online)

  • Saw an Advert on a billboard
  • Watched a TV show featuring the product
  • Received direct mail from retailer
  • Saw a banner ad
  • Email marketing
  • Magazine adverts and articles 
  • Newspaper adverts and articles
  • Received direct mail from brand
  • TV Advertising

Following the stimulus phase, there’s FMOT (first moment of truth) which is probably best described as point of sale or when potential buyers ‘pick products from shelves.

Then the Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) ‘Experience phase’ – the act of taking it home and experiencing it, which can be either a negative or positive event and this is a real trigger for viral and social activity.

However, Shopper Sciences were commissioned to study the process and uncovered a 4th stage, described as the Zero moment of Truth (ZMOT) and falls right before buyers pick products from shelves. Here, consumers read reviews, make comparisons, shop for coupons etc before going to the shelf.

ZMOT is considered to be the critical ‘influence’ stage. Knowing that buyers will take to Facebook and Twitter, or seek peer reviews and professional ratings before making a sale (or even getting in touch), is why the post-sale and brand-loyalty aspects of your marketing tactics are now so relevant. Even though brands themselves no longer control conversations – they can influence, prompt and take part in the conversation to create ZMOT content for future buyers.

This content needs to be easy to contribute to, incentivised and highly accessible as it is likely to be needed typically;

  • By someone in a café on a tablet checking user ratings
  • In store, with a smartphone checking reviews
  • Sat on the sofa with a laptop or tablet checking Facebook page
  • Sat in a carpark waiting for passengers

This is why Mobile is so critical to Brands online. The information has to be available to consumers when and where they want, not when the brands say so.

With this in mind what can and should you do?
I would recommend evaluating how much budget is split between the stimulus stage and the ZMOT stage.

If you have a digital marketing partner, when you discuss the Stimulus phase or route to Market, ask what their plans are for the ZMOT phase. As a Digital Creative Director, I see the agencies role as not just marketing and advertising a product or service, but incentivizing actual customers to get involved with the future shape of the brand through.

For instance, we know motivated people like to talk and offer opinion, so how can we engage them to take part at the most critical stage? That’s a combination of creative ideas, offering targeted promotions and utilising effective channels (email, Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook, Linkedin, POS In-store, In-Print). It will change for different products, but nothing should be overlooked.

If you want to discuss how ZMOT affected your promotions or if you agree/disagree with any of the points, do leave a comment. I’m always interested in hearing other peoples experiences or views.

If you want to get in touch and discuss further how ZMOT affects your business and how future campaigns might function for you, then drop me a line at or call 0203 287 4910

Checkout more about ZMOT here:

By Paul Stratford


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