Zero Moment of Truth Is Kingmaker for Content

This is the third of 3 posts covering Content Marketing World 2012, held in Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 4-6.

Back in the 1980s, intense consumer research helped Proctor & Gamble figure out the magic 3-step formula that drove consumer purchase.

First, there was the Stimulus — usually a radio or TV ad — that grabbed a consumer’s attention about a product.

Then, there was the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) — a 3 to 7 second time period where the consumer spotted a product on the shelf and decided to buy the product, thanks to the Stimulus.

Finally, there was the Second Moment of Truth when the consumer took the product home, enjoyed using it, and spread the word to friends and family about their positive experience.

This 3-step process has been holy doctrine to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail industries for decades. But Sam Sebastian, Google’s director of local & B2B, thinks the process has undergone a dramatic shift.

In his keynote address Wednesday at Content Marketing World, Sebastian presented the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the powerful new step in consumers’ decision-making process.

In between the Stimulus and First Moment of Truth, consumers — armed 24/7 with a PC, mobile device or tablet — are researching products online before they buy them.

The infographic below illustrates how the process works:

Consumers are researching far more than ever before. In 2010, consumers researched an average of 5.27 sources before making a purchase. That number jumped to 10.4 sources in 2011.

Researchers have found that 84% of shoppers use the Zero Moment of Truth when making a purchase — slightly more than the FMOT and Stimulus.

For marketers, the consequences are huge. This means that the initial stimulus from television, print and display advertisements aren’t enough to get consumers to the point of purchase. They now also need to pass the litmus test of consumers’ online research. This means dominating search results, buying ads for relevant queries, and ensuring that they create relevant content to answer consumers’ questions.

That relevant content can be as simple as a blog post and have huge results. Sebastian noted that when Democrats were trying to pass the Affordable Care Act last year, they saw a huge spike in search queries for “healthcare reform” as citizens researched the issue.

President Obama’s team responded with a simple blog post answering common questions about health care reform that topped search results and helped the administration maintain public support for the bill.

The Zero Moment of Truth is a huge for the future of the CPG and retail industries — neglecting digital is now irrefutably suicidal. Those that own the web will win and thrive.

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