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The Most Important Takeaway From This New Google Research

by Russ Henneberry

Have you heard of the Zero Moment of Truth?

The original Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) ebook from Google outlined a very important shift in the way people buy today.

If I had to boil the gist of ZMOT down to one sentence it would be:

Before we buy, we research.

Likely not earth shattering news for anyone reading this particular blog, but the original ZMOT report puts some research and data behind what we Internet nerds have known for quite some time.

The original ZMOT ebook is a warning to all of us out there selling a product, service or idea.  Your prospects are doing their homework, much of it online, and it is up to you to pass the test at the Zero Moment of Truth.

While this first ebook was the “what and why” of ZMOT, the latest from Google called the ZMOT Handbook is the “how.”  Much of the suggestions in the ZMOT handbook tie back to (surprise!) using Google’s various forms of paid advertising.

But the data provided in the ZMOT report alone (from the 3rd party, Shopper Sciences) reveals trends that every marketer, sales person and business owner should be aware of.

The New Buying Sequence

An important point from the original ZMOT ebook was the sequence that a buyer goes through today when making a purchase.

It looks like this:

ZMOT Sequence

Source: Google ZMOT Report, 2011

1st – It starts with a stimulus like a piece of direct mail, a TV ad, an email or a recommendation from a friend on Facebook.

2nd – The research begins.  This is what Google has coined the Zero Moment of Truth, where the prospect does their due diligence before they seller even knows they exist.

3rd – The decision to purchase from you, a competitor or make no purchase at all (coined the First Moment of Truth by Procter & Gamble)

4th – The Second Moment of Truth is the experience the buyer has with the product or service.

Combine this with that, and you’ve got a revolution

Now, take a look at the new way we consume media.

Today, we consume media using multiple screens at the same time.

Source: Google ZMOT Handbook, 2012

Again, here are the two pieces of information taken together:

  1. The buying sequence is – Stimulus > ZMOT > 1st MOT > 2nd MOT
  2. People consume media with multiple screens

Today, prospects are getting a stimulus on one device and ZMOT’ing on the other.

A real life example

It might look like this:

  1. [STIMULUS] A woman hard at work in her cubicle gets a text message from her sister-in-law recommending a kitschy Bed and Breakfast
  2. [ZMOT] She “Googles” the name of the B&B.  She browses through a photo album of beautiful photographs on their professional looking website.  She then Google’s “name of B&B + reviews” and reads through 36 reviews on Trip Advisor.  On the whole, the reviews are glowing accounts of real people’s experiences at the B&B.

The woman grabs her purse and heads for the door to go to lunch.

But the story doesn’t stop here.

What’s critical to understand is how things have changed at the First Moment of Truth, the purchase.

Why this all matters – the sale

Let’s take a look at what our “kitschy hotel” has going for it:

  • A referral from someone in the buyer’s family
  • A beautiful photo album on a professional looking website
  • Dozens of [mostly] raving reviews on Trip Advisor

What’s next?

Let’s take a look at how most of us buy things today,

ZMOT Purchasing Behavior
The hero of our story settles into her favorite booth in her favorite deli and pulls out her iPad.

She books two nights at the B & B through the reservation system on their website.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s more

After making the purchase she smiles and pictures her and her husband relaxing together.  She then opens up Facebook and types a status update:

“I have a surprise for my wonderful husband, pack your bags honey, were headed to XYZ kitschy B & B.”

Boom. It’s viral.

This status update becomes a “stimulus” for three of our hero’s Facebook friends to start ZMOT. They grab their smartphone, laptop, desktop or tablet and start searching for the kitschy B & B their friend is visiting.

Our kitschy B & B will have plenty of other opportunities to reap the benefits of ZMOT while our happy couple is uploading pictures or video or simply raving about their experience in the aisle of a grocery store.

But what if our lucky B & B hadn’t prepared for the Zero Moment of Truth?

What if the hero of our story was disappointed with what she found when she did her ZMOT research?

The outcome would have likely been very different.



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. Alessandro says:
    November 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Cool article, thanks!

  2. November 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Very informative article, thanks for the fantastic info on how buyers purchase online!

  3. Bob sommers says:
    November 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Great article Russ. Thanks for bringing this information forward.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      November 4, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      Hey Thanks Bob! Great to hear from you!

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