Your Customers and the Zero Moment of Truth

Your Customers and the Zero Moment of Truth

by: | July 3, 2012

In the past decade, the process of buying products or services has changed dramatically. Shopping is no longer a simple process of fulfilling a need with the first relevant product you see. Today, shopping is more of a journey where shoppers are increasingly looking to their networks and online sources of information for reviews, videos, and information that confirm they’re making a good decision.

Google has been studying this new aspect of shopping and dubbed it the “Zero Moment of Truth,” or ZMOT for short. In a recent video produced by Google, John Ross, CEO Shopper Sciences, described ZMOT thusly:

70 percent of all transactions we’re seeing some sort of pre-shopping take place, even if it’s for items that cost a dollar or less. ZMOT isn’t just a catalyst that starts shopping, but it starts learning. The biggest change we see is shoppers walking into transactions saying ‘I want to be smart, I want to be more informed, I want to make better choices, and yeah, I also want to save some money.’

We know people make decisions based on emotions, not facts. What we’re seeing with ZMOT is confirmation of this tenant. We’re also learning how understanding ZMOT gives savvy marketers the ability to influence people’s emotional reactions to your company and product(s) on their shopping path. Companies who fail to adapt to this new mental model will lag behind and ultimately fail.

What Is ZMOT?

ZMOT stands for Zero Moment of Truth. It represents the area of discovery and learning that occurs before buying a product. Today, consumers want to know whether they’re making a good choice or not, so they are looking for more information than ever before from a multitude of places prior to their purchase.

Image Source: Chief Marketing Technologist


Smart marketers are embracing the Zero Moment of Truth and ensuring their message is visible and discoverable in that space. According to research conducted by Google: in 2011, the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information before buying. This means as a smart marketer for your business, you need to make sure you are engaging customers in these sources of information, not just your website.

Additionally, you need to be aware of not only your own messaging, but also the messaging of your happy and unhappy customers. You need to understand your product or service’s discovery process. You need to broadcast your positive reviews and discuss your negative reviews. You need to understand how people will find your business in search. You need to embrace ZMOT.

Here’s how.

Winning the ZMOT Game

How do you take advantage of ZMOT for your marketing? How should your business embrace ZMOT principles? Here are some actionable examples you can implement in your business immediately.


Showing up in search engines is important, but for ZMOT, it goes beyond picking the keywords that are relevant to your solutions. Shoppers and browsers won’t always remember your product exactly, but they’ll remember ancillary details you might not think to optimize for.

Consider the Orabrush videos. In them, there’s often a big tongue character that shows up. The viewer might not remember the name Orabrush, but they might remember the giant tongue, and, therefore, search for “giant tongue video.” Those keywords might not seem like logical choices to optimize for until you understand how people search for things they’ve seen.

B. Social Media

With social media results appearing in Google searches, connecting your social media efforts to your other marketing efforts is increasingly vital.

Are you using twitter hashtags in your marketing to engage in conversations with your customers? Are your Facebook and Google+ posts showing up in searches? Keep in mind how your social media presence can affect your users and how they can find you.

C. Ratings & Reviews

Your customers are already talking. They’re already writing reviews on other websites. Other potential customers are seeing these reviews before they buy. You can’t stop it, but instead, choose to support it and engage your customers. Here are some tips:

  • Feature positive reviews on your site in prominent places
  • Integrate a product review system on your site or pull in reviews from other sites.
  • Keep an eye on reviews on other sites
  • Respond to negative reviews in a constructive way
  • Don’t forget about the power of coupon codes

D. Know What People Are Searching For

Would you put a billboard up before you know how many people will see the ad? Similarly, why start a marketing campaign before you know if anyone will see it? How do you determine what people want to see? The answer is to find out what people are searching for in the first place. It’s the online equivalent of putting a billboard on a busy highway.

Use Google’s Keyword Tool to look for keywords for your business, but take it a step further: Look for unobvious connections.

If someone is searching for debt relief, they might be considering bankruptcy. If you’re an attorney, offer a free report or video to learn about their options. Here’s another example: If a viewer is looking for hurricane insurance, they might be interested in hurricane shutters or hurricane season protective tree trimming.

Remember this, when people are searching for A, they might also be looking for B. Incorporate these search ideas into your marketing plan.

E. Proper Landing Pages

If you call a company to learn about a particular product, is it helpful when they start telling you about the company? No, you’re looking for different information, so it becomes frustrating to dig up the information you were actually looking for.

Think about when someone clicks on the link in your ad or video or other marketing pieces. Does the link go to your homepage that doesn’t speak to anything in your marketing, or does it go to an optimized landing page that continues the messaging from your ad?

If your marketing talks about a particular service or product your company provides, and you link to your homepage that talks about multiple products, you’ve already lost. You can’t simply send people to your homepage and hope they get to the right product. They should land on a customized landing page.

They clicked on your link, so give them what they clicked for. If they clicked from a video, give them more videos and information that supports the video’s message. If they clicked on an online ad, give them the free report you promised, or the video you promised, or other piece of informational content that answers the desire you created with the ad in the first place.

More Resources

Real Life Examples of ZMOT

Learn how Butter Lane helped improve their business by embracing ZMOT and incorporating it into their marketing.

More Ways to Use ZMOT

Listen to more ways to implement these principles in your marketing, and get more examples of how it works in businesses.

Clearly, ZMOT is the way of today for consumers. We smart, savvy business owners and marketers need to make sure our messages and our businesses are in the ZMOT space. We can’t control everything our customers say about our products and services, but we can make sure we’re part of the discussion. We can inform our viewers and ensure it’s easy to discover. We can encourage our brand evangelists and embrace the communities. Without it, we can’t win.

Read Google’s book on ZMOT and watch more videos at Zeus

Have you embraced ZMOT in your business? How are you planning on changing your marketing with this new information? Have you witnessed change in your industry or with your business since learning about it? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in: B2C, E-Commerce, Engage!, Lead Generation, Link Building, Optimization, Paid Search (PPC), Usability

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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