The traditional advertising model focuses on three stages. The first touchpoint, the stimulus, is typically a form of direct marketing (i.e. TV Ad) that broadcasts the brand message to as many people as possible. After that nothing was really focused on until the customer’s retail experience in store or at the point-of-sale, this was known as the First Moment of Truth (FMOT). It identified when the customer first got exposed to the product/service and had to decide whether to purchase it or not. If the stimulus worked correctly it build brand identity and recognition, ultimately playing a role in purchase. The final phase, Second Moment of Truth (SMOT), occurred when the customer finally experiences the product. That encounter would either reinforce or debunk the brand message and influence their decision to buy again.
With the rise of the internet a new phase in the marketing model emerged. In 2011 Google labeled this stage the “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT). “With 88% of U.S. consumers conducting product research online before purchase, the internet has changed the way consumers interact with brands, products and services. Most consumers solidify purchasing decisions well before actually entering a store or adding a product to their online shopping cart” (Inc). ZMOT sits between the stimulus and the FMOT, consumers now have the ability to research, review, and compare various brands in little time. Most of which is done outside of the control of the actual brand and businesses control that would traditionally conduct advertising campaigns for the product in question. This power reversal putting the consumers in the driver’s seat has most businesses spinning. However, there are a few brands that took this advertising model change in stride and are winning because of it.
Amazon is one of the best in the business at capitalizing on the ZMOT. The customer ratings are next to every image that is provided. Clicking into the actual item I can see what the average score is, do a search on a keyword, and read through them in detail. They also typically have a “compare with similar items section.” This is very useful when you are on purchasing an item based on its specs rather than style. For example, if I was looking up a lawn mower I can see other models that are similar and price, their dimensions, weight, and power source all on one page. These views are available on both their website and mobile app. This is very important as we know majority of shopping has shifted to mobile.
An example that may blur the line between the ZMOT and the FMOT is their new 4-star slate of stores. The only items carried are customer rated 4 stars and above based on .com reviews. Customers still want to feel like the research has been done and that they are getting the best value (whether it be price, quality, or something in between) – that’s the whole point of the rise of ZMOT. However, these stores help reduce that burden on the customer by preselecting only the best of the best for them – now their interactions are at the FMOT again in this case. While it’s pretty cool Amazon can do this, I’m not sure I see this scaling for many other businesses. Regardless, if brands want to be successful online, in person, or both, they must focus on ZMOT in the buying process.