World wide word-of-mouth

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As the Internet evolves into the most powerful purchasing

tool ever created, so does its impact in facilitating the growth of online conversation to influence buying decisions

August 01, 2012

The zero moment of truth

Word-of-mouth has always been the No. 1 way for remodelers and contractors to gain new business. It works the old-fashioned way: remodelers with well-earned reputations for fair deals and quality work often get referred via neighbor-to-neighbor and colleague-to-colleague conversations. Many design/build and full-service remodelers in particular – those who require a few large jobs to fill out their work calendars – still boast of their ability to not advertise or spend money on marketing. They proudly rely on positive word-of-mouth to generate referrals and repeat business. But in today’s hyper-connected world, word-of-mouth has advanced well and comments at the end of informational articles have turned the Web into the World Wide Word-of-Mouth.

That is why it makes sense that last year, search giant Google led the way in researching how consumers use the web to gather information before they buy. In research co-sponsored by Shopper Sciences, Google found that the number of sources of information used by consumers to research the products they buy nearly doubled from 5.8 in 2010 to 11.2 in 2011. Google speculates that nearly all of that increase relates to searches from smartphones and other mobile devices. The phenomenon has even been given a name: The Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT. Go to a Web browser today and type those four letters and the top result will be a link to a 76-page book from Google called The Zero Moment of Truth.

Those who have studied marketing in college may recall that the textbooks teach a simple three-step model to all marketing. It is a model that has held true over the past 150 years. Step No. 1 is Stimulate. This step involves advertisements and other venues to create awareness for your brand. Step No. 2 is known as the First Moment of Truth. This is where potential customers get to the point of sale and make a decision on what to buy. Retailers often refer to this step as Shelf, because consumers are literally at the store shelf, picking between brands. Step 3 is Experience: was the customer satisfied enough to make them buy again or refer?

With ZMOT, Google is adding a fourth step to the process. Google’s top marketer, Jim Lecinski, who wrote the ZMOT book, asserts that Web search is happening just before the old Step No. 2, First Moment of Truth or Shelf. The Zero Moment of Truth is when a mom searches decongestants on her smartphone before heading off to the pharmacy. It is when an office worker searches prices online before heading to the office supply store to buy paper. Google and Shopper Sciences also found ZMOT searches happen further in advance from the purchase for larger-ticket items like cars and computers than they do for smaller-ticket, retail items like breakfast cereal and deodorant. The research found that for cars and computers, meaningful ZMOT Web searches occur about 6 to 12 months before the actual purchase. Buying decisions for retail items occur within hours or minutes of a purchase.

ZMOT author Leciniski says consumers are conducting these searches as a way to arm themselves for battle, particularly for big-ticket items that are roughly equivalent to embarking on a remodeling project.

“Today a customer will walk into a dealer and say, ‘I want to drive the Lexus 250h with the touring package, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, dual-zone climate control and tan leather with seat warmers. I have seen the specs and read the reviews online. And I know that the MSRP is $37,125, but your real invoice is $33,686,’” says Lecinski. “What happened? ZMOT happened. If you’ve purchased a car lately, you have seen that woman in the dealership armed with a handful of ZMOT printouts, or showing her smartphone screen to the salesperson. Maybe that person is you.”


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