Why ZMOT shouldn’t blow your mind

I am currently flat out in bed with flu, laptop on my chest so this blog post will be fairly snappy and possibly overly damning.  But after reading a really well-thought-through post on Google’s ZMOT by Danyl Bosomworth, I felt compelled to finally add my own two pennies’ worth.  This post has been building up in me for a while after being subjected to over a years worth of gushing reviews of Google’s ZMOT report.

So what is Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth)? Simply the truism that a shopper now goes some way towards making up their mind about what they are going to buy well before they make the purchase, using multiple online sources and using various internet-ready devices.

The report is one big PR campaign for spending more money advertising online with Google.  While massively bias in its trumpeting of this conclusion, that doesn’t mean the content of the report is invalid, just perhaps facile.  No not perhaps facile, certainly facile.  Surely none of us really believe anymore that product research pre-purchase is done through simply walking into a shop and asking the sales assistant what they’d recommend? Surely we already understood the importance of online research across multiple sources in the decision making process?

From the report, it is hard to really get a grip on peoples’ actual purchasing experiences online vs simply the generic online purchasing journey someone makes from intensive research to purchase and how it varies for different product categories.

Also, I hate research that is disproportionately based on recalled behaviour rather than observed behaviour and there is plenty of that in there.  As a former theatre director I’d see the difference between what an actor thought they were doing or conveying on stage and the reality, I apply the same perspective to research based around what people think they did.

As Bosomworth puts it “Google are recognising the fact that for the next generation of consumers, the line between online and offline retail is already gone….”.  We knew that already didn’t we?  Well didn’t we? People help me out here…

Google haven’t just reinvented the wheel with this report despite ZMOT being hailed for over a year now as fried gold by every big agency Chief Exec from here to kingdom come.  This point that the online and offline worlds having shifted importance in purchasing decisions should already be a redundant one for today’s marketeer.  We knew it, we know it.

What can we take from ZMOT then if it isn’t the marketeers equivalent of the revelations of the second coming?

It is certainly a useful set of research set pieces for making a case as to why retailers should focus more on online reviews and the intelligence data they are receiving online about their customers pre-purchase research patterns; and it underlines the importance of customer retention and loyalty for sales in the longterm.

It makes the case for a  slight rejigging of the traditional purchase funnel and gives a label to the study of customers purchase behaviours nowadays, but it has been a long long time since marketeers (and certainly any SEO experts) have not factored these elements and behaviours in to their marketing funnels – hopefully.

If we were talking sitcoms then Google’s ZMOT  report is far more My Family (nice, clean-cut, obvious and unchallenging) than In The Thick Of It (clever, in-depth, precise, ahead of the game).

If brands haven’t incorporated what Google are now labelling “ZMOT” thinking into their marketing between two and ten years ago now, then shame on them, because it is effectively best practice pull marketing for the era we live in.

The report is definitely worth a read, even if it wont blow your socks off, especially to compare the purchase cycles for different categories you may not be so familiar with:

Source: Google/Shopper Sciences, Zero Moment of Macro Study, Apr 2011

 What angers me though is that the high praise for this report makes it look like all online marketeers are ninnies who have run out of fresh ideas and puzzles to solve.  When reports like this one are falsely hailed as changing the whole marketing model with supposedly new revelations, it gives the impression that all that is left for online marketeers to concern themselves with is what Tac Anderson calls the less creative building upwards stuff of “scale and optimisation”, rather than entirely fresh ideas and puzzles to solve.



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