The Zero Moment of Truth

The Zero Moment of Truth is a mental model developed by Google to try and explain the changing nature of traditional marketing methods on the purchase funnel. In this way, it attempts to highlight the way digital technologies have changed the mindset to how we need to approach marketing as a whole.

The Traditional Marketing Model

In the Traditional Marketing mental model, connecting with customers follow a simple pattern.

The Traditional Mental Model of Marketing.

We create a stimulus, which drives a person to the shelf (usually a physical store), where they purchase the product. The customer then goes home to experience the product, and if it behaves as advertised, the customer is satisfied.

Stimulus is both the traditional and new model includes the stalwart marketing techniques of things like:

  • Watching an advertisement on television
  • Receiving a mail out in a letter box
  • Seeing an ad in a newspaper or magazine
  • Seeing a billboard
  • Read information in an email
  • Noticed information while browsing online
  • Watching a TV show featuring the product

Our traditional First Moment of Truth (at the Shelf) also includes the usual activities:

  • Looked at the product package in store
  • Read a brochure / pamphlet about the product in store
  • Talked with a sales person in store
  • Looked at signage or displays on the product in store
  • Talked with a customer service representative in store
  • Tried a sample or experience the product in store

However with the advent of online shopping the shelf has now extended to include digital shelf experiences.

What has fundamentally changed in our new model is the step from stimulus to shelf, and the addition of a new step after the product is experienced.

What is Driving this Change?

There are two factors influencing the changes to the traditional marketing model.

Firstly, the Internet has made the world's information available at a click of a button (and there is a lot of it).

Secondly, mobile has now connected nearly everyone on the planet 24/7.

The result of this is consumers are empowered at all times with more information than ever. They can look at product reviews, get friend recommendations, look up expert opinions, check store inventory, and look up competitive pricing, all at the click of a button in a device permanently in their pocket.

The customer journey has changed, which means the path to purchase has changed.

The Zero Moment of Truth

Customers now engage in a 'zero' moment before the first moment to research and validate the product on offer. ZMOT activities include:

  • Searched online via a search engine or social community
  • Talked with friends of family about the product
  • Comparison shopped the products online
  • Sought information from a product / brand / manufactures website
  • Read product reviews or endorsements online
  • Sought information from a retailer / store website
  • Read comments following an article or opinion piece online
  • Become a friend / follower / "liked" a brand
  • Asked an online community or forum for their opinion of the product

Zero Moment Activities.

With no barriers or closed walls to this information, it is freely and readily available, so most consumers form an opinion of the product or service well before they open their wallet.

The Second Moment of Truth

Our next fundamental change occurs when people eventually end up experiencing the product at the second moment of truth.

Access to information now works both ways; as soon as a customer experiences a product, they have the ability to share their experience with a wide range of people, be it positive or negative.

In this way, this 'ultimate moment of truth' feeds back into the zero moment ecosystem, becoming the product reviews, opinions or feedback that influence the next crop of shoppers as they search or discover information after receiving their own stimulus.

The Zero Moment of Truth.

What this Means for Brands

With the advent of the changing nature of the purchase decision making process, and the growth of the Zero Moment of Truth, brands need to evolve their marketing strategies to factor in the touch points that customers go through in order to stay dominant.

A classic example is focusing the majority of budget on a television commercial focused strategy. With this mass reach activity, if we know that people will immediately search online once they receive this stimulus, how is this matched to our SEO & PPC strategy? Are we going to appear based on likely search keywords seeded in the ad and product, and feature the information, reviews, and overall customer endorsements to meet these requirements? 

If we are missing these key activities, we will have lost at the zero moment, which means ultimately our stimulus will be a failure.

Head over to the Google Zero Moment of Truth page to gather a heap of resources and statistics on this subject.

How does the zero moment of truth make you rethink your current marketing activity?
Is your business actively looking at strategies to influence customers at the zero moment (and even at the second moment once they have made a purchase)?


This post continues my ongoing series on Mental Models.