Everything’s changed. We used to talk, as marketers, about a ‘path to purchase’. Even that thinking has necessarily developed – in the sense, no one could call this process linear any more.
What we need to do now – as brands, as marketers – is not set out a simple advertising campaign. But create a community, a convivial atmosphere. An environment where people want to spend their time. Where they grow to trust your brand, and it becomes part of their every-day lives.
This relies on building authenticity and, the oldest trick in the book, word-of-mouth. Not easy to deliver. On the other hand, it’s never been simpler!
Social networks are where people spend their time. And where they make purchasing decisions (if in a roundabout way). We’re talking about that amorphous zone known as the Zero Moment of Truth – and all you, as a brand, can achieve there.
Zero Moment of Truth
This phrase was first coined by Google back in 2011 when, even back then, it identified, ‘88% of consumers research before they buy, consulting an average of 10.4 sources’. Since then, things have developed almost beyond recognition.
‘Whether we're shopping for corn flakes, concert tickets or a honeymoon in Paris, the Internet has changed how we decide what to buy. At Google, we call this online decision-making moment the Zero Moment of Truth — or simply ZMOT’, says Google.
This video explains the idea. And why it’s relevant to every brand among us. You can’t really function in 2017 without paying careful attention to this. Your online presence. And what’s said about you there both within and beyond your control.
The fact is, as Search Engine Land puts it, ‘users now conduct research, read reviews, compare brands, talk to friends, watch videos, interact on socially driven sites (from Facebook to Trip Advisor), read news and even visit brand websites to make decisions.’
And it also talks illuminatingly about ‘micro-moments’.
Get in front
‘The basic concept here is that the customer journey is now broken into hundreds of micro-moments. Want-to-know moments, want-to-go moments, want-to-do and want-to-buy moments.’ And it’s these that ‘present an opportunity for your brand to get in front of a potential customer’.
In other words, be there. Preferably, warmly – and warmly recommended by sources these browsers trust.
All of these constitute strong arguments in favour of the new Influencer Marketing: employee and/ or customer advocacy programmes.
According to KPMG, while ‘consumers still experience the same stages of awareness, consideration, conversion and evaluation, the journey itself has changed. Instead of a path to purchase that is traditionally linear, it has become more of a cycle or even a web.’
And this piece, over on Venture Beat, seems to concur. Arguing that the ‘path’ is random, far from linear, it cites, as one example, that ‘a study by the travel company Expedia found that people make, on average, 140 visits to various travel sites in the 45 days before making an actual booking.’
‘Even in the most poetic sense,’ it says, ‘that is no discrete “path.”’
All of which again confirms the picture we’re building: of a world of milling consumers. A place you want and need a vibrant, positive, attractive and warm presence.
‘Instead of spending time streamlining a path-to-purchase construct that is mostly fictional,’ says Venture Beat, ‘perhaps we should be looking for ways to shift variables that we can control positively’ – how a brand is seen, noticed, received – ‘in an inherently chaotic system.’
Think With Google says ‘it’s clear that moments of intent don’t exist in a vacuum. Those moments belong to complex people who live complex lives.’
We agree. And nowhere is all this more true or relevant than with so-called higher-ticket purchases. Decisions that people will sit with for longer, probably, than choosing a packet of corn flakes.
Finance Digest summarises the findings of a ClearScore study. The ‘5 most popular big ticket purchases for 2017’ in the UK, it says, are: a holiday abroad; a holiday in the UK; electronics – laptop, TV, digital camera; white goods; new large furniture – sofa, bed etc.
These, like buying cars, take more thought and reflection than more every-day purchases. Which means these brands are, arguably, even more beholden, in 2017, to be there, present. Meet their customers where and whenever they’re needed.
People will come
Which? says ‘Four in five shoppers spend less than two minutes trying beds in the shop, according to The Sleep Council.’ Be assured, they’ll have almost certainly spent a lot longer than that browsing in the Zero Moment of Truth online.
‘Positive customer experiences are critical in generating loyalty and repeat purchases,’ says KPMG, ‘and in an era of social media and increasingly trusted peer reviews, voicing customer experiences can significantly influence future buying decisions’.
An employee and/ or customer advocate programme such as Qubist can, of course, help massively with all this. It harnesses the natural fans you have, putting their word out there, entwined with your own brand messages.
‘People will come’ (to quote Field of Dreams). But who they are, precisely, or why, may be less easy to determine before you start. (Just check out the case studies over in this piece on Ad Age for a window on some of the complexity…)
Another excellent argument for harnessing your supporters, and focusing your effort on the quality and visibility of your presence.
*Want to learn more about member, employee or customer influence and engagement? Have a look at our event below.
WAVE 2017: The Influencer Marketing Summit
The summit will explore the next evolution of influencer marketing – where brand employees and customers are the new influencers.
This summit promises to be a game-changing event. Delegates will learn how the most successful brands are using UGC, gamification, advocate marketing and employee engagement to drive brand awareness to increase sales.
WAVE 2017 is brought to you by the influencer marketing experts at Qube Media, recently voted one of the top 50 most disruptive companies in the UK for their innovative influencer marketing software, Qubist.
Join the conversation: #wave17summit