Last year Google published a new marketing model that added an extra step into the traditional view of the customer purchase journey.
Labelled The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the model essentially states that the internet has created an additional customer touch point between the original advert and the actual purchase.
ZMOT is when consumers go online to research products, look for reviews or try to find coupons.
At a PRCA event on Tuesday Unibet’s head of search Nick Garner said that ZMOT is an area that PRs should own as it’s about influencing decisions and getting positive brand information onto trusted websites.
According to Nick:
“Influence is moving online, so PRs need to be able to find the few sites that are influential and get the right links back to their client’s site.”
In this way, PRs should be able to not only influence purchase decisions but also help to drive their client’s linkbuilding strategies.
ZMOT stems from a survey Google commissioned of 5,003 consumers in which 84% of respondents said that online feedback and research helped to influence their purchase decisions.
In the old model the purchase was known as the first moment of truth, so Google named this new research stage the ZMOT.
One of the reasons that ZMOT is so useful to consumers is the number of sources of information that can be accessed online.
The average shopper now uses 10.7 sources of information before making a purchase, ranging from 5.8 when looking for a restaurant up to 18.2 when researching their next car.
Therefore it is important for PRs to try and influence the conversation on blogs, forums and social media, as it is a vital stage in the purchase journey.
They also need to be aware of which demographics are involved in the conversations online.
Garner highlighted data from The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project which shows that while people aged 18-34 are more likely to use search engines and buy more online, in total there is 400% more feedback online from people aged over 35.
Separate research by Reevoo shows that 88% of consumers ‘sometimes or always’ consult reviews before making a purchase, so the benefits of improving the brand image with older consumers should not be overlooked.
So how do you influence the ZMOT?
Recognising the importance of ZMOT is the easy part, the difficulty comes in actually locating the sites that hold the most influence and working with them to try and build positive coverage.
But Garner suggested that this is essentially what PRs have always done – identify the influential people within your client’s consumer base and target them to amplify your brand message.
One obvious problem is that it is difficult to measure the impact of a PR campaign on influencing ZMOT.
Garner’s response was that even in a digital age where every visit and every click can be tracked and measured, brands were still willing to give PRs money knowing that what they do is not always easy to quantify.
Therefore ZMOT actually puts PRs in a very strong position, as though the medium is changing the skill set remains the same.
This also ties into the debate over how PRs should be involved with SEO, as Garner spoke about the importance of online influence for linkbuilding and improving social signals for SEO.