What has the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) Added to the Traditional Marketing Model?

Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is Google’s addition to the traditional three-step marketing model from Procter & Gamble consisting of a stimulus (the moment an individual recognizes a need, sees an ad or hears about a product from a friend); the First Moment of Truth (when a consumer is “at the shelf” with many brands to choose from); and the Second Moment of Truth (when the customer buys the product, starts using it, creates experiences around it and learns if the product lives up to their expectations).

Illustration of Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

The ZMOT appears right between the stimulus and the First Moment of Truth. It’s when the customer researches and collects product information from various sources and is the most important time for a marketing analyst to understand a consumer because it is the point they can still be moved in their decision.

While researching, consumers produce and expose a vast amount of information about themselves. As a marketing analyst, you want to collect that information and draw conclusions from it.

—> The first value of ZMOT: Giving a name to a process that has been there even before it was known as ZMOT.

Shopping behavior has changed forever. We’ll never go back to the way we bought things before — while browsing in a store and making a decision about a product we think best suits our needs and finances. As shoppers, we now put a great amount of effort into our shopping decisions. It takes time, energy and dedication. Imagine if companies didn’t show us their products while we were deciding on a purchase. It would take longer to find what we really needed and we’d get frustrated while companies would lose potential customers and they’d experience revenue losses because of it.

—> The second value of ZMOT: Pinning down a point in the shopping process that is equally valuable and applicable for everyone, encompassing many micro-moments in one umbrella term.

People use search engines, comparison tools, mobile phones, social networks and online coupons; they read reviews and check ratings of products and services. They do it all the time, even for products that cost as little as a dollar. They want to be well informed and make good purchase decisions. They have options and they use them. They are involved in the ZMOT without even thinking about it.

Companies, on the other hand, use search to uncover and understand the moments that matter for their customers. They show up in those moments, provide the right answers and use the data created by their prospects during ZMOT to measure the impact and make smarter marketing decisions. This process applies equally to brands that sell cupcakes, insurance, cars or any other industry, in any part of the world, involved in business-to-consumer or business-to-business relations. ZMOT is universal. There’s even a study that shows ZMOT’s importance in selecting political candidates.

As an illustration of the global aspect, the Google study on Winning the Zero Moment of Truth in Asia from 2014 states that “78% of Asian women use search as a vital part of their decision process for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands.”

Illustration of Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

—> The third value of ZMOT: Backing it all up with extensive research.

  • #1 spot where shoppers begin their shop is search.
  • 38% comparison shopped online.
  • 36% checked out the brand’s or manufacturer’s website.
  • 31% read online endorsements, reviews or recommendations.
  • 84% of Americans engaged in ZMOT activities before purchase.
  • 10.4 sources of information on average were used pre-purchase in 2011 vs. 5.3 in 2010.

And these stats are from 2011 research conducted by Google. Noting the enormous increase in utilization of sources of information alone in just one year, we might be surprised to find out the numbers that picture the reality today.

Google’s series of research studies showed the relevance and the growing importance of ZMOT in every area. Having these data makes us aware that to survive as businesses, we have to compete at every point of the consumer journey, particularly in the Zero Moment of Truth.

—> The fourth value of ZMOT: Putting the focus on an extremely important part of the shopping process, where large, valuable data are produced that can must be used to make smarter, better-planned profit-making marketing decisions.

Potential customers are everywhere. They use their laptops opening many tabs at once, they search on their phones while going to a store, in a restaurant or on the way home. They are everywhere, all the time. And while they search and research, they also create data.

To meet their expectations, answer their questions and address their problems, companies must show up with the right product at the right time, presenting the right message. It’s not enough to only be present on social media. Companies need to show up in searches, answering those questions that will bring and keep customers until the purchase decision (and beyond). If not, the competitors will. Companies should optimize their websites and mobile platforms. Most importantly, they must use the data created to better meet their customers’ needs. And this applies to the data their potential customers have created while searching for competitors’ products as well.

Illustration of Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

—> The fifth value of ZMOT: Making marketers’ job easier and much more complex at the same time.

Knowing there is an important part of the marketing model that points to all aspects of shopping decision making that we have to consider should make our jobs as marketers easier, right? Not really.

ZMOT is such a complex set of interrelated processes. They sometimes happen simultaneously, and at other times they start at one point, continue at another on a different device, and end with a purchase decision days later, or don’t end at all. This is difficult to keep track of and manage. And all that data is difficult to analyze and interpret. It’s not enough to gather and provide information. We should collect and analyze relevant data, and we should measure the results of all our marketing decisions. Along with that:

  1. We have to be there! 1 in 3 smartphone users have purchased from a different company or brand than the one they intended because that company or brand provided the information they needed when they needed it.
  2. We have to be quick! 40% of shoppers will wait no more than 3 seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site.
  3. We have to be useful! 51% of smartphone users have made a purchase from a brand other than the one they’d intended to buy from because the provided information was more useful.
  4. We have to win the customers at ZMOT! 7 out of every 10 shoppers who have added items to an online cart didn’t actually make the purchase.

It seems like an arduous journey for marketers. And there’s a broad spectrum of data that has to be taken into consideration.


At first, ZMOT just seems like a fancy term for something that already existed, thus not adding anything new to what we already knew and used. But focusing on this crucial moment of the consumer’s journey and providing all the research data makes marketers pay attention to it. So the real value of ZMOT is not in adding something new, but in recognizing the moment built from complex micro-moments and relations, which make us focus on the real thing that brings more satisfied customers and bigger revenues.

The technology is changing so much so fast, and we don’t know what that will bring to the future model of marketing. The ZMOT bubble might grow so big that at some point it bursts into many smaller ZMOTs that require new terminology. It’s just a reminder that in the digital era, as marketers we have to be alert all the time.

Irina Micov

Irina Micov

I'm a journalist with a great interest in marketing and a tenacious curiosity about everything that the digital world has to offer. Being a founder and editor-in-chief of a successful online Macedonian magazine since 2010 has allowed me to dive deep into the digital marketing landscape. I'm also an author of many social media guidelines and educational materials for online journalists.

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