Every product you stock can be researched immediately online. Whether I see it in your store, on your website or in a television advert, I can immediately and easily start researching it. As a recent report from Google explains (see www.ZeroMomentofTruth.com for the full report), this is the zero moment of truth.
Everything about the product, from the best price possible to every good and bad thing written about it, can be found within a few clicks. And even if I can’t find specific details about that product, I can look for alternatives and attempt to determine if a better product or price is available.
This is a real threat for all retailers (offline and online) and it won’t be going away. As 4G becomes available and the prevalence of free wifi increases, the process will only become faster and richer. Evolving to meet this challenge is the way smart retailers will survive.
“High street shops will evolve so they won’t freeze in time – they’ll change, they’ll evolve, they’ll figure out a new path. The competition will make everybody better. And our job is to provide the best service we can – efficient, low prices, the best selection.” -Jeff BezosFiguring out the “new path” is essential for retailers and it will require them to be multi-channel, multi-device and customer centric.
Rule 1: Stocking up on Lemons won’t work anymore
In his seminal work “Market for Lemons”, Nobel winner George Akerlof described Information Asymmetry – where the seller held more information on the product that the buyer. This allowed second hand car dealers to win one over on the buyer and sell them a Lemon (American slang for a bad car).
Today, when a buyer walks into a car dealership they can research everything from running costs, common failures and finance costs. There is still some information asymmetry, but the playing field has been levelled in favour of the customer.
This is a clear warning for retailers: You cannot put substandard on your shelves and expect them to sell at a good price.
Recently I received an email from a big box electronics retailer. The leading deal was for a computer graphics card with a generous percentage discount. To test zero moment of truth theory, I immediately searched for the product name on Google and found a blog review describing the issues with the product and recommending that for not a great deal of extra money I could purchase a graphics card that was superior in every way. A link in the blog took me to another website and within a few clicks the product would have been winging its way to me.
Rule 2: To win the zero moment of truth you must show up
“Eighty percent of success is showing up” -Woody allenWhat will you customer find when they search for your product? What will they find when they search for your product name with the word "reviews" or "alternatives" after it? What will they find when they ask Google to find them a voucher code for your brand?
I hope the point is clear. You need to be in the results. Whether it’s paid search, display advertising, natural search rankings, Twitter or affiliate links on industry blog websites; you need a presence. If not, you’ll lose out to the brand who has engaged with these channels.
Retailers need to create or curate the right content that will appeal to a customer when they’re in this research and comparison mode.
Rule 3: Create content for customersWhen a customer is in research mode, they need the right content to help them make a decision with regard to the product and retailer/channel they will use. This requires retailers to become content producers and collators through the following processes:
1. Create the content that is important to consumersWrite reviews and collate consumer feedback to produce content rich pages that are easy to find when the customer is researching a purchase. Pages like this will keep customers on your website/app and gives them little reason to go elsewhere.
2. Ensure your content is compatible with multiple devicesUse responsive HTML to create websites that can be easily viewed on small screen devices. Whilst a native app for iOS and Android is a good idea, be aware that most consumers will proceed without this.
3. Appear in product and category searchesOptimise your content to ensure that when a customer searches for “product x reviews” or “best netbook for £500” that you’re available. Also create product feeds to enhance your paid search listings.
4. Use the affiliate networks to increase your online footprintWork with your affiliate network to reconnect with customers who are looking for special offers and deals. Find bloggers who your customers would trust and build relationships with them.
5. Measure, report and refineCreate reporting processes and systems that capture the most crucial statistics and attribute sales to each channel in the right way. Attribution can be a major challenge for clicks and mortar retailers but through multi-channel vouchers it is possible to merge the online and offline customer experience.
Rule 4: Beyond marketing - build the structure, process, people and technology that supports zero moments of truthAs a marketing technology consultant I know that there will be challenges in creating the right content for the right customer at the right moment.
Information architecture of your website structure and content will need to be customer centric, enabling them to easily find the information they need. Marketers and buyers will need to research and write more high quality content that elaborates on manufacturer specifications. Your ecommerce platform will need to support more than just a basic product page. New products and categories need to be instantly reflected in your search and email marketing strategy.
Meeting these goals, requires the development and transformation of operational processes that transcend individual teams. Training is also required to educate marketers, buyers and content producers on the different customer journeys required. Finally the marketing and operational technology platform needs to support the multichannel customer journey and enable marketers to publish content that customers need at the zero moment of truth.