In 2011 Google did some research with Shopper Sciences to reveal the Zero Moment of Truth for the automotive industry. They discovered this to be a new step that consumers take in the process of making a buying decision.
Google says that marketers have traditionally followed a three-step mental model of marketing. The first step is ‘stimulus’, like developing a TV ad to stimulate interest. The second is ‘dealership’ — focusing on point-of-sale which has historically been called the ‘first moment of truth‘. The third step is ‘experience’ — people driving their car home and experiencing it. They could have a good experience, or a bad one, and they share it. This is called the ‘second moment of truth‘.
The expectation is that if auto dealers follow the above ‘three steps’ they would have selling success. However, Google found something different when they interviewed 500 recent auto purchasers. The goal was to show where influence takes place as the auto shopper moves from undecided to decided in the buying process.
Google found that the average auto shopper used 18.2 sources of information before a purchase. They found that a fourth step appeared in the mental model which they call the ‘zero moment of truth‘. This is when consumers do their research and do comparisons, all before going to visit a dealership. A stand-out point in the research was that seven out of eight shoppers did their research online — much more that TV, newspapers, and radio and other ‘stimulus’ activities.
The research showed that in terms of both engagement and influence, the ‘zero moment of truth’ was second only to the experience the shopper had when they were actually in the dealership.
The bottom line is that consumers have changed the way they purchase vehicles and service and auto dealers that can integrate the traditional three steps with the zero moment of truth (ZMOT) and its online focus, will have an advantage over their competition. But the research findings can be applied more broadly — to just about any business that caters to consumers. So the question if you are a business owner is: are you offering your target market the best experience of your business at the zero moment of truth? Is your online presence the best you can make it, and are you differentiating your business from the competition?