May 21, 2012

Mobile in the Moment of Truth

By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

When does a consumer decide to make a purchase?

Increasingly, this 'moment of truth' is occurring on mobile.

And brands that don't actively use the medium to engage consumers - by providing information and sparking conversations about products, as well as ways to buy them - are under-performing and losing sales.

It's that simple.

The Moment of Truth

Traditionally speaking -- well at least since 2005 -- there are two 'moments of truth' in retail sales.

The first, according to Proctor & Gamble which first educated its employees about this seven years ago, is when a consumer sees a product. Within the first few seconds, you've likely decided whether to buy.

The second moment of truth occurs when a buyer actually uses the product. If the experience is good - or bad - you'll tell your friends, now more than ever in the age of social media.

While these two instances are still important, a couple years ago, Google and market researcher IRI noticed that some 83% of consumers make purchase decisions before even entering a store. This led Google to coin a new term: the 'zero moment of truth' to describe the impact of internet search and online brand interactions on consumer decision making.

Now I'm not going to add to the jargon that marketing students have to master, but I will note this: all three moments of truth are increasingly occurring on mobile.

Some Statistics

Seventy-eight percent of mobile users have made a purchase using their phones or a mobile device, according to a BuzzCity survey conducted in 17 countries last year.

m-Commerce has yet to become a way of life for most consumers. A sizable portion - some 40% - still prefer to pay for a product in person.

But what we're finding is that large segments of the consumer population are using their phones and tablets to research products and compare prices:

  • 32% check prices on the mobile internet
  • 30% use mobile devices to get more product information
  • 15% check classified listings with a phone and
  • 7% look for discount vouchers.
By the time they make a purchase, consumers will have read reviews, compared prices and asked around . . . most likely with their mobiles. Merchants need to look at the whole consumer journey to develop a suitable content strategy and determine where best to target their mobile efforts.

Mobile and Consumer Decision Making

In a sense, consumers are behaving the same way they have for ages. They perceive a need, seek information, assess the value of a product or service, make a purchase, then use and evaluate it. What has changed is where they collect information and share experiences.

It's really important for advertisers and brands to understand a consumer's decision-making process, so let's take a closer look at it for a moment and see how mobile comes into play:

Step 1: Stimulus and Awareness

Something happens that triggers a consumer's need. A light bulb goes out and needs to be replaced. An ad appears on TV. It's Christmas-time. Your friend tweets about a cool app. This stimulus is often caused or reinforced by advertising. As your consumers take in content in new ways, you need to shift with them. Some services - like dental care or aircon servicing - are also well-suited for SMS alerts that inform clients that it's time to make an appointment.

Step 2 : Information and Comparison

Make sure the information that consumers need and which you want them to have is readily available and easy to find. Create a mobile site. Set up a social media page. Place mobile ads that direct consumers to your content. Retailers with online catalogues, like La Redoute, generally do a good job of assisting consumers on their purchasing journey with precise product information:


A lot of brands have also started creating new mobile sites for specific products, like a new cellphone model or car, to share detailed information, specifications and testimonials. These microsites don't have to be boring - they can also feature games and promotions, as long as the core information is still there. Meanwhile consider online classifieds and listings on comparison sites as well.

Step 3 : Purchase Decision

After a consumer has compared prices, read reviews and shopped around, it's time to seal the deal. It's at this point that some brands offer special discount coupons, particularly for needs that are seasonal. Loyalty programmes tend to send opt-in emails and SMS alerts for subscribers. Know your consumers and consider offering new types of awards, for example offering Vodafone users 10% off, in the same way that certain credit card holders are offered discounts. 

These first three steps encompass the Zero Moment of Truth.

Step 4 : The First Moment of Truth - Purchase

A shopper's first experience for many consumer products is increasingly online and on mobile.  Site usability, look & feel and ease of transaction are crucial factors in this first moment.  As mCommerce takes centre stage, the key for merchants is to understand consumer payment preferences and to offer secure options. Depending on the item, many consumers are perfectly happy to make a purchase via mobile payment, as long as the system is safe and easy to use. For example, consumers are generally very open to purchasing mobile products, like airtime, with their phones. But when there's a physical store, a lot of customers prefer to make payments in person. Cater to them by offering an option for online and mobile bookings, with payments to be made on site.

Step 5: The Second Moment of Truth - Post Purchase Evaluation

People talk. You need to listen - truly listen - and interact, quickly. Your customers email questions, post to social media and call your contact centre, all from their phones.

The Bottom Line

Create a consistent experience across all channels, including mobile, if you want to retain customers and grow revenues. Consider these factors as you develop a content strategy (click the table to enlarge):

In the age of mobile media, the Zero Moment of Truth is more important than ever. Your aim is to "be there" for consumers, to provide them with the information they need to make a purchasing decision. And your content strategy will influence how you use the different tools at your disposal - social media, comparison shopping, search engine marketing and mobisites - to assist consumers when they first become aware of a need.