With many more consumers living their lives out on the web through social networks, marketers are beginning to take a much more in-depth look at the way they classify their target audiences.
Traditionally, marketing teams immediately looked at demographics like age group, income, level of education and geographic location to determine how to communicate a product or service to those most likely to buy them. But these classifications have become limiting in a world of increased personalization and consumer access to more information than ever before.
Consider the phenomenon called “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT), coined by Google. It’s a play on Procter & Gamble’s “First Moment of Truth” (FMOT), which stated that essentially shoppers make up their minds about a product in the first few seconds after they encounter that product for the first time. But many more brand interactions are taking place between a consumer and a brand on the Web. Researching a product before you physically come into contact with it is becoming the norm. This is the heart of ZMOT.
Google’s blog provides these excellent examples of how buying decisions have changed:
FMOT: A consumer would get to the shelf, pick up a bag of chocolate chip morsels and follow the recipe on the back of the bag, possibly keeping the physical bag to keep a record of the recipe.
ZMOT: Consumers are going to the Internet and researching the cookie recipe in advance of buying a bag of morsels from a store shelf.
FMOT: Consumers arrived at a fast food restaurant and scoured the menu on the spot to decide what to order.
ZMOT: Consumers go online to research their food options, perhaps looking for health and value, in advance of getting in line to place an order.
Those in the marketing world must now make sure marketing messages, imagery and overall branding are kept consistent to correlate with this buying pattern. The emphasis on the “research” phase is becoming more important, as the buyer may never move past that point if he/she does not find what she is looking for. This supports the recent revelation that content marketing and online marketing are surpassing traditional media such as print ads.
The ZMOT consumer proves to be problematic for the old demographic bucketing method. Baby Boomers, for example, encompass a group of 78 million people. Marketing to them as a lump sum means you are labeling a significant base with varying behaviors. It would be inaccurate to label them as non-social Web users, when 15 million Facebook users in the U.S. are over the age of 55.
The main realization with the advent of ZMOT is that the year that someone was born will not tell you how likely he/she is to buy your product. While demographics remain important to marketing strategy, those embarking on a marketing campaign must not neglect the increased need for personalization to fully connect with an increasingly savvier shopper.
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