The New Drivers Of Consumer Decision-Making

Michael SolomonJune 12, 20183 min

Today’s consumer no longer makes most decisions in a systematic, linear way. You need to stay in touch on a more constant basis – without being intrusive.

Your digital assets need to be “always on” so that the shopper who hits your app or website can access up-to-the minute info at will. Many younger consumers have much shorter attention spans, and we’ve taught them to expect instant gratification. You may not get a second chance, so you have to get it right the first time.

ZMOT And Why It Matters

The wizards at Google talk a lot about something they label ZMOT. Here’s how they define it:

“It’s a new decision-making moment that takes place a hundred million times a day on mobile phones, laptops and wired devices of all kinds. It’s a moment where marketing happens, where information happens, and where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world. At Google, we call this the Zero Moment of Truth, or simply ZMOT (“ZEE-mot”).”

As it should be, Google is obsessed with ZMOT. After all, it’s that magical moment when the consumer decides to buy. But because we’ve transformed into a highly mobile society, where and when ZMOT occurs has changed as well. Google and many other companies in the search business present tons of data to show that today ZMOT is just as, if not more, likely to occur at home, at work, in a car, or many places other than a store.

This profound change holds implications for other kinds of companies as well – in fact, for just about every organization out there. This is because these new ZMOTs upend the traditional linear decision-making model which proposes a sequential process of decision making that consists of five separate stages:

  • Problem recognition
  • Information search
  • Evaluation of alternatives
  • Purchase
  • Post-purchase evaluation

Contrast this with the new model pictured above and simply put, consumers not only have changed where they decide, but how as well.

Ironically, the purchase dynamics of end consumers are starting to more closely resemble what we observe in industrial buying situations. In these contexts, members of a buying center (not a physical place) play different roles as the team tackles a problem, evaluates its options and jointly decides on a solution. Some members are gatekeepers who control the flow of information, others actively research the available options, and still others render the final verdict. Today it seems that “it takes a village” to buy a prom dress, just as it does to choose a corporate computer system.

In the new age of participatory consumption, it’s more true than ever that “no man is an island”: A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 40% of Americans say they almost always consult online reviews before they buy something new. And, these individuals often assemble their own “buying center” that consists of friends (real ones), Facebook friends (i.e., digital ones they may never meet in person) and even automated recommendation agents who constantly troll the web searching for solutions if and when a problem surfaces.

The walls brands have built over the years to partition the different stages of decision-making have to come down.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Michael Solomon. Excerpted and adapted from his book “Marketers, Tear Down These Walls!.” iBooks.

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