Has Mobile Created a New Marketing Moment of Truth?

By Tom Ryan, RetailWire 

In what some observers are equating to the next evolution of marketing's "moment of truth," Google has come up with a new term, "micro-moments," to define how the omni-presence of mobile devices is redefining the consumer's journey.

In a new report, "Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile," Google pointed to findings showing that over two-thirds of smartphone users check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning and that 87 percent always have their smartphone at their side — even while they sleep — as evidence of how mobile devices are "transforming our lives, whether we actively notice it or not."

With the average user checking their phone 150 times a day, devices are helping people continually learn or discover new things, manage to-do lists, tackle problems and get inspired.

For retailers and brands, many of the day's countless mobile sessions (the average lasts one minute and 10 seconds) are not moments to engage. However, when mobile users need help informing their choices or making decisions, brands have a broad opportunity.

"We call these micro-moments," Google writes in its study. "They're the moments when we turn to a device — often a smartphone — to take action on whatever we need or want right now. These I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-buy, and I-want-to-do moments are loaded with intent, context, and immediacy."

The big difference versus similar desktop excursions in the past is that mobile devices enable consumers to make informed decisions faster than ever. Google writes, "Since we can take action on any need or curiosity at any time, the consumer decision journey has been fractured into hundreds of tiny decision-making moments at every stage of the "funnel" — from inspiring vacation plans to buying a new blender to learning how to install that new shelf."

Also, more extensive pre-trip research tied to mobile use is making shoppers more efficient. While foot traffic declined at physical retail last year, consumers spent more per visit, "because they've done their research and made decisions before ever walking in."

Time spent per visit on mobile devices as well as via websites using a desktop or laptop also declined last year but conversion on both were up for the same reasons.

Google's study offered several tips for brands to address mobile users' needs with real-time relevant engagement. Google wrote, "In many ways, micro-moments have become the footsteps that lead people to your store or desktop site."

Discussion Questions:
Do you see "micro-moments" replacing or altering the "moment of truth"? Are micro-moments an accurate depiction of how mobile is affecting the consumer's journey?

Comments from the RetailWire BrainTrust:

Good call by Google. By defining moments, as opposed to one moment, they paint a more accurate picture of consumer habits. The question now is, how can brands capitalize on these moments? Barraging consumers with mobile messages is not the answer. Interactions should be complementary to the search, not a push to sell. And this is where so many brands fall short. There is no easy answer, but as pundits and studies have been saying for years, brands should be testing mobile to find out what works best, and does not work, with consumers.
Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

First of all, this study doesn't say anything from a shopper's perspective, it's all from a marketing organization's perspective. There is no evidence presented that shoppers do much of this, an issue I discussed last week in a paper for ESOMAR (world research organization) Congress. Yes, mobile makes it easier if I'm sitting in a store and want answers or comparative prices. How often does that happen? Not much.
Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Today's "purchase" is a process, not an event.

"Moment of truth" was a term used to describe the purchase decision made in the last three feet in the store aisle. The major difference with today's shoppers is that 80 percent-plus have researched multiple places online before ever coming to a store.

Google's quote is absolutely right on the money: " ... micro-moments have become the footsteps that lead" to a final decision to purchase, online or in-store.
Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

I still believe you have to know your consumer before isolating and affecting the "journey." Google teamed with Forrester and so they can provide a view of consumer behavior and the marketer's perspective. It's not clear that there is a point of intersection, much less a series of "micro-moments."

Marketers are still working on how to best connect with consumers via mobile devices. Levels of sophistication, understanding and dedication among marketers are quite diverse, maybe random. And I suppose that's true among consumers as well.

I recognize that there are opportunities to leverage a consumer's engagement with their mobile device to align with a marketing strategy before and once in the store. However, it seems there is still much to learn about consumers and what they want in terms of information for particular categories.

Relying on the fact that people look at their devices very often during the day doesn't mean that they will pay attention to or be receptive to the messages that appear. But "don't stop believing" and trying to grab attention at however many moments of truth there appear to be.
Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

It's so good to see that we're still coming up with new industry terms to keep the excitement going. Now we have "micro-moments"! Personally, I believe we need to start thinking that the consumer IS the channel. Not multi-channel, omnichannel, micro-moments of truth, or even "mobile." Channel = customer (consumer, that is). And merchants, marketers and brands need to be agile enough to respond to real-time trends in every channel to drive new growth and leverage differentiation effectively. I don't think any terms need to be replaced, we just need to look at the consumer as the channel, regardless of how we reach them.
Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

A very encouraging article ... slowly how the universe works is coming into focus. Moments of truth are eternal, we are not creating them. We are just beginning to become aware.

Let's get a little quantum here in putting together what seem to be contradictory concepts. First: It's all ONE thing. Second, all the minute parts of that One thing are themselves the One thing. A fractal universe in other words. Every "micro-moment" reflects the whole or all you have is chaos and disintegration.

In this space I've often used the term "points of energy" which, based on this article, seem like the same thing as micro-moments. They are living things. Before the customer even thinks about going shopping online or off-line energetic micro-moments are shaping the experience. What Google seems intent on doing is making us aware of that.

All of us who respond to this item today are acting out the point of the article — we're connecting to micro-moments resulting in whatever response we give. And it doesn't stop when you hit "send comment." Your submission is all part of how you're connecting to your entire universe. What makes us write is what makes us shop.

What stops me from popping the champagne is that we still see this mechanistically. Even in this insightful article you see old language about "channels" or Big Data. Newton has taken us as far as he can — we need to have a different mind if we're to truly understand.
Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

That "moment of truth," whether it is pressing buy on the cart (instead of abandoning it) or taking an item to the POS, still exists. Until the "buy" is confirmed and that credit card tendered it's all still a journey on the path to purchase.

These micro-moments though are nice little nudges and possibly useful incentives to move a shopper along to that final decision point. If you consider some of the statistics floating around that over 50 percent (quick someone find a better statistic) of all purchase decisions start online, coupled with the percentage of shopping/research that takes place on a mobile device, it becomes pretty clear that micro-moments are critical.

Replacement, not necessarily. Supporting actors, yes.
Peter J. Charness, SVP America, Global CMO, TXT Group

These micro-moments definitely are altering the research and decision-making process for consumers. Retailers should be considering this as they formulate customer engagement strategies. Two key questions are: What are the types of content that are going to resonate with shoppers in these brief periods of time? How can we direct shoppers to other channels where they will spend more time and eventually complete a purchase?
Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints

Google's research is good, but it is also self-serving (duh!) in that it reinforces the idea that consumers are going to use a path of research and decision making that is more web-centric and somewhat abstracted from direct brand connection. It may very well be true that consumers want to search, review, compare, etc. across brand and product options. However, what about those moments where the consumer knows (and likes) a particular brand and is looking to engage directly with the brand as they navigate these moments across channels and touchpoints?

I believe there are opportunities for brands to do much more to engage consumers, whether these are brand fans/followers or potential customers who have yet to be solidly "sold" on the brand and products.

Be it online, on-the-go, or in-store, brands should create micro-moment opportunities for customers. If the content and easy access to information are curated and facilitated by the brand, the experience can become richer between brand and customer. Otherwise, the brands will be further abstracted and removed from the customer journey.
Matt Schmitt, President, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, Reflect

Respecting the ongoing debate of how marketers can best meet the needs of consumers using mobile devices, the one takeaway this study highlights is just how frequently consumers are checking their devices over the course of a day, and in this context, the continued rise of mobile's role in informing and supporting the full spectrum of need states, from awareness through pre-purchase research and on and on....

As an aside, it is interesting that today's poll is evenly split on whether micro-moments drive greater sales through stores or online. The consensus would seem to say these moments are impacting and driving both, through more informed consumers.
Jeff Hall, President, Second To None

Bravo, Ian, for your reference to the "fractal" nature of marketing moments. What a fantastic insight.

Following your notion and applying a bit of poetic license: Within each instant it may be possible to glimpse the entire shopper universe, if we know how to look.

Taken collectively, all these "micro-moments" may indeed add up to genuine, meaningful influence that can be activated at the shelf or on the web site.

We have a long way to go, however, in learning how to assign the right "weight" to each of these instants in shoppers' lives. For Google, and others who would like to find ways to monetize these moments, that remains an immense Big-Data hurdle.

Maybe it's time to abandon the notion of the customer journey. It is way too linear a concept. It leads to deterministic thinking. Mobile experiences are too numerous, too varied, and too fleeting to link individually to a specific outcome. The only analyses that make any sense are probabilistic ("quantum") and cumulative ("meta") in nature.
James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

Mobile is creating points of distraction and focus in the consumer shopper journey. Technically, the moment of truth is better than that single moment because modern consumers can add to the basket and change their mind many times along the journey. I find myself deciding to put things in the Amazon basket and sit for a bit before hitting the purchase button. Reality is mobility and E-commerce allow consumers to shop regardless of physical location, which is what throws off traditional "moment of truth" discussions.
Kenneth Leung, Director of Enterprise Industry Marketing, Avaya

Micro-moments have their place in the consumer purchase decision process, but their impact will vary depending on the type of product being purchased and the shoppers circumstances. Smaller purchase amounts and products that lend themselves to impulse purchases will be greatly affected by micro-moments. Larger purchases that require more consideration would not necessarily lend themselves as readily to mobile as to web browsing via PC. High repeat, low consideration products will likely be impacted by electronic offers delivered via mobile, but the offers will have to be highly relevant and timely.

Over time, as manufacturer brands and retailers learn how to effectively leverage the ubiquity of mobile devices to engage with shoppers there's no doubt in my mind that these micro-moments will increase and they will change the path to purchase in new and exciting ways.
Graeme McVie, VP & GM, Business Development, Precima

I completely agree that "micro-moments" are the present and future of retail purchases. I think this needs to be the final wake up call for retailers that they need to be mobile optimized. Yes, this means that many retailers have a ton of work to do, but having multiple brand interactions before a purchase means that retailers must be on their A-game on each and every channel. It's time for retailers to have a consistent brand experience, so that shoppers will make it to checkout.
Arie Shpanya, CEO and Co-founder, Wiser

Read the entire story and RetailWire discussion at: http://www.retailwire.com/discussion/18582/has-mobile-created-a-new-marketing-moment-of-truth

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                                                                         Mid-October 2015