Winning internet pre-shopping

When people search Google for the kind of products or services you offer, what’s the very first thing they find? If it isn’t you, you need to read on.

A consumer’s decision to buy is increasingly being made by gathering intelligence online — before the buyer ever gets to see your product in store or meets your sales agent. And this is not just confined to consumer goods. It’s the same across all sectors, including B2B services. Here’s how it breaks down.


Shopping the old way

In the old days, we would see an advert and then look for the product in the shops. That shopping path consisted of three steps:

  1. stimulus — advertising (and direct mail and word of mouth)
  2. first moment of truth” — at the store shelf. Does the product live up to its hype?
  3. second moment of truth” — the experience at home. How was that for you?

Marketers used this model with success to manage each step of the story.

 

Shopping the new way

So, Web 2.0 happened and changed the game. The proliferation of user-generated content on the web, along with better search and—finally—the mainstreaming of social media sharing all conspired to create a new decision-making moment in the shopping path. Google calls it the Zero Moment of Truth, or just ZMOT. This occurs when we search the web for product reviews and competing products, compare prices, ask our Facebook friends or Twitter followers for advice and generally shop around for information. Here’s the new path:

 

Marketers who want to stay in control of their story, need to win ZMOT.

 

How important is it?

According to Google’s statistics, 84% of all consumers now engage in “ZMOT activity” prior to purchase. In 2011, shoppers consulted an average of 10.4 web and mobile sources for information before buying: twice the number used the year before. That’s some powerful growth in the amount of pre-shopping buyers are doing before they even leave the house. ZMOT, then, is a vital part of the decision-making process and as important as, if not more important than, stimulus and FMOT.

 

Yes, but we don’t advertise and our products aren’t in stores …

That’s not important. Let’s say you have a niche B2B offer that is chiefly sold face to face. Know that your prospect will Google you prior to (or just after) receiving your sales person. What the buyer finds online will influence the ultimate outcome of that meeting. Depending on the content found, the prospect’s mind may even be totally made up before the sales pitch is made.

 

So, does it affect me or not?

Absolutely, it does. ZMOT activity does not discriminate by sector. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling yourself, an idea or a pair of sneakers, your prospects are going to check it out online before they do anything else. Although the length of a shopper’s purchase journey does vary by sector, thoughtful online pre-shopping is occuring even for relatively spontaneous purchases like restaurant meals. Additionally, the size of the purchase is of no importance: consumers are carefully pre-shopping everything from a house to a detergent.

 

What should I do?

Internet pre-shopping is a game-changer for everyone. It’s critical to manage your web story if you want to win the Zero Moment. Start by reading Google’s free e-book here. Then take steps to get your web story straight. You’ll need to look carefully at search engine optimisation.

 

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of those terms that sounds quasi-scientific. But there’s no great mystery to it. Your ranking in search engines depends on a few things but chief among them are: links, content and dwell time.

If a lot of different places all link to your content, search engines judge that content as popular and as its relevancy increases, so does your ranking. Increasing traffic over those links, boosts your chance of conversion, but also increases your relevancy, helping you to get a better position. Lastly, search engines measure how long a visitor dwells on each page they click though to. The longer the dwell time, the more useful and relevant the search engine judges it to be, so you rise again.

So your SEO effort consists of building a network of links, encouraging traffic by making sure the most popular keywords relevant to your content and used in the content. Lastly, to increase dwell time, that content has to actually be valuable and persuade people to stay.

Every word you publish about yourself on the web should expertly move your prospects through to the outcome you want.

 

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