The role of bricks-and-mortar in a ZMOT-driven consumer journey

The Zero Moment of Truth is not only changing the way that consumers search for information online and make decisions about brands, but is also challenging the role of bricks-and-mortar stores.

A woman sees an ad of a new household cleaning product on TV (the stimulus). A few days later, she visits the supermarket and – recalling the TV ad – makes her way to the household section. She spots the product sitting at eye-level next to a celebrity-endorsed banner that reads “get a free cleaning gift set with each THB 299 purchase” (first moment of truth – FMOT). The woman is convinced, buys the product and is converted into a loyal fan after testing it at home (the second moment of truth – SMOT).

This is an example of a traditional marketing journey where brands focus on in-store execution and delivery at shelf. Digital marketing, however, is rewriting the rules as we know it. Google’s Jim Lecinski coined the term Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT, back in 2011, to describe the change of the consumer journey into a complex system of engagement channels and infinite choices. Brands can now engage and win over shoppers anywhere, anytime.

Reiterating our previous scenario in today’s ZMOT-driven consumer journey: upon seeing the TV ad, the woman searches for the product on her smartphone. Search results return a 500K viewed video blog showing the product being tested on different types of stains. A special promo code is shown at the end of the video, offering a 10% discount valid until the end of the month. The woman saves the virtual code in her smartphone’s photo gallery and the rest, as they say, is history.

In today’s interconnected world where a smart device is no longer a luxury, it is not sufficient to only be close to your consumers.

As a brand, you need to be where your consumers are, become a part of their daily lives and routines. If you are a potato chips brand, be visible when your consumers are planning movie nights. If you are an electronics and gadgets brand, be present when your consumers are buying presents for Father’s Day. Because if you aren’t, your competitors will be.

As both engagement and transactions migrate online, what is the fate of traditional bricks-and-mortar stores in this rapidly changing landscape?

ZMOT is not just relevant for digital marketers but also for offline and online store managers. When a consumer connects to a smartphone or tablet, ZMOT is activated. From search engine results to peer recommendations to price comparison sites, brand and product information is only a swipe away. And as e-commerce is increasingly becoming the norm for purchasing, online store managers can tap into ZMOT to convert visitors into sales dollars (stay tuned for another article on tips to drive sales conversion from ZMOTs).

For over a decade, e-commerce experts have emphasized that online is complementary to offline and that bricks-and-mortar stores will continue to play a role in the digital transformation journey. Indeed, they will – as part of an integrated commerce network.

Zalando introduced the integrated commerce model as a facelift to their front-end and back-end operations. The underlying logic is simple: make every product available to every consumer or shopper. Imagine a super-virtual store, enabled through API integration, consolidating a very large product range (or inventory) available across multiple online merchants and bricks-and-mortar retailers. These bricks-and-mortar stores also function as drop and collection points for order fulfillment and product returns.

Here is how an integrated commerce model functions within a ZMOT-driven consumer journey. The consumer engages with the brand at the Zero Moment of Truth, then searches for information to validate and confirm their initial interest. A link shared on an Instagram post directs the consumer-turned-shopper to the product’s official store on an e-marketplace. Once the products are added to their cart, the shopper decides whether to receive the shipment via home delivery (fulfilled by the e-marketplace) or self-pick up from a network of bricks-and-mortar stores.

Within an integrated commerce network, when ZMOT happens, everyone benefits. The consumer enjoys a larger product and brand assortment as online merchants and bricks-and-mortar stores compete for another sales opportunity.