Redefining the Consumer Engagement Path


ADOTAS – Last week I was in the grocery store when I saw a young woman busily typing on her iPhone. As I reached over to grab a new roll of Saran wrap, she asked, “Do you think waxed paper or parchment paper is better for Rice Krispie treats?” She had the recipe on her screen, but hadn’t made them before. Sadly, I was no help in the matter.

A revolution is going on. Whether you are searching for a new car, a remedy for a sore ankle, a place to hold your spouse’s birthday party or a great college education, the first thing most of us do is “Google it.” And there starts your new journey. Your internet journey, I mean. This journey will take you days or months, even, and will take you to such exotic places as blogs, newsletters, websites, landing pages, information capture forms, social media, reviews and perhaps Google again.

As a result, today’s digital advertising world has become a far more complex arena. To be successful, advertisers must first understand and analyze the journey their audiences travel, and second, be able to deliver a consistent message throughout that journey, telling their customers a “story” along that new engagement path.

The risks and rewards of this new environment are steep. According to Google:

83 percent of shoppers make their purchase decisions prior to entering a store. In 2007, only 60 percent did.
70 percent of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase.
79 percent of consumers use a smartphone to help with shopping.
The average shopper now uses just over 10 sources of information to make a decision.

While yesterday’s consumer made a purchase decision standing in front of a store shelf or talking over the phone to a company representative, today’s consumer increasingly has made that purchase decision even before that. When and how to engage consumers are questions that have taken on even greater importance. In 2005, Procter & Gamble coined the phrase the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) to describe the instant the consumer first selects a product from the shelf. P&G thought this concept was so important, they created a position called Director of FMOT, and the Wall Street Journal put the story on its front page.

In 2012, we believe that the critical moment of decision now happens before consumers get to the store, when they’re researching online. Google executive Jim Lecinski released an ebook last year about this phenomenon. Called Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the book describes how marketers need to change their marketing models to leverage that moment and get ahead of their consumers.

The ZMOT is precisely that journey that consumers travel through between the “stimulus” phase and the “purchase decision” phase. I think Jim and the good people at Google are onto something here. It’s easier than ever for shoppers to get current information – commercials, websites, magazine articles, reviews, Tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, videos for products of all kinds. Information is at everybody’s fingertips. Which means that marketers must grab consumers’ attention throughout the journey.

Now more than ever is the time to think of a longer digital engagement path and the need for integrated marketing campaigns. The rise of mobile — smartphones, tablets, ereaders — is also redefining the purchase cycle. The Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) revolution that I wrote about last month now dominates the search landscape. For marketers, this rising content consumption means an increasing number of touchpoints where they can reach consumers.

ZMOT emphasizes the need for a sophisticated attribution management model that can help understand the weight and lift of other digital marketing channels on last-click conversions. In the absence of an attribution model, marketers that strategize around last-click attribution will discount the long and complex purchase process. In the same way, marketers can now think of their social media campaigns not as an isolated play, but as part of the chain of events that will lead a consumer to making a purchase decision. Social media must be part of the “story.”

As a marketer, instead of placing all your attention on a single moment, the last click, at which you try to intercept and grab your buyer’s attention, try to think of marketing as a longer purchase cycle. Successful advertisers in 2012 will take their customers from awareness to engagement to acquisition to retention. They will define a clear consumer engagement path that tells customers a story across multiple internet channels, complete with precise tracking and reporting that measures and lifts conversions and delivers increased volumes under the same ROI.

Shoppers today want to explore and think about how products can improve their lives. The best marketing engages customers at every step of the way, from awareness to acquisition to retention. Successful brands will create campaigns that optimize this engagement path with award-winning creative, expanded media buying with targeted display and mobile campaigns, and state-of-the-art technology to measure, predict, and report. Marketers need to visualize this longer process and strategize ways to engage customers at all points. Agencies need to help them do this.


  1. Good points, but seems a little obvious to someone in the industry. Nevertheless, reviewing the basics tenants consumer engagement is always useful to those completely unaware. i.e. most old school business executives.

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