Do you make it a habit to check out the menu of a new hotspot in town before making a reservation? I know I do. I’m guilty of researching everything and anything before I make an investment, large or small.

I check out menus before going out to dinner. I read book reviews before downloading a new novel. I peruse concert line-ups before I buy a ticket. I read travel articles before I book a trip – Spirit Airways? No thanks. In fact, for all of the spontaneous decisions that I claim I love to make, I certainly put in a lot of time and effort into researching before I commit.

And Google has figured out I’m not alone.

What Is the Zero Moment of Truth?

In 2013, the average shopper would research over 12 different sources before deciding on their purchase. That’s 12 different reviews, testimonials, blogs, success stories, product sheets, you name it… all before making the decision.

This is called the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT for short. That moment when a prospective buyer goes online to research a product or service and decides whether or not to sign on the proverbial “dotted line.”

Unfortunately for marketers, these ZMOTs were occurring multiple times a day, before companies caught on. And they weren’t prepared for this new generation of buyers.

“As a marketer, I’m constantly on my toes, waiting for the inevitable shift in buyer behavior.”

According to Google’s eBook on the Zero Moment of Truth, prospects would find potential companies “at the very moment they’re thinking about buying, and also when they’re thinking about thinking about buying” (ZMOT, 2011). But then traditional outbound marketing became inbound marketing, which caters to the type of buyers we’ve become. We want reviews? We can find reviews. We want detailed blogs about an experience? No problem.

So as a buyer, I’m always prepared. But as a marketer, I’m constantly on my toes, waiting for the inevitable shift in buyer behavior.

Introducing “Micro-Moments”

Well, fellow marketers, the wait is over. The shift has occurred.

Who has the time to sit behind a computer and read 12 different sources of content anymore? Today’s consumers are a busy bunch – a busy bunch that now relies on our smartphones and other mobile, on-the-go devices to provide us with the information, opinions and education we crave.

And let’s be honest: Once we leave the office, we’re probably not itching to stare at a computer screen some more for the sake of entertainment and education.

Instead we turn to our phones. In fact, we’re on our phones 177 minutes – nearly three hours! – each and every day.

So now, not only do we have to produce relevant, educational content for the companies and brands we support, but we have to be sure that information can be digested in not just a moment, but a micro-moment.

What is a micro-moment? A micro-moment is a real-time, mobile-centered moment of discovery, in which consumers expect brands to address their own individual needs (think persona pain points). These micro-moments are new opportunities for you to take advantage of.

What Do Micro-Moments Mean for Marketers?

According to Google, there are three critical components affecting how your company will perform against its competitors:

  1. Be There: Have a mobile-optimized presence. Start with ensuring your website is responsive, which will allow your visitors to find the information they seek exactly when they want it. After all, one in three smartphone users have purchased from a company or brand other than they had intended to, simply because that company provided the information they needed in the exact moment they needed it.
  1. Be Useful: If your consumers don’t find you useful in the moment, they will move on. So present more than just white noise to your consumers; empower them relevant content they will not only appreciate, but will actively seek out. Think back to your buyers’ journey; the same holds true here. Have content available that corresponds with each stage of the buyers journey. Fifty-one percent of smartphone users have made a purchase from a brand other than the one they’d intended to buy from. Why? Because the information was more useful.
  1. Be Quick: Forty percent of shoppers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site. Now while that statistic is industry-specific, the concept is not – your speed is key. We’re not talking about hours-long consumer research binge sessions. These are finite, micro-moments. Do what you can to make the information you provide easily accessible. Understand their journey and eliminate unnecessary steps.

Zero Moment of Truth, Micro-Moments and… What Comes Next?

What’s around the corner after micro-moments? Let me give you my expert opinion and say… I have no idea.

Technology is changing at such a rapid rate, I can’t even begin to think about what’s coming next. And to be honest, I don’t want to know. What I do know, however, is that a buyer’s need does not change. From the Zero Moment of Truth to micro-moments, a buyer’s need remains at the core of these philosophies.

Present your buyer (your persona) with the relevant, educational information that they need, when they need it. That has always been the central principle of inbound marketing, except now, your personas just need to be able to find this information faster.

As buyers, we live in the moment. I don’t read restaurant reviews at home, I look them up as my friend drives us to dinner. I read book reviews straight from my phone, and with the click of a finger I switch over to the Amazon App to make the purchase. I buy concert tickets when I’m on the road, listening to my favorite song. And as far as buying flights on my device… well, I did that just last week, while on the road, on Southwest’s very mobile-friendly site.

Now, as a buyer I shouldn’t make a habit out of that one. But as a marketer, well, I might just have to continue promoting those spur-of-the-moment purchases. For the sake of science, and marketing, of course.