How you can deliver what the customer wants: a winning micro-moment strategy


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Ours is an on-the-go, always-on economy, driven by mass adoption of mobile devices that are constantly demanding our time and depleting our attention spans to shorter than that of a goldfish.

We constantly and involuntarily reach for our mobile devices at all hours of the day and night to address our spur-of-the-moment needs. Whether to check social media notifications, weather updates, or breaking news, we expect our mobile device to instantly gratify all our needs at the very moment they arise, in a matter of seconds.

While this raises all sorts of questions about the pros and cons of technology, the specific question it raises for marketers is: What does this mean for us? And how can we leverage these spur-of-the-moment needs of customers?

Though there are several implications for marketers, one of them we know for sure is: if your brand is not present or not providing value to the customer at their moment of need, you missed an important opportunity to meaningfully engage with the customer. Worse, you may never get another one, especially if your competitor did. Thus, as marketers, we must compete for customer’s attention during their moments of need.

These moments of need, when they reach out for a device (ex. smartphone, wearables, etc.), are known as micro-moments, and they are typically your customers’ I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, and I-want-to-buy moments.

Now imagine how many such moments may arise during a typical day in the life of your customer. Probably hundreds, if not thousands. And remember this: all of them link together to make up your customer’s journey.

It is therefore imperative that brands recognize these micro-moments and capitalize on them. As per Forrester, the benefits of doing so are huge.

Marketers that identify micro-moments are 53% more likely to report very profitable marketing ROI. And yet, only 2% marketers have all the necessary elements to take advantage of micro-moments.

More specifically, only 26 percent of brands can identify such moments, 27 percent can deliver on them, and a paltry 9 percent can measure them.

Here’s how you create a winning micro-moment strategy:

Think beyond customer identity

As marketers, we obsess about customer identity. Who our customers are. Where they live. What their interests and preferences are. We build our campaigns around this identity.

But one question we do not ask ourselves enough is this: Does identity really determine what customers want?

Chances are, we need to think beyond identity, to include intent and context.

Consider a 35-year-old single mother of two who lives in suburbs and works in downtown Chicago (identity). Now imagine one late evening, she accidentally locks herself out of her home (context). Using her mobile, she frantically starts searching for a trusted locksmith (intent). After considering a handful of them, she chooses a local one with solid customer reviews who provides immediate, late night service. Her in-the-moment need was rich in intent and driven by context.

As marketers, we need to watch for such signals of intent through our customers’ behaviors on search engines, brand sites, video, or social platforms. And we must understand what shapes their context, as inferred from location and time-stamp on their mobile devices (e.g., weather, proximity to stores, traffic, etc.).

Anticipate, prepare, and deliver

With micro-moments constantly evolving and multiplying by the minute, it is imperative for marketers to anticipate, prepare, and deliver on them. To understand this, let’s take an example of a brand we are all familiar with: Disney. We know that few brands can match Disney’s ability to create “magical” in-the-moment experiences. From planning Disney moments online to experiencing these moments through RFID enabled wearables, called MagicBands, Disney delivers immersive, memorable, and frictionless experiences.

In fact, with MagicBands, Disney’s customers can unlock their hotel rooms, enter parks, and enjoy all planned experiences without waiting in lines or enduring the inconvenience of carrying wallets or cameras – be it to enjoy rides and attractions, buy food and merchandise, or capture a digital keepsake of their magical moments. A lot of this is made possible by Disney’s ability to leverage real-time sensor data streamed back from MagicBands to mobilize its staff to anticipate and meet their customers’ real-time needs.

But that’s Disney. The key question is: what should you do?

    Plan ahead: Build a strong understanding of your customers and map out the end-to-end journey for all your key customer segments. With customer journeys as a starting point, plan for, identify, and prioritize intent-driven micro-moments during the journey when customers make key decisions and establish preferences. For example, as reported here, Sephora observed how often its customers searched for product reviews on their phones while standing in the store aisles and developed an app to help shoppers in those moments.

    Be present: Make it easy to be found during these micro-moments. To broaden your reach, strategically leverage owned, paid, and earned media. For example, build strong search engine results page (SERP) rankings so that you show up in the organic search results when customer googles a question relevant to what you do.

    Make it relevant: Build a library of snackable, personalized, contextually relevant content, optimized for mobile for all conceivable intent-driven micro-moments, as Netflix does. As reported here, Netflix maintains such a library of few dozen candidate artwork images for each title and serves the best artwork for each of its members to highlight aspects of a title that are specifically relevant to them and might influence them to watch.

    Make it scalable: Orchestrate one-on-one personalized and contextual customer interactions at scale and in real time by leveraging decisioning analytics (machine learning, NLP, etc.) and smart technology solutions. For example, Disney reduces long wait times at popular rides in real time by using intel from sensor data transmitted from MagicBands. The information informs in-the-moment decisions on adding staff or incentivizing guests to pick another ride or attraction.

    Make it actionable: Customer experiences do not start and end online. Online micro-moments can influence customer behaviors offline and vice-versa. It is imperative to connect the offline and digital worlds and provide seamless omni-channel experiences to drive customer value. For instance, Target reported omni-channel shoppers as its most valuable segment who spend 3X more than single-channel shoppers.

Create your own

While it’s important to capitalize on your customers’ micro-moments, it is equally important that you don’t always wait for them to create their own micro-moments. You can create one too. How? By pivoting to your customer’s needs.

Retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart have mastered this strategy. They have built powerful machine learning-based decisioning engines to determine the next product or action that can best serve their customer. When customers have a want or a need, they are more receptive to marketing messages. You can capitalize on these opportunities by proactively thinking of next best actions, thereby creating your own moments of need.

Measure, test, and learn

Micro-moment decisioning does not stop here. It is critical to measure and learn from the success or failure of micro-moment interactions. Document what worked, what did not. Determine which messages were most relevant and engaging in the moment; how they influenced what your customers think, do, and feel at each interaction; what drove them to next best action.

Start with building a unified view of the customer with event streams that connect the fragmented customer journey across devices and channels. Then leverage in-the-moment insights and learnings to drive future planning. Continue to test, learn, and optimize until you are ready to build and manage at scale through automation.

Sudeshna Sen
Sudeshna Sen is a Senior Director leading marketing strategy and analytics at Merkle. She has a track record of helping companies acquire, retain and grow customers using actionable analytics-driven marketing strategies. She brings in more than 10 years of strategic consulting and marketing experience across health insurance, financial services, and retail. She has particular expertise in customer strategy, predictive analytics, and direct-to-consumer marketing.


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