Why Brands Often Fail at the Zero Moment of Truth


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Digital DarwinismGoogle introduced this term to describe the impact of online information, i.e. social media reputation, on the intent of a potential customer to engage with a brand. According to the research that influence, and consumer dependence on it,  are growing very fast from year to year. Consumers checked 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011. This is a dramatic increase from the 5.3 sources

This more recent study found that positive consumer reviews increase both intent to purchase, and product value, by about 7%.  An online share (customer review, Facebook share or tweet) has a value of between $0.33 for a brand or store recommended by a stranger, and $1.33 for brands recommended by friends or family.

ZMOT Influence

Online content sharing and recommendations now hold more sway over consumers’ buying decisions than brand, or even price.

Given the importance of the Zero Moment of Truth:

  1. Why is it so difficult for consumers to find a reasonable number of customer reviews for a specific product? Attention spans are very short and if consumers can’t easily satisfy their thirst for information within seconds, the opportunity to impact their selection is gone.
  2. Why is there an information gap?  Consumers are looking for factual information, but marketers insist on engaging them with the company’s message (fluff). At the Zero Moment of Truth the fluff repels potential buyers.
  3. Why is it so difficult for marketers to understand the ZMOT is a by-product of a customer experience?  The recommendations, referrals and other forms of social proof cannot exist without delivery of superior customer experience. The kind of experience that inspire customers to share with others. The term UMOT = Ultimate Moment of Truth holds the key to success:

It’s what happens after the buyer experiences…

  • your business (including you and your staff),
  • your sales and after-sales processes,
  • your product or service,
  • your customer service and support,
  • your guarantee or warranty claims, etc.


For decades marketers were in control of the customer journey because they could out-shout the voices of consumers with big advertising budgets. The advent of social media changed that by arming customers with a much larger “soap box” to share their stories, and advertising budgets don’t buy as much influence as they used to. Unless you think this is just a fad, it is the time to let consumers “teach”­  you what is important to them. Fortunately, they are willing to do so, and the marketers who have learned to subjugate their ego to the reality of the markets, consistently experience remarkable successes.

Those marketers, who keep treating consumers as “marks”, are not likely to survive the onslaught of Digital Darwinism.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gregory Yankelovich
Gregory Yankelovich is a Technologist who is agnostic to technology, but "religious" about Customer Experience and ROI. He has solid experience delivering high ROI projects with a focus on both Profitability AND Customer Experience improvements, as one without another does not support long-term business growth. Gregory currently serves as co-founder of https://demo-wizard.com, the software (SaaS) used by traditional retailers and CPG brand builders to create Customer Experiences that raise traffic in stores and boost sales per customer visit.


  1. As online social media receives more and more attention, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of decision-making influence, among all key demographic groups and in most industries, comes from informal offline in-person and electronic communication. For reference, let me suggest The Face-to-Face Book, by my colleagues Ed Keller and Brad Fay.

  2. Excellent conclusion, Gregory. Positive word-of-mouth is not a function of enticement, but rather, enable-ment. Thanks for pointing out that good word-of-mouth requires prevention of missed expectations.

    I like the UMOT description of customer experience as really a holistic system comprising products and services, processes and policies, before and after interactions and integrations — well beyond what marketing can do with a campaign or loyalty program.

    Interestingly, my latest post about customer *experience* intelligence also advocates that marketers give greater attention to prevention of missed expectations as a precursor to *earning* constructive customer engagement.

  3. Michael,

    I do agree that a majority of word-of-mouth information is exchanged in-person, as it was for millennium. However, the advent of social media seems to accelerate it’s intensity, scope and proliferation in both on-line AND off-line. “Absolute value” travel through universal channels and, in my opinion, there is no particular value look at the the channels as a dichotomy.

  4. Lynn,

    Thank you for the kind words. The holistic approach to CX is the only path to economic sustainability, IMHO. In developed and well connected economies, fewer and fewer customers are buying products, services or expertise – they buy experiences associated with these “commodities”.

  5. Even though the overwhelming evidence shows that offline word-of-mouth continues to dominate over online (for all demographic groups), for our measurement purposes, we are agnostic about communication medium. So long as the word-of-mouth that takes place on behalf of a brand experience is informal and voluntary, i.e. self-motivated, and self-generated, that is sufficient for qualification


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