A few years ago, I went to Value Village with my friend because we needed to buy a board game and we were on a
cheap student budget. Based on literally the colors of the box, we narrowed it down to two games that, at the time, neither of us had heard of: a game called “Hear Me Out” and another game called “Settlers of Catan”. Of course, this was a huge ($4.95) investment so the game needed to be absolutely perfect. But we didn’t know any better.
So my friend did something strange. He pulled out his phone, typed in some words on Google, and then two minutes later he goes,
“This one has better reviews. Let’s go with Settlers of Catan.”
“What just happened?” I thought to myself.
You see, back in 2012, I attended a conference hosted by the York Marketing Association where I got to listen to a workshop hosted by a guest speaker from Google. In that workshop, the guest speaker talked about a really neat concept called the “Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)” (ps. definitely worth a read if you haven’t yet!)
According to the author, Jim Lecinski, ZMOT is that moment “when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service (or potential boyfriend) you’re thinking about trying or buying.” It’s the moment where marketing, information, and consumer decisions collide to determine the success or failure of a brand in winning over your wallet. It’s where we, as consumers, go to verify our decisions prior to grabbing the product we want off the shelf. It’s what we do before we do anything.
Over the past four years studying marketing at York University, I’ve always enjoyed the process of understanding consumer behavior, particularly the way people make decisions and the steps we take to arrive at those decisions. And looking back at what happened that day, when my friend and I made the decision to buy Catan, a terrifying and exciting thought dawned on me: the Internet has forever changed the way we make decisions.
Our shopping journey has been revolutionized – we’re increasingly making decisions at the exact moment when we have a need or question that we want answered online. Brands that are present with the right message at that “moment of truth” are the ones that are winning: whether your customers are Google searching you through a smartphone, a tablet,
a netbook, a laptop, etc. Given the fact that consumers now have access to so much information at any time and any place, and the number of channels that brands can use to connect with these consumers continues to grow, digital marketing has not stopped evolving.
According to SAS, these are just some of the future challenges for digital marketers everywhere:
- Proliferation of digital channels. Consumers use multiple digital channels and a variety of devices that use different protocols, specifications and interfaces – and they interact with those devices in different ways and for different purposes.
- Intensifying competition. Digital channels are relatively cheap, compared with traditional media, making them within reach of practically every business of every size. As a result, it’s becoming a lot harder to capture consumers’ attention.
- Exploding data volumes. Consumers leave behind a huge trail of data in digital channels. It’s extremely difficult to get a handle on all that data, as well as find the right data within exploding data volumes that can help you make the right decisions.
In fact, according to Smart Insight’s Managing Digital Marketing Report, an astounding 46% of companies still do not have a defined digital marketing strategy. But it’s getting there:
- What are the new ways that brands will be using to understand the behavior and decisions of their online customers?
- How are companies planning to gain the trust of the ‘always-on’ Millennials and Generation Z, especially now that they are growing up and able to make bigger decisions on their own? Who are these generations consulting with now?
- How are brands going to continue to create an integrated consumer experience across so many channels from social media, to search engines, to in-store, and (now) wearables?
*cue my Dungeons & Dragons nerd voice* … this stuff excites me.
These are exciting times to be working or entering into this field. If digital will continue to revolutionize the way we make decisions, then the future of marketing will continue to change with it. In fact, digital marketing not only belongs in the future, but it is happening now.
So why are there not enough marketing students who are ready for it? According to The Guardian, by 2018 the US is predicted to lack around 1.5 million managers and analysts with sufficient technical and digital know-how to make effective decisions. Increasingly, traditional marketing academia is growing the gap between the skills that marketers have and the skills that they need for the workforce (i.e. can code, understand analytics, manage social media from a business perspective, etc.)
As marketing students continue to graduate everywhere*, the question we all need to ask ourselves is this: how are we going to be ahead of the curve?
The real moment of truth is that digital is already here. Are we ready for it?
* well, fingers crossed for me, that is.