Zero Moment of Truth emerges as new force in shopping behavior.

Shopper Sciences, IPG Mediabrands’ research and shopper marketing consultancy, today announced highlights from a national study commissioned by Google to explore how digital technology is changing shopper behavior. Google will publish results from the research later this month in its new eBook entitled “Winning at the Zero Moment of Truth.”

The Google Shopper Sciences Macro Research Study represents the most comprehensive study to date on shopper behavior and explores how the changing world of media – specifically digital media – is empowering shoppers and impacting the decision-making process for everything from grocery and OTC medications to automotive and financial services.

Conducted in April 2011 among 5,000 shoppers across 12 diverse categories, the research analyzed the role of more than 50 different media sources—including traditional advertising, internet search and display, mobile, online social and retail store channels—in the shopper’s decision-making process as they move along the path to purchase. The research showed the vast majority of survey respondents, 84 percent, engaged in pre-shopping activities, such as internet research or comparison shopping online, ahead of their retail store visit

“The media landscape has changed exponentially over the past decade and so has the shopper’s appetite for information,” said John Ross, CEO of Shopper Sciences. “Our research confirms a growing trend of digital pre-shopping activity that is both informing and directing shopper choice, regardless of whether the purchase is ultimately made online or in a retail store front.”

Google has dubbed this phenomenon of user-directed digital pre-shopping activity as the “Zero Moment of Truth” or ZMOT, and made it the subject of a new book to be released this month.

“Our work with Shopper Sciences is further proof that today’s consumers are smarter and more informed than they’ve ever been when they make purchase decisions,” said Jim Lecinski, Google’s Managing Director of Sales in the US. “We’re excited to feature this study’s findings and more, in our forthcoming eBook about the Zero Moment of Truth.”

While in-store influences like packaging, retailer displays and signage are still important, the Google Shopper Sciences Macro Research Study revealed that shoppers are using on average 10.7 different sources in their decision-making process and they are increasingly relying on internet search, retailer and manufacturer websites and social media to become more informed.

“Across the generations, shoppers are looking for ways to be more confident in the choices they make and information is the currency that drives confidence,” said Ross. “As decision making moves further up the purchase funnel, brands need to be visible with relevant information during the pre-shopping phase in order to win the shopper.”

While it is not surprising that shoppers conduct research in a high-ticket category like automotive, Shopper Sciences’ research found a high degree of ZMOT-type activity associated with purchases lower-ticket priced categories, such as grocery and personal care. Of the research respondents who started and completed their shopping on the same day, 45% said they used online sources to aid their decision.

“What appears to be a spontaneous decision made at the retail store shelf is actually a much more considered purchase,” said Ross. “Marketers often fail to register the influences behind seemingly “impulsive” decisions because standard methods for measuring marketing ROI don’t factor in all of the influence nodes shoppers are actually using in their decision-making process.”

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