Once upon a time, the world was a much simpler place for marketers. Not that many years ago, a 30-second television commercial would more-or-less tell consumers exactly what they were going to buy the next morning. The brand would describe a problem and present the immediate solution that consumers would then rush to purchase. Looking back, it was almost like magic. But the age of a short, predictable consumer journey has come to an end.
The Internet has changed everything. Today, the consumer knows almost as much about the product and the brand as the company. They come to purchase prepared with an arsenal of facts and figures to ensure they are making the right decision.
Conquering the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)
Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) Research found that consumers interact with an average of 10.4 items of content throughout their journey to buy. So the question becomes: How many of these pieces of content that will influence the consumer’s decision belong to you?
Brands that aren’t actively doing something to be a part of the online consumer journey and conversation are leaving an opening for their competitors. They also make themselves more vulnerable to the impact of bad reviews, or unflattering articles, that tarnish their brand’s story. The risk of not being a part of this path to purchase is significant. An ad campaign loses much of its effectiveness and becomes exceedingly more expensive if the first time a consumer sees it they have already made up their mind about the brand.
Meet the Consumer at The Right Time and Place
There are three opportunities to grab the consumer’s attention and engage them as part of their online journey.
- Search – “I need something, I google it. Whoever answers my needs first wins.”
- Social – “I’m on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat. I share, scroll, like. Whoever reaches my friends is also a friend of mine and gets my attention.”
- Discovery – “I consume content that is interesting to me on leading premium publishers. Whatever interests me wins my attention.”
Adjusting to the Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery is upon is. It is an age when everyone gets to choose what they want, when they want it. This is especially true with the younger generation: They aren’t willing to be bombarded with information. They want their content, but aren’t willing to get it in exchange for being interrupted. eMarketer research estimates that more than 25% of internet users this year will have used ad blockers. This figure represents more than 85 million people in the USA, and more than 400 million people worldwide. The age of aggressive advertisements is over. The future is in exploration-based marketing, also known as discovery.
Letting People Discover for Themselves
Understanding that potential customers will consume a number of content pieces before making their purchase decision, provides an opportunity to control as much of these content encounters as possible. Otherwise, a competing brand might do so, effectively control most of your (would-be) consumer’s journey.
What this means is that brands need to collect, organize and, in some cases, create a large assortment of content. This might take the form of customer reviews, a flattering video, funny short clips, an article in a leading content website, a reference in a well-regarded blog or news piece, or a blog post. And in order for more audiences to discover this content, brands need to consider multiple distribution channels — many of them paid.
The consumer’s conversation happens on many levels and a variety of content helps the consumer feel that they have adopted a balanced and objective opinion. The more control you can have over the content they consume, the closer you will come to influencing the consumer’s journey.
Choose Your Path Wisely
Once you’ve decided to prioritize discovery to attract new customers, it is just as important to determine where this discovery will take place. Social networks get a lot of traffic and are an easy platform to reach the masses, but when your content is up against a picture of a colleague’s adorable daughter or a friend’s awesome trip to Barcelona, you may find that you are at a disadvantage.
When people discover your content through a leading and trustworthy website, having already enjoyed or sought out another story, you immediately have the advantage of their attention. Our data suggests that the choices audiences make about what content to engage with is significantly impacted by what channel they are on.
Always Be On
Unlike advertisements, promoting content in this manner works in a way that it is “Always On” and effective throughout the whole year. Content discovery mode ensures that users meet your content at the moment when it is most appropriate for them. When consumers are exploring a leading content website, they are in a mind set to consume more comparable content. And this doesn’t just mean text-based articles, but a wide range of content such as videos, quizzes, and reviews.
Going on the Journey with Your Customers
In order to see the true impact of an investment in discovery, you must make a strategic decision for content to be a substantial part of the consumer journey. The consumer’s journey is constantly expanding—and within it, many decisions are made. All this happens long before the customer sees an advertisement. More opportunities to connect with your customer means more opportunities to for them to discover your brand. It’s time to control of the story and conversations that you truly want them to keep top of mind.
Sophie is the head of marketing APAC & EEMEA at Outbrain. She is a Global Brand Strategist, Co-Founder, and Entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience with a measurable track record of creating successful online and offline strategic branding concepts, product lines and events, each time finding the brand story that inspires action and create a strategy to meet ambitious new growth goals. She shares a passion for innovation, a curious mind, and expertise in defining business initiatives and plans, adapting to a changing business and technological landscape.