Decoding Consumer Micro-Moments

The search for knowledge or information during a consumer's decision buying process mirrors branch and node pathways not dissimilar to those found in decision tree modeling in machine learning and management science.

Google's classification of consumer micro-moments identifies waypoints in the search and product selection process in which individuals seek answers and information to fill otherwise stalled gaps of available time in a daily commute, while being held up in line at a supermarket, or delayed at the car dealership waiting on the final negotiations prior to purchase.

These "I-Want-To-Know", "I-Want-To-Go", "I-Want-To-Do", and "I-Want-To-Buy" moments broadly define opportunities where advertisers can capture and engage prospective and pre-existing customers. Structured around the ubiquity of connected mobile devices in the hands of today's consumers grasping for solutions within arm's reach and a moment's notice yield opportunities for ad delivery optimization and consumer engagement at the most critical junctures.

The proactive advertiser is given the perfect opportunity to serve the most relevant piece of content fulfilling the desired need of their targeted audience one individual at a time. This level of granularity is made possible with the use of programmatic advertising tools including data recording (i.e. pixel tracking, mobile ID tagging or geographic location targeting), artificial intelligence and automated media buying. A consumer's decision buying journey and the complex number of steps taken within this process enable setup of a feedback loop for precision marketing.

A consumer will not necessarily travel in a linear pathway through these identified moments. Broadly defined but subject to variance based on idiosyncratic consumer behavior in product selection, user querying/research patterns or prior consumer action(s) suggests any number of possible transits exist. Users are prone to bouncing around both "forward" and "backward", returning to previous moments already visited and/or skipping specific moments altogether without a uniform point-of-entry. One consumer may proceed directly to purchase while another initiates a new product or brand search after dumping a competing brand's product due to channel or platform inconsistency restarting the process once again.

The important takeaway is not pinpointing the exact consumer journey from start to finish but rather identifying the correct moment (stage) where a targeted user is currently located. At this intersection the advertiser is now capable of serving appropriately relevant and engaging content. The eventual conversion can be traced backward to these data points with little effort once a programmatic platform with the automated components are activated and online.

"I-Want-To-Know" or "What" Moment

During the research phase in which a consumer is looking for initial product information, solutions, knowledge or missing pieces of a larger puzzle there exist a number of opportunities to serve prospective users. With regard to product or service-related searches, consumers may have seen prior television spots leading to further investigation on digital channels for additional product knowledge and literacy.

"I-Want-To-Go" or "Why" Moment

The "Go" moment pertains to a geographical search in which consumers have selected a product, a business, a restaurant or a retail outlet and are pinpointing how to find the best option. Local search becomes extremely relevant with consumer attention transitioning to location details including maps and directions to fulfill these wants.

"I-Want-To-Do" or "How" Moment

Instructions, video tutorials and how-to guides are all relevant for the consumer during these "Do" moments. Prepping to cook at home, determining step-by-step DIY instructions, watching tutorials and finding "how-to" guides via online search and video are all relevant to consumer wants and needs during these moments.

"I-Want-To-Buy" or "Where" Moment

Pertaining to consumer search for product price comparison, confirmation of the best available deal and search for general deals all define a consumer's criteria in the moments just prior to purchase. Consumers may often discover alternative brands or new products during these searches. If there are too many steps separating a consumer from the most direct path to purchase (i.e. if a mobile experience does not match up with the desktop website) the brand may face a high probability of losing that customer in search of a more seamless or consistent experience with a competing brand.

Channel Optimization and the Seamless Experience

Standardizing the user experience across all channels remains paramount for ensuring continued brand health and long term success. Advertisers must adopt a proactive stance in serving and anticipating customer wants and needs with uniform and consistent UX/UI on all brand platforms. Those brands that choose not to adhere to these rules or commit the error by omission stand to lose significant ground in a highly competitive and visible playing field. Today's consumers have far too many options and knowledge to think twice before moving on to more relevant, consistent and efficient alternatives.