How consumers interact with a company’s brand has evolved dramatically over the years, and the concept of micro-moments—those brief instances when people turn to their devices to act on a need to learn, do, discover, watch, or buy something—can influence how businesses conceptualize their digital marketing strategies. 

The term “micro-moment” isn’t new. Jim Lecinski first coined the term in a 2011 ebook published by Google, Winning in the Zero Moment of Truth. The “zero moment of truth” is when a consumer first decides to look for a certain product or service. 

A short video from Google that explores the idea of micro-moments.

As our dependence on phones for almost everything has intensified over the years, this particular way of articulating consumer behavior might be even more useful now. You may not be aware of just how often you engage in such micro-moments yourself, and how often you’re smoothly steered toward a particular product or service without even realizing it, such is their ubiquity in our daily lives.

Micro-moments are powerful opportunities for brands to shape consumers’ decisions and preferences as individuals reflexively turn to their mobile devices to act on an immediate need. These moments are rich with intention, signifying that the person is ready to make a decision or take action.

Lecinski (that is, Google) categorizes micro-moments into four types. Let’s use a narrative example to better understand this concept.

Consumer Scenario 

Julie, mid-40s, is the mother of two high-energy daughters who play high school sports (field hockey and gymnastics, respectively). She works as a freelance consultant for tech start-ups who don’t think they’re ready to hire a full-time marketing director. Her husband, an architect, has been in Amsterdam for several weeks, helping to manage his firm’s keystone project: the design and construction of a multi-million dollar art museum that will traverse one of that city’s famous canals.

With alarming regularity, Julie finds that she is fatigued—and not just after a long day of working and parenting while her husband is doing God-knows-what in a European city known for indulgences. She’s having a hard time falling asleep each night, too, but she once read an article that linked the extended use of sleeping pills to instances of dementia later in life, so she’s not keen to load up on Advil PM or Unisom—not after the way things ended for her mother.

After consulting her doctor, all the normal tests come back negative. Julie’s fatigue is real, and her doctor believes her, which isn’t always the case, according to the many women who comment on her Facebook post about the matter. But there’s no pill or surgery to remediate her constant fatigue. Her doctor suggests exercise, possibly even yoga.

Julie is, honestly, a little miffed at her doctor’s suggestion. She’s exhausted. How can the answer be more exertion?

Micro-Moment #1: I Want To Know—Consumer is researching, but not necessarily ready to purchase

A few days later, while binging episodes of The Morning Show after the girls have gone to bed, Julie recalls her doctor’s suggestion. She exits the Facebook app on her phone (why is she doom-scrolling, anyway?) and voice-searches three words: yoga benefits women. Almost immediately, she has access to more than she might ever want to know about how yoga can help her current condition. Once she’s down the digital rabbit hole, she finds the Introduction to Yoga special health report on the Harvard Health Publishing website. She’s not quite ready to buy it (is she really going to become a yoga person?), but she does sign up for their free HealthBeat newsletter. Free is always good.

Micro-Moment #2: I Want To Go—Consumer is looking for a local business or considering buying a product

Several days after that—Julie has caught up on The Morning Show and doesn’t quite know what to watch next—she again thinks about the yoga option, this time while she’s chopping vegetables at her kitchen island. She puts her knife down on the cutting board and picks up her phone, which is almost always within reach. Why couldn’t she become one of those women who does yoga? She has a lot of life ahead of her, and she’s fed up with feeling this way. What does she have to lose? She searches for yoga studio near me and finds there are two studios within a few miles of her house.

Micro-Moment #3: I Want To Do—Consumer needs help completing a task or trying something new

A couple of weeks after researching yoga studios—she’s started watching The Bear after a colleague posted about it several times in Slack—Julie decides to actually try a yoga class. She’s nervous and unsure what to expect, so before she signs up for one studio’s introductory session for first-timers (a donation is requested, not required, but otherwise there’s no charge), she searches online for what to expect at your first yoga class.

Micro-Moment #4: I Want To Buy—Consumer is ready to make a purchase and may need help deciding what or how to buy

Julie finds helpful articles that explain the typical structure of a beginner yoga class, what type of clothing and equipment she might need (why didn’t she think about needing a mat?), and tips for first-timers. Then she searches for the best yoga mats at different price points, as well as what kind of attire is appropriate to wear. Reading reviews and comparing prices, she ultimately decides on a mat made from eco-friendly materials that has good traction and cushioning. Julie adds the yoga mat to her online shopping cart, along with a new sports bra and high-waisted biker shorts.

Micro-moments have fundamentally changed the consumer journey by fragmenting it into numerous real-time, intent-driven decision points. If you’re questioning the narrative asides above (Julie’s job, her kids and husband, what shows she’s watching, the vegetables she’s cutting for dinner), it’s important to remember that those who consume your products or services—whether you call them customers, clients, users, visitors, patients, or something else—are people first.

Whether your business is B2C or B2B, putting people first is still the way to go. Businesses don’t make decisions, after all—the people who work at those businesses do. People are busy. People have lives. People are really tired, you know? And people engage in these micro-moments repeatedly throughout their daily lives—even when they’re chopping vegetables or watching TV. Often this happens when they’re at the initial stages of the decision-making process, when preferences are shaped and choices are made. The immediacy and convenience of smartphones means we now expect to fulfill our needs immediately, making it essential for brands to be present and relevant during these micro-moments, no matter what you’re selling. (Even yoga classes.)

Companies should work to be present where and when their consumers are searching. This requires a deep understanding of your target audience’s online behavior. Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies can increase visibility when consumers begin the relevant search queries. If your business is local and appeals to local needs and wants, then optimizing for local search helps your business appear in local listings and maps.

Using data analytics, you can work to understand the types of queries that lead customers to your brand and adjust your content to meet these needs. Anything that helps you better identify—and identify with—your potential customers can be put to use in this effort. (To appeal to the “I Want to Do” micro-moment, you could create how-to guides, tutorials, or product demos that help consumers learn new things.)

Speed is obviously of the essence. Consumers expect quick, frictionless experiences. Optimize your website for mobile, ensuring it loads quickly and offers a seamless user experience on smaller screens. Simplify the buying process with easy navigation, auto-fill, and one-click purchasing options to reduce barriers and capitalize on those “I Want to Buy” micro-moments. Every extra step—even just a few seconds of delay—in the consumer’s micro-moment increases the likelihood they’ll give up and move on.

If this sounds like a lot to take in, it is—and we have a whole team of subject matter experts ready to help your business with such details. You don’t have to remember all of this. You just need to know who can help you. We’re ready to have that conversation whenever you are.

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