The Zero Moment of Truth in High-Consideration Purchases

Every customer life cycle begins at the moment customers realize they want or need a product, then search for it with intent to buy

Technology is changing the way consumers think about high-consideration purchases, including vehicles. So, what does that mean for automotive marketers?

Consumers have never had more information at their fingertips—86% report doing at least some type of research online before making a high-consideration purchase like a vehicle. This means when and how automotive marketers reach consumers online is critical.

Every customer life cycle begins with the zero moment of truth: the moment customers realize that they want or need a product and begin to search for it with an intent to buy. For some products, the zero moment of truth is brief. For example: The moment someone realizes they’re out of laundry detergent and goes to the store, intent on buying it.

But for high-consideration purchases, that zero moment of truth can be much longer. That increased period of time (often months or even years) can mean the risk of losing a customer relationship.

There’s also an increased likelihood of buyer’s remorse on big-ticket items. Luckily, there are ways for automotive marketers to combat both of those challenges through understanding their audiences, the customer life cycle, and consumer psychology.

The audience

Despite the extensive research done by consumers ahead of a high-consideration purchase, emotions still rule the decision-making process. For that reason, hard statistics and value propositions alone are not enough to win over audiences—marketers have to strike an emotional chord.

What’s the best way to do that? Understand what your audience wants. Where are they spending their time online? How can you connect the data points to build a more holistic picture?

Insights gained from cross-device attribution capabilities are crucial in painting the bigger picture.

The customer life cycle

High-consideration life cycles follow the same basic flow of any other purchase funnel, but the time between key decision points is extended. That’s why a continuous, relevant communication strategy is key.

Automotive marketers need to meet their customers where they are—both within the funnel and across channels to remain top of mind, from awareness through consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy.

Nurture potential customers throughout the process and pay attention to how their needs and desires are shifting. Messaging strategies should be dynamic, just as customer priorities are dynamic.

When you track changes in customer behavior, you also add value to customer-retention efforts. Because consumers don’t purchase new vehicles frequently, staying in touch with them over a period of several years can help bring them back when they’re ready for their next vehicle purchase.

Much can be gained from customer data to inform messaging. Do customers have family that may require a larger vehicle in another few years? Are they moving? Did they get married?

Life events available through access to third-party data can keep communications personal, considerate, and relevant.

The psychology

Ultimately, good marketing comes down to understanding the psychology behind consumer behavior. In the digital world of infinite choices, consumers can often feel overwhelmed and unable to make a decision.

Understanding your audience and presenting only those vehicles that match with what data tells you about it is one way to be of value in the purchase process. Customers are making decisions 14% faster than they were two years ago—in part due to the large amount of research now available to them—but that doesn’t necessitate loyalty or favoritism among brands.

It’s still the emotional connection consumers feel with a brand or vehicle that gets them through the door for a test drive and eventual buy.

Correction: The version of this article in the December print edition of Dealer Marketing Magazine ran the wrong photo of Jonathan Baron. The correct photo appears here.

As chief revenue officer of IgnitionOne, Jonathan Baron is responsible for expanding revenue opportunities to benefit both advertising agencies and brand marketers, and oversees global sales efforts. Prior to joining IgnitionOne, Baron served as co-founder and CEO of SaaS-based tag management, data, and attribution company TagMan.


Jonathan Baron


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