Beyond Google’s Micro-moments

When Google launched their Micro-moments research early 2015 the idea gripped me from the first instance. The word micro-moments alone triggered my brain towards a number of experiences I gained implementing and teaching the digital marketing principles from my book (dutch). A key evolution I’ve been pushing onto the marketing executives and entrepreneurs I met over the past years is ‘mobile’. Picking up a smartphone at any given time in the day to communicate with friends, colleagues or family, quickly checking your mail while waiting for a cup of coffee or sharing an in-the-moment experience through snapchat, they all have become part of our daily life.

Many of these moments carry opportunities for interaction between brands and customers. Google calls them micro-moments. Whenever people want to learn something, go someplace, buy a product or do this or that, and they don’t know what, they’ll turn to their smartphones to ‘quickly’ look it up. There are three things that make these moments so relevant for marketeers:

  1. Intent: Whenever people pick up their phone, they have the intention to take action. They’re not busy reading mail or falling asleep on the couch, they are ready to make a move and that’s the perfect moment to attract them to your brand.
  2. Context: Smart phone technology offers us a unique insight in the context of an action. We obviously know at what time the action takes place (is your store open at this time or not?), often we know the location (in your office or outside?) and there’s a slew of other data that is gradually becoming available (air pressure anyone?, customer sentiment, …). This allows marketeers to cater their message to the context the customer is in.
  3. Immediacy: Linked to the first point, during these micro-moments people want to act and act fast. They are in the moment of taking action, don’t disappoint them by slowing down their customer journey.

These Micro-moments to me are clearly the next level when it comes to ‘mobile’. We are no longer talking about more sophisticated phones or faster connections. Those are (geek-)subjects of the past. The only thing that really matters is that consumers are more then ever connected, always and everywhere. For sure through their smart phones, but also by means of tablets, smart watches of all sorts, connected cars up until virtual reality glasses. As a result we are collectively developing new attitudes and reflexes, we even experience new physical conditions like ‘phantom vibrations’. Micro-moments are part of a ‘digital reflex’ people are developing. An example: Last year I was preparing an adventurous motorcycle trip through Iceland (in Dutch again) and one night I lay awake running over the packing list once more. A USB charger! Need to buy a USB charger! Rather then opening up Evernote and adding another to-do for the next day I simply headed for my favourite online electronics shop, bought the charger and got back to sleep. All without leaving the bed. People have changed, are you ready to harvest their digital reflexes?

Now where Google focusses on micro-moments that are the result of people actively looking for a answer to a question they have, I like to take this concept one step further. Although search is one of the most important elements in the customer journey, it’s main impact is found in what I call the exploration phase. This is the phase where your customers are already aware of their need and look for a solution to a problem. But before that comes another important phase for many marketeers: the need phase. Especially when you are launching an innovative product or service (listen well startups!), your potential customers may not be consciously looking for a solution to the problem you adress. Heck, they probably don’t even know there is a solution to their problem. Therefore we have to extend the micro-moments concept beyond the exploration phase and beyond search. We can find similar moments in the need phase, which is typically the domain of traditional (interruption) marketing and where there is an even more pressing need for marketing innovation.

The connected consumers are developing new attitudes because there is no more need to postpone any actions. We can now do everything, everywhere and at any time. What we see is that the complete customer journey is cut up in small pieces, it is atomised. No need to note down your shopping list for the Friday evening visit to the supermarket, just order online immediately, research your next trip to Amsterdam while commuting and book an Airbnb while you’re at it and test-drive a car from your living room by means of an oculus rift or a simple Google cardboard. What used to be chunks of actions grouped together for efficiency, is gradually evolving into a continuous flow of very diverse activity. The determining factor for ‘what to do first’ is no longer carefully planned but decided on the spot based on consumer intent, context and immediate access. Brands that are not immediately accessible will no longer be considered.

Now, we can even take it step further. Digital experiences do not replace every physical experience, in fact we see that when new channels become available they usually come on top of the existing channels (TV did not replace radio). So can we apply the ‘customer journey atomisation’ also physical experiences? I’m convinced we can. Any retail expert will tell you about the importance of every single step in the customer experience: open the door — walk into a shop — get greeted by staff — orient yourself in the shop — detect promotions — find what you need — be surprised — buy more — go to the checkout — etc. We should treat each of these steps as brand-defining micro-moments. At each step there are opportunities to cater to the digital reflex people have, and if you don’t your competitor will.

As conclusion, let’s have a look how we can digitally plug into the atomised customer journey at an early stage. You should ask yourself how you can hook into the daily life of customers while they are not actively looking to take action, when they are not yet conscious of the problem you are offering a solution for. In this phase people are probably scrolling their Facebook wall, watching YouTube movies, listening to podcasts or looking for a game. These may not be intent-rich moments, but contrary to those watching a movie on TV our digital entertainment seekers are in an active mode. Any relevant piece of content or entertainment will trigger their attention. Let’s call these “I-want-to-enjoy moments”. These moments can be captured in different ways, e.g. YouTube video or content on Facebook, games on smartphones or any other attention grabbing piece of entertainment you can offer. Ideally you have conquered a spot one of your prospect’s screens (smartphone, car, TV, …) which brings you as close a you can get to your target audience. Finally, make sure to focus your content in this phase on the WHY and HOW of your brand, leave behind the WHAT (for now).

Did this trigger you to get started harvesting the opportunities for micro-moments for your brand or startup? Contact me for a keynote speech, customer journey assessment or an interactive workshop with one of our teams.