Micro-Moment Marketing — Using Google to Shorten the Buyer’s Journey

Mike Whitney
Feb 2, 2016 · 6 min read
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Be there. Be useful. Be quick.

According to Google, these are the keys to mobile marketing success. Recently, the search giant released an updated best practices guidebook for mobile marketing. There’s some inherent and thinly veiled self-promotion involved — ‘use our tools to drive sales,’ ‘help us help you,’ etc. — but when it comes to a true industry giant like Google, these things are mere footnotes in the story. In other words, their tools genuinely are that useful, and the way they’re presented in this guidebook is both stylish and educational.

As I read through the contents of the guide, the first thing I noticed was how well they address multiple audiences at once. Of course, that should come as no surprise. One of the things that has made Google so successful is how well they juggle their seemingly countless roles simultaneously. What started as a new way to search the web for information has morphed into an all-encompassing tech entity: advertising, self-driving cars, asteroid mining; it’s all there at the Googleplex.

In this case, they’re addressing the concept of micro-moments, a term that Google introduced to the marketing world as a way of describing the shrinking time it takes for mobile users to process their buying options. The concept is an extension of the massive shift to mobile that has been occurring over the past few years. Now that people are accessing information about products and brands whenever (and from wherever) they choose, companies are forced to have info and content at the ready and in a position to be found.

A constantly connected audience is an inherently reachable one, but that gives brands a whole host of new issues to navigate: namely how, when, and where to reach them. For example, much of the time people spend on their mobile phones is on social platforms: connecting with friends, family, and coworkers on a personal or professional level. What users are trying to accomplish with this time has very little to do with brands — it’s completely social. While that doesn’t mean brands can’t still foster engagement (timeline ads on Facebook, promoted tweets, etc.); but the opportunities represented during this time are inconsistent. From a user’s perspective, you’re just as likely to annoy them as you are to inspire them to engage with your brand.

There are other mobile moments, however, when users are in prime position to engage with brands. These are the ‘micro-moments’ that Google refers to in their guidebook as instances when users are looking for some help. As Director of Ads Marketing Matt Lawson’s words it, they are the “moments when you turn to a device — often your smartphone — to take action on whatever you need or want right now. They’re the I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-buy, and I-want-to-do moments that are loaded with intent, context, and immediacy.”

Intent, content, and immediacy are the keys to the game, here. Your product or service represents the only thing keeping these users from their desired outcome, and they’re actively seeking out a way to quickly bridge that gap. Let’s take a closer look at the three tasks Google groups together as ways to get that done: Be There. Be Useful. Be Quick.

Be There

The adage is old but true: you’ve got to be in it to win it.

When the ‘it’ is the engagement of potential customers, your bottom line depends on it. In a world where mobile searches create immediate lists of potential buying options, your brand has to be findable in that setting. The landscape of mobile search is so fertile because of the generally open-minded nature of mobile users. Google’s data shows that 90% of smartphone users are not sure which brand they are going to purchase from when they begin looking for information online. Also, one in three mobile users have deviated from the brand they intended to purchase from and gone with another. This gives you unprecedented opportunity to increase your customer size at the expense of your competitors.

How to get that done? Well, Google starts by providing the case study of Fiat, a European carmaker. They make a salient example because “being there” wasn’t merely a catchy platitude: they literally exited the U.S. market 28 years ago. Reentering a major market is always a difficult transition, and Fiat succeeded by taking advantage of an aggressive mobile marketing campaign. By using mobile search ads for category keywords with mid-level specificity (think “small car”), they strengthened their brand awareness rapidly, garnering a 127% increase in unaided recall. Also, they coupled their mobile ad strategy with a desktop-specific campaign, whereby users were taken to a customizable car configurator to make use of the extra computing power that mobile users miss out on.

Be Useful

When Google updated its algorithm to become more mobile-friendly in April 2015, quite an uproar ensued. Many brands were unsure of how ‘mobilegeddon’ would affect rankings and how to best adapt to the new search landscape. There were huge changes in terms of how responsiveness, coding structure, and mobile page loading were rewarded and penalized. Much has been written about the nuts-and-bolts solutions to these issues. In terms of the higher-level concepts, changes were also in order. While it’s been years since Google starting placing importance on demonstrating value over black hat techniques like keyword stuffing, the way it judges that value has been dramatically altered.

But Google isn’t the only one getting increasingly adept at determining the usefulness of a given search result in a matter of mere seconds. Your users are, as well. For mobile success, you need to immediately demonstrate that you have the information the user needs in order to complete their desired micro-moment action. Whether it’s need-to-buy (simple, functionally smooth mobile ecommerce), need-to-do (ways to book rooms, reservations, flights, etc.) or need-to-know (making it immediately clear that your content is educational and not promotional), your mobile presence should demonstrate immediately that your brand’s search result is all that separates the user from the desired action.

Be Quick

Reduced attention spans are often presented in a harshly negative light, supposed evidence of society’s devolution into anti-intellectualism and overreliance on technology. That’s simply not the reality. In fact, people are quick to abandon a site these days because they know there’s no reason to waste time on something that isn’t providing what they need. Therefore, micro-moment marketing means you need to be as fast or faster than your competition because your users have no reason to wait for you to catch up.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to eliminate as many steps as possible. While ‘seamless’ is a bit of an overused buzzword, it has become that for a reason. Mobile users are demanding a user experience with as little friction as possible, and if your business’ mobile site doesn’t provide that, it only takes a few seconds to find one that will. Prominently displayed click-to-call buttons are great because they serve as speed safety nets: even if it’s taking a user longer than they would’ve liked to find their information, they know they can always get on the phone with someone with one immediate tap. In a similar vein, GPS-powered driving directions make the path from search result to in-store purchase as seamless as possible.

These types of strategies are keys to micro-moment success because they drastically shorten the gap between the “light bulb” moment when your user realizes what he/she would like to accomplish and the “ah, how satisfying” moment when you’ve provided a solution to them. In a world where mobile search defines how we tackle both our to-do lists and our bucket lists, providing that satisfaction is the only way to keep up.

About The Author

Mike Whitney is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Mainstreethost, a digital marketing agency in Buffalo, NY. Besides writing about marketing, he enjoys old movies, live music, and the Buffalo Bills. Connect with Mike on Twitter.

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