Marketing to the search-it-all consumer

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The recent report of Google states more than 100% growth for “best” search queries and even for smallest household items like a toothbrush or umbrella. While mobile searches for “best toothbrush” have grown more than 100%, for “best umbrellas” it has gone up by 140%. Wow, some search trivia this is, isn’t it :-)?

But why am I not surprised at these details? Isn’t it the norm now to hit the search button as soon as the word “buy” come to our mind? Be it the regular hygiene items or luxury holiday plans; we just cannot make a decision without searching for “best…..”.

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Just yesterday, while picking up my son, I heard some mommies discussing steel lunch boxes over plastic ones, and one of the mommies immediately hit the search query for “best kids steel lunch box India.” Now, as someone who grew up in middle-class India, steel lunch boxes were very common during our childhood. In fact, if my memory supports me well, plain steel boxes were the only choices available to us as against the plethora of vibrant, colorful options accessible today. Assuming a steel box would be a steel box, I was a bit confused on this search for “best steel lunch box,” even though I am in that habit of searching for anything and everything before buying. But how wrong I was in my assumption! When I tried this search term later at home, I was amazed at the information available online – from listicles on “top 10 steel lunch box brands” to features comparison on Quora, the first page itself had tonnes of information on selecting the “best” “steel lunch box” for your child with details of features that you never thought could have mattered to you unless you read about them!

We, the consumers are informed and powerful like never before, aren’t we?

But where does this leave the job of marketers now? It’s getting tougher & interesting day by day. We know a lot more about our consumers, yet it’s difficult like never before to market your product. Forget about marketing your product; it’s actually a challenge in itself to get noticed by your consumers.

There are many changes that have happened drastically in the last five years, but the things that have changed completely for me ever since mobiles became pervasive would be the following:

  • Push is actually gone, it’s primarily about advising now. You really cannot push a product, even the pull created through glittery advertisement or seeded influencers have their charm up to a certain limit only. Whatever you speak about your brand, your connected consumer will do their own research.  It’s better to try being the adviser for the problems that your consumer is searching for. And in this age of hyper personalization, one-size-fits-all advice won’t work too. Invest time in understanding and analyzing your consumers and be prepared with the personalized advisory approach.
  • Zero moment of truth is no more just another jargon; it matters like never before. When this term got coined by Google a few years back, my immediate reaction was – ah, yet another fancy lingo for the same old marketing concept that will be in trend for few years before something else comes up. But I can’t stress the importance of ZMOT now, Zero moment of truth is a reality and that too a very competitive one. Being there, with the right message, at the time when they have just started to think about exploring your product is critical. What does this mean to a normal marketer? Understand at what point the stimulus begins and the exploratory search starts, be there not only at that point but also at the peripheral points – the peripheries could be the search of a similar category or even industry competitors.
  • Authentic word of mouth is important, the operative word being “authentic”.  Your well-researched consumers would like to listen to feedback and reviews about your products, and they very well know to distinguish between genuine and the seeded content. While seeding definitely helps in increasing the awareness and getting noticed but for the final purchase decision, positive WOM is imperative now. Word of mouth has always been important, but historically the front end sales team also used to have lots of power for convincing and recommending. Today with most of the purchases happening via screens, recommendations from friends and family act as strong stimuli during purchase consideration. Make the process of feedback & reviews by customers as seamless as your purchase process.

There are many other trends that have changed, but for me personally, I have experienced huge changes in these three. On one hand, I see push almost dying (in fact I think an informed consumer actually hates the “push”) and on the other, I see the personalized content being present at the zero moment of truth helping remarkably.

What is that one or two things in your marketing strategy that has changed completely now? Would love to hear your views in the comment section below.