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The New Moment of Truth: How Reviews Are Changing Behavior

If it’s Amazon’s world now, the digital review is officially the consumer’s first blush with a brand. Design Director Eric Sillies explores the implications.

I remember the first time I heard someone use FMOT in a sentence. It is possible that you have the same reaction reading that sentence that I did when I first heard the term—wondering what this four-letter acronym could possibly mean? However, those immersed in the world of branding know the phrase quite well. But just so we are all on the same page, a quick history lesson.

A Quick History Lesson

The term first moment of truth (FMOT), originally coined in 2005 by former P&G Chairman, President and CEO A.G. Lafley, refers to the instance when you first interact with a product or brand, and historically, these first precious seconds most often happened on a store shelf.

But the moments of truth don’t stop there. P&G also popularized the second moment of truth (SMOT)—the moment a customer engages with and uses the product—as well as the third moment of truth (TMOT), when a customer shares their experience with others via word of mouth. Eventually Google got in on the game by defining the zero moment of truth (ZMOT) as the moment when you recognize a need, see an ad or begin researching a topic online.

The various moments of truth have dominated creative briefings, brand meetings and strategy documents over the last decade. Despite that, there might be another moment of truth that needs to be addressed, or at least an old moment of truth taking on a new form, the form of a star. Five stars actually.

The New Normal

Five-star ratings are nothing new, but thanks to Amazon, they have changed. Previously, finding trusted reviews required things like subscriptions to Consumer Reports, reading a favorite critic or columnist, spending time in forums and talking to trusted friends or industry professionals. It used to require a bit of investigative work to find and be influenced by a review. Reviews were hardly a first moment of truth, but that is changing. Reviews are significantly impacting consumer behavior every single day.

How significantly may depend on who you ask. USA Today reports an estimated 20 percent of online transactions are directly impacted by the number of reviews and ratings a product has. However, that may be too conservative of an estimate. The Pew Research Center found that nearly half of American consumers reported that reviews help make them feel confident about their purchase, and 82 percent will consult online reviews when buying something for the first time.

This may not come as a huge surprise. However, it isn’t the fact that Amazon reviews impact consumer behavior, but how they impact consumer behavior that I find compelling. The Amazon star rating isn’t buried at the bottom of a webpage, slapped on as a testimonial as your scroll down or buried in the comments section in a blog post. Whether on Amazon or another e-comm platform, the customer review is one of the first things you encounter, front and center right below the product’s name. It is almost impossible to miss, whether you are looking for it or not.

Translation: the first moment of truth is changing. It is no longer simply an aesthetic exercise about combining stunning visuals with captivating claims. When shopping online, front of package graphics are reduced to the size of a thumbnail, and reviews are brought to the forefront of our experience. This means these stars—honest and open-sourced—are the new FMOT.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that these stars don’t just impact the digital world. Imagine walking down store aisles and seeing Amazon star ratings displayed on shelf right next to a price tag. Well, it’s already happening. Nearly 25 percent of shoppers admitted to checking Amazon when standing in the aisle of a store, and 55 percent of customers reported beginning their research on Amazon, regardless of whether their purchase would be made online or in store. In addition, stores are experimenting with digital price tags (like the Kroger Edge), meaning it is possible that these stars could start to show up in brick and mortar retailers the same way they do on Google searches. Bottom line: it is becoming clear that no matter where you shop, avoiding these stars is more difficult than we think.

So What?

The thing that makes the new FMOT different from the traditional experience is that it is created directly by consumers, not brands. The reality of this new moment of truth is that it isn’t a moment at all; it exists far beyond the first few seconds and can be inspired by any point in the customer journey.

Interested in outfitting your brand to win the digital review war? Reach out to me at eric.sillies@lpk.com or on Twitter at @ESillies.

Eric Sillies is a design director at LPK, where he brings strategic and design horsepower to product experiences and innovation pipelines for brands of all kinds. He’s a serial side-hustler, spending his free time dreaming up new product and business concepts to pitch. To talk blue-sky ideas and better brand experiences, reach out to him at eric.sillies@lpk.com.

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