Guide to the Typical Online Customer Journey

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When defining the customer journey, whether online or offline, it is important to realise that there are multiple times when a potential customer comes into contact with a business prior to them making a decision or purchase.

Therefore, it is important for the business to reflect this contact points and ensure that every interaction creates a positive outcome.

Traditionally, there had been considered to be 3 defining moments in the customer journey that impact how a consumer feels about a brand or it’s product/service, which would be fundamental in determining the likelihood that they will complete a purchase and become a frequent user. These moments have been called ‘Moments of Truth.

In previous decades there have been 3 defined moments of truth, as defined by A.G. Lafley ( President and CEO of Procter & Gamble) in his  2005 book. These were:

1. The First Moment of Truth (FMOT) is when the customer is looking at a product. This can be in-store or online.

2. The Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) is when the customer actually purchases the product and uses it.

3. The Third Moment of Truth (TMOT) that he added is when customers provide feedback about the product. They share it with the company as well as their friends, colleagues, family members, etc.

Later, in 2011, Google added an additional moment called the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), which referred broadly to the period when a customer is researching a product or service.

Therefore the full customer journey will look something like the diagram below:


Below is a detailed explanation of each stage, which can be adapted for any product or service:

Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

The zero moment of truth (ZMOT) refers to the point in the buying cycle when the consumer researches a product, often before the seller even knows that they exist. The number of consumers researching a product online prior to purchase has been on the rise in recent years as the internet and mobile continue to advance. In 2016, the average shopper used over 12 sources of information before making a purchase decision, compared to half as many sources in 2010 (Google, 2016).

For example, if a customer was in the process of buying a car, the ZMOT would involve all of their research into what they need for a car, the make and model, as well as which retailer to buy it from. For a car dealer online, they would want to have content that would be visible and relevant to any of the queries that a user may have during this period.

First Moment  of Truth (FMOT)

The FMOT relates to that moment when a potential customer experiences a product on a store shelf (physical or digital in 2016) and makes the decision to buy it instead of the alternatives identified in the ZMOT. In this micro-moment, the brand has the best possible chance of creating an unplanned or impulse purchase and converting a browser into a buyer. Impulse purchases are largely emotionally driven, so this is achieved by appealing to the customer’s senses, values and emotions at the point of sale (POS).

In the modern digital environment, the FMOT is not restricted to viewing products on shelves. It could also occur in a variety of instances, such as:

  • A customer viewing a range of products on a store shelf or in a POS display.
  • A potential diner viewing a restaurant menu in the window.
  • A customer visiting the website of a potential service provider for the first time.
  • A traveller looking for hotel ratings and reviews for a trip away.
  • An office manager comparing prices for a printer toner.

This is where the presales marketing and branding rubber hits the road. In most cases, a user would have been exposed to a stimulus — be that some advertising or even possibly word of mouth — that set up the FMOT.

In the example of a user buying a car, the FMOT would be the experience they have when dealing with the retailer, through communication prior to visiting, their experience in the showroom and test drive and the process of making the purchase. At this stage, the user is narrowing their options and choosing which product or retailer to buy from.

Second Moment of Truth (SMOT)

The second moment of truth is when the customer uses your product. Whether this is eating the meal that sounded so good on the menu (FMOT) or shaving with the shaving foam that promises no skin irritation.

This is where your product or service has to deliver on the promises made by your marketing. Fail at the second moment of truth, and your chances of repeat customers are slim.

This is the post-sale experience of the user journey, so for a car user, it would be the experience they have of actually driving the car and the post-sales support they receive.

Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT)

This is the moment of advocacy. During the sales process. user’s must go from awareness (stimulus) onto a research phase, then onto the various interactions at different touch points, right through to the sale, and ideally, to post-sale recommendation. This is where you transform a customer into a fan and build true brand loyalty.

Generating advocacy requires there to be a process to stimulate any users with positive experiences and get them leave reviews and share positive feelings on your social media channels.

If you have any questions about the customer journey or how it relates to your business or website, please drop me a line at or give us a call at 02890683790.

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