How often has someone shown you a printout from a competing jeweler's website and asked you to price match that same item?
Here's another example: Has anyone ever walked into your store specifically asking for a 0.80ct round diamond at a price under $4,100 that has a very good cut, with E color, and a VVS2 clarity?
Jewelry shoppers have the power of the internet at their fingertips, and they now heavily research every purchase they make. In fact, studies from Google and Shopper Sciences show that big ticket items, like cars and technology, are researched just as much as items you would buy in a grocery store. The only difference is the amount of time between research first starts compared to the actual purchase.
The Shopper Sciences study conducted in April 2011 showed that people purchasing high priced technology items will start their online learning as much as a year before the purchase. Those looking to buy a new car will start their online learning about 4 months before the purchase. And most of the people looking for information about their groceries are looking up information within 24 hours of their shopping.
All this research was conducted in order to figure out how important internet searching and learning is to the shopping process once someone sees their first product advertisement. That moment in time when someone starts searching online to find out more about an ad they saw is called the "Zero Moment of Truth," or ZMOT for short.
The results of the study seem to show that shoppers will spend a lot more time learning about larger ticket items than they will about very low ticket items.
Let me get back to that example above with the VG, E, VVS2 diamond... that's a perfect example of ZMOT at work. That customer knew that they could find a specific size diamond at a specific price, but wanted to get it from you first before buying it online. Since the internet makes it look like all diamonds are created equal, they simply assumed they could get a diamond at that price in your store.
According to Google's ZMOT research they show that customers are following a particular search pattern for every product they are interested in buying. This is the pattern:
1. General Educational Search
At this first stage the shopper is searching for general educational information about the product. The shopper doesn't know it yet, but the search results will include information on the 4C's of diamonds. Any local jeweler with 4C's educational pages on their website will probably appear in the search results. Google will attempt to determine the geographic location of the shopper and return geographically local results.
During this initial search and learning phase this shopper will find several references to buying a "loose diamond" online. This purchase method might be of interest to them, but they still have to determine if they will pay more than $4000 without first seeing what they will purchase. This will lead them to the second step in the pattern...
2. Reading the Experience of Previous Buyers
If someone was buying food, a car, or a computer, the shopper would be more interested in reading product reviews and taste test results; but with jewelry it's hard to write a review about the jewelry itself. The shopper is more likely to find online reviews about the e-tailer or the local jeweler.
This is where your online reviews come into play. How many online reviews do you have? How easy are they to find? Shoppers will be able to find your reviews more easily if they are posted in Google+, Bizrate, Yelp, and dozens of other review websites.
The shopper that is engaging in ZMOT activities will probably not consider your jewelry store unless you have a review. Once the shopper does find a jewelry store they are interested in visiting, they will then move on to the third step in the pattern...
3. Look for Discounts or Offers
In 2012 JCPenny learned the hard way that consumers are always looking to shop items that are on sale. JCPenny attempted to restructure their sales model by offering stepped pricing that showed the best possible price for a product. The idea was to not over-price items just so you could then have a discounted sale. The strategy backfired and at the time of this writing in March 2013 there are early reports that JCPenny might not be able to recover from their 2012 losses.
The point is that people are always looking for sales, discounts, and special promotions. They will search for words like "discount," "sale," and "best price" when looking for anything online. Admittedly, you probably won't be offering any sales on your diamonds, but having those phrases on your website is important for this stage of the ZMOT.
Prepping your website for this type of search means you should be including any current promotions on your home page, or in a blog post. The blog posts will be especially important since they would represent content with a long life, rather than just temporary changes to your home page.
The bottom line of today's Daily Golden Nugget is that the psychology of the Zero Moment of Truth is not something you can specifically plan for. It's the quality of your entire online presence that will play an important role in attracting new customers during their ZMOT.