Digital Next Practices: Micro-moment Marketing

Sarah Steimer
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What: Micro-moments provide an opportunity to access potential customers nearly 24/7.

So what: Knowing what consumers are looking for, before they search, makes companies more accessible.

Now what: Marketers should anticipate when they're needed, be relevant to consumers, move quickly and make experiences special.

​Sept. 28, 2016

By using micro-moment marketing, brands can move the customer’s journey forward and deepen their relationship with users

Mobile device users bring their phones nearly everywhere they go, meaning brands have an opportunity to reach them anytime, anywhere. 

Marketers can address these users’ needs in real time and with relevance. This so-called micro-moment marketing can be wielded in a nearly unlimited amount of ways, anytime a consumer reaches for their device.

Google’s content marketing team, Think with Google, published a report on micro-moments, defining them as “critical touch points within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends.”

Users interact with their phones about 150 times per day, according to a 2013 Internet Trends Report. Google internal data shows that in many countries—including the U.S.—more searches occur on mobile devices than on computers.

Chart courtesy of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers

“While opening our phone sometimes is just to kill boredom [by] browsing Facebook, a majority of these [moments] can be summarized into a few categories: I want to do something, buy something, go somewhere or know something,” says marketing consultant Scott Poniewaz, director of business development at marketing agency Hawke Media. “These are essentially moments that sit at the crossroads of content, immediacy and intent.”

According to the Think with Google report, these encounters are a chance for marketers to engage with consumers: 82% of smartphone users say they consult their devices on purchases they are about to make in-store, and 91% of users seek out their phones for ideas when working on a task.

Jonathan Lacoste, president and cofounder of Jebbit, which provides a digital marketing platform that creates micro-content, says examples of this need for immediacy can be found on most smartphones: Uber (read: I want a ride now!), Spotify (read: I want to listen to this song now!) or Seamless (read: I’m hungry now!).

Four Key Micro-moments

16. Google Consumer Surveys, U.S., May 2015, n=1,243.

17. Google Trends, U.S., March 2015 vs March 2014.

18. Google Data, U.S., Q1 2015, Q1 2014.

19. Consumers in the Micro-Moment, Google/Ipsos, U.S., March 2015, n=5,398, based on

internet users.

Source: Micro-Moments: "Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile"

“You can get all of these services in a fleeting moment,” he says. “That has shaped how consumers make decisions about anything.”

Consumers are spending plenty of time on their phones, but these can be fleeting moments. Time spent on websites by mobile users fell by 18% per visit in 2015 in the U.S., according to the Google report. Marketers can still take advantage of those precious moments if they know whom to target, when and with what information.

Anticipate Micro-moments

Think with Google’s report says smartphone users are not absolutely certain of the specific brand they want to purchase when they begin searching online, and 51% of mobile users have discovered a new company or product when performing a search on their devices. To take advantage of this uncertainty, brands must show up.

“People often use smartphones while they are on the go or trying to multitask,” Poniewaz says. “Their goal typically is to find a solution quickly and easily. When you spend time understanding your customers this way, marketing opportunities increase exponentially.”

One of the examples provided in the Google report was Red Roof Inn. The hotel company’s marketing team developed a way to track flight delays and cancellations in real time, which would trigger targeted search ads for the hotel located near airports. The effort led to a 60% boost in bookings across non-branded search campaigns.

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Think with Google also provides four key times for when brands should be prepared and available for consumers that it says represent the full range of user needs: I-want-to-know moments, I-want-to-go moments, I-want-to-do moments and I-want-to-buy moments.

Poniewaz provided another theoretical example for being prepared for a potential customer: Consider a business traveler who might immediately search for her go-to coffee shop, Starbucks, upon arrival at a hotel. This person could be targeted with a hyperlocal ad for a different coffee shop near the hotel. When brands are ready and waiting, it can help to move a consumer along in the decision-making journey.

Be Relevant

Those fleeting micro-moments, although a great opportunity to engage consumers, can be just as easily lost if the company or brand isn’t providing useful content.

“You have to know your audience,” says Lacoste. “Knowing your audience will help inform you of what their intentions are in these micro-moments and what you should be focused on in terms of communication.”

Consumers do a lot of self-educating, preferring to seek the answer to their question themselves rather than reaching out to a customer support team. As Lacoste puts it, “The last thing [most people] want to do is pick up the phone and talk to someone else, reach out to customer support or do one of those chat boxes.” Anticipating these questions can help brands engage their customers, avoiding potentially losing their attention as they hunt for solutions.

Lacoste points to the campaign for the Mazda CX-9. Rather than placing all of the vehicle’s information on one web page and allowing a visitor to the site to wander and do research on their own, Lacoste says Mazda is employing micro-moments to make the experience on the web more direct.

“They’ve taken that conversation you have at a car dealership lot with a salesperson … and they’ve transformed that into micro-content on their website so that you’re only shown what’s most relevant to you and what you’re looking for as you engage,” he says. “Everyone who goes to the site has a unique and different experience.”

Lacoste says consumers should be able to engage with a brand in such a way that they’re only shown the bits and pieces of information that are most relevant to them, rather than “being thrown the kitchen sink and left to wander on their own.”

Be Fast

Mobile users expect speed. According to the Google report, 29% of smartphone users will promptly switch to another site or app if it fails to satisfy their needs. Of those who switch, 70% do so because it takes too long to load, and 67% switch because it takes too many steps to purchase or gain the desired information.

“For most brands, being micro-moment-ready begins with the fundamentals … asking yourself if your site is optimized to not only be responsive but also has many of the nuances that are mobile-ready,” Poniewaz says. “[If not met,] these basics will kill a mobile experience when speed and ease-of-use matter so much.”

Poniewaz says the Domino’s Pizza app is a great example of speed and ease-of-use. He says the app has streamlined pizza ordering to just a few clicks. For smaller businesses, he suggests enabling a one-click phone call option or website access on mobile devices to start capitalizing on micro-moments.

Lacoste reiterates the need for immediacy, noting how many consumers ave grown up in a time where decisions can be made on the fly, and the world’s information is at consumers’ fingertips.

“We live in a visually connected world where all the information is out there—we just want to find it quickly and understand why it’s relevant to us and make decisions based off of that,” Lacoste says.

Make It Special

As Lacoste explains it, micro-moments provide an opportunity for value-based exchanges in an era of fleeting attention spans as consumers bounce between various digital touch-points. He says brands cannot only ask of the consumer in these brief interactions, they have to be providing value, even if it’s not monetary.

“Think about each touch point you have with your consumer,” he says. “If you focused on it through the lens that someone’s probably only going to spend 10 to 15 seconds on whatever content or information you’re putting in front of them, how can you create that moment and wrap it around some value?”

He says brands can provide opportunities to those who spend time learning about a product or service, such as unlocking a discount so the interaction feels more remarkable or notable.

“People like feeling special and emotionally connected,” Lacoste says. “Can you give people content of value that’s specifically aimed toward their needs and challenges and desires, that’s specific to them, as opposed to just listing them all out?”

If marketers learn how to harness these powerful—albeit brief—moments with consumers, Poniewaz says the marketing opportunities can increase exponentially. “Micro-moments can be a gold mine and, when understood correctly, I believe they can truly help shorten the funnel for marketers,” he says. 

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Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
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