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After being inspired by some recent talks on zero moments of truth, I returned to the future choices survey with some fresh eyes. I revisited the most frequent information sources used by students, particularly the digital information sources.

The term "Zero Moment of Truth" was coined by Google in 2011 detailing the revolution in consumer behaviour for on-line search and purchase. This was an update to the classic moments of truth model highlighted by Procter and Gamble.

Here are the four moments of truth for those unfamiliar:

And here is an example of a moments of truth in the customer journey from the retail world. This example shows two moments of truth, ZMOT and Shelf: 

 Image from Retailer Now Magazine http://www.retailernowmag.com/whats-your-stores-zero-moment-of-truth/

Depending on the value of the product to a person, they will spend more or less time from ZMOT to shelf. Perhaps minutes on a cleaning product, weeks on a family car, months or years on a career or education course.

Here are three graphs taken from Future Choices survey looking at three digital information sources used by 16 – 18 year olds. The graphs compare the respondent’s likelihood to use a particular source and highlight the mean average of all groups (blue column) against a group already decided that they want to go to university (orange column). 

 1.      An exercise in the obvious: all ages turn to websites for information. 

The Zero Moment Of Truth exists, young people will go to a website to research options. No surprises there…

2.      Earlier in the journey they look at student reviews

The group who already decided on going to HE (orange) are much more likely to read a student review earlier on in the journey. This broadly follows the moment of truth model. Deciding what to purchase when there is an array of similar products can use up a lot of mental energy and create stress, whittling down the list by only looking at top five or ten results for a particular category or by not researching further into those at the bottom of the list is a strategy many shoppers employ. Why not for education too?

I can see the importance of student reviews growing as a digitally savvy and cynical young audience want to quickly narrow their search and read authentic feedback that is distinct from marketing literature. With universities placing so much emphasis on reputation, I sense fear in the sector that the odd negative review would be detrimental.  However being so use to review culture, only 10% of 18 to 24 years olds are put off by negative reviews compared to 33% of 55 to 64 year olds. (Lightspeed research quoted in e-consultancy, link below). Of course this does depend on the volume and severity of negative reviews!

3.     Later in the journey they seek on-line forums

Those decided on going to university (orange) are more likely to use an on-line forum later in the journey. I liken this to asking the network in the retail example. The student may be very close to decision or have made the decision so chatting to those already there or going through the same process is both comforting and illuminating.

There are two other observations. The blue column represents the average for all respondents. This is made up of young people decided they will go to university, undecided on what to do after school and decided not to go to university. The orange column represents just those who have decided to go to university.

The average group (blue) increases in likelihood to use an information source each year which forms a neat linear trend. This makes sense, if you’re undecided on what to do,  you may well delay spending effort on research until you have clearer picture or have the necessary evidence (like exam grades) to help with the decision.

The HE decided group (orange) does not fit a neat linear trend line, in fact it looks more like a smile with a slight decline in likelihood at age 17. My hunch is there are two major research intense periods for potential university students with specific moments of truth based on early enthusiastic idea forming, a slight cooling off or uncertainty as exams and reality bite, followed by another intensive period of research and excitement closer to the time.

As ever, I’d like to get my mitts on more data to explore further but I thought this worthy of a share for now.

If you’d like to find out more about Zero Moment of Truth there are plenty of articles on Think by Google. The latest one here: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/zmot-why-it-matters-now-more-than-ever.html

Or alternatively, you might want to buy the e-book here:

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/research-studies/2011-winning-zmot-ebook.html

The E-consultancy link including Lightspeed research of impact of reviews on consumer purchasing behaviour is here:  

https://econsultancy.com/blog/9366-ecommerce-consumer-reviews-why-you-need-them-and-how-to-use-them/

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