The average ecommerce customer journey is made up of dozens, if not hundreds, of touchpoints.

From the time a customer first learns about your store, right up until the moment they make a purchase and beyond, they click on ads, product pages, reviews, images, third-party review sites, and more. Each interaction represents a choice.

But only a handful of these interactions and decisions signify a transition from one stage of the customer journey to the next – from a prospect to a first-time purchaser, a first-time purchaser to a loyal customer, and a loyal customer to an evangelist.

These are called “moments of truth”.

As a retailer, it’s essential to understand when these moments of truth occur and how to influence them.

In this post, we’re going to show you exactly how to “optimize” moments of truth. We’ll cover key terms, describe each type of moment of truth in detail, and provide some practical tips to encourage more customers to make a positive decision.

What will you find in this article?

What Is the Customer Journey in Ecommerce?
What Are Moments of Truth in Ecommerce?
Why Are Moments of Truth Important?
Moments of Truth in the Customer Journey: 5 Key Stages
How to Optimize Moments of Truth: 7 Tips

Sounds good? Let’s dig in.

What Is the Customer Journey in Ecommerce?

To fully understand the customer journey from an ecommerce perspective, there are three terms you need to be familiar with.

The phrase “customer journey” refers to the sum-total of all experiences that a customer has over the course of their relationship with your store.

Customer journey in ecommerce
A typical customer journey includes multiple touchpoints. (Source)
The average customer journey is a conceptual outline of what this typically looks like.

A customer journey map is a visualization of every possible form that a customer journey might take.

Different customers will have different customer journeys, but certain experiences will be common to all, such as visiting a product page. “Moments of Truth” land in this “common to all” category.

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What Are Moments of Truth in Ecommerce?

“Moments of Truth” are key decisions that customers make during their customer journey, signifying a transition from one overall stage to the next, such as from a visitor to a customer.
Moments of truth in ecommerce
Most retailers agree that there are at least four moments of truth. (Source)
The term was coined by A.G. Lafley, the CEO of Procter and Gamble, to describe the moments when a customer forms a long-lasting impression about a product. This impression usually leads to some kind of decision, whether to purchase, leave a review, return the item, make more purchases from the store, etc.

The concept of “moments of truth” has proven useful in a range of business contexts, and many marketers have developed the initial idea. A “new” moment of truth was identified by Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar, to describe the impression a customer forms between purchasing a product online and receiving it.

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    Why Are Moments of Truth Important?

    Here’s a quick rundown of the reasons that moments of truth are important for ecommerce retailers:

    • They represent key turning points on the customer journey – Because moments of truth are focal points on the customer journey, understanding them allows you to empathize more fully with buyers. Pinpointing the most promising areas for optimization also enables you to direct resources effectively.
    • Influencing them positively can dramatically boost sales – The decisions that customers make as a result of moments of truth usually impact sales directly. This means that positively influencing moments of truth will invariably boost your revenue.
    • They are well-accepted concepts by marketers – They accurately describe the customer experience and, as such, are useful tools for brainstorming and developing marketing strategies.

    Ok, so let’s take a look at some specific examples of moments of truth in the online customer journey.

    Why are moments of truth important? - They represent key turning points on the customer journey - Influencing them positively can dramatically boost sales - They are well-accepted concepts by marketers Click To Tweet

    Moments of Truth in the Customer Journey: 5 Key Stages

    There are, generally speaking, four key moments of truth in ecommerce. At Growcode we also like to add a fifth to account for the gap between when a customer purchases a product and when they receive it.

    Here’s a quick rundown:

    • Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT): When a user experiences a need and begins to search for a product (or starts to compare options), they experience the “Zero Moment of Truth”. This term was coined by Google to describe the initial research phase before a customer commits to making a purchase.
    • First Moment of Truth (FMOT): The first moment of truth occurs when a user lands on your site and forms an initial impression. Visitors are essentially asking the question, “Should I stay or should I leave?” Creating a professional site with an on-point look-and-feel and clearly communicating your value proposition are essential for influencing visitors at this stage.

    General definitions and steps of moments of truth
    Marketers and retailers generally agree on the general definitions of moments of truth. (Source)

    • Second Moment of Truth (SMOT): The SMOT is generally split into two stages. First, a user makes a purchase and becomes a customer. Second, they experience ad sample the product. In essence, the experience of the product leads the user to become either a satisfied first-time customer or a dissatisfied one.
    • Third Moment of Truth (TMOT): At Growcode, we like to add a third stage. This moment of truth occurs when customers ask, “Am I happy with the level of customer service?” It relates to delivery, support, email updates, etc. Customer service is an essential aspect of online shopping. Importantly, a large part of customers’ impressions are based on what happens in the intervening time between purchase and arrival.
    • Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT): This occurs when a customer decides to re-engage with your store (or not). They are now a repeat customer. The “ultimate moment of truth” happens when a customer has received and sampled the product, formed an opinion about your customer service, and decided on whether or not your store can meet any further needs.

    How to Optimize Moments of Truth: 7 Tips

    With the theoretical dimension out of the way, let’s take a look at some practical ways you can positively influence moments of truth on your customer journey.

    Here’s a rundown of seven essential tips:

    1. Pinpoint the Main Areas of Your Customer Journey Where Customers are Making “Moment of Truth” Decisions

    If you’re going to influence moments of truth, you need to know when they’re occurring.

    Identify the specific points on your customer journey where moment of truth impressions and decisions are most likely to happen.

    For most retailers, a handful of key stages should stand out:

    • First visit to a product page – The majority of first-time retail traffic will come through product pages. Are your product pages professional, and are you clearly communicating your value proposition?
    • After adding a product to the cart – When a potential customer adds a product to their cart, they have expressed a willingness, but not necessarily a definite commitment, to buy. Their experience after this point is critical.
    • Arrival of the product – How can you streamline customers’ first experiences of products? Is packaging appealing and environmentally-friendly, for example? Do you add supplementary information such as a helpline number? Do you include any offers or vouchers to say “thank you” for making a purchase?
    • Follow-up communication – Customers often need encouragement to make repeat purchases. How do you influence this process with offers, discounts, and follow-up product support?

    Clearly include moment of truth markers on your customer journey map. This will give you a visual, tangible indicator of the areas you need to focus on.

    2. Communicate Your Value Proposition Across Your Site

    Your value proposition is the unique mix of features and benefits through which you provide value to your customers. It is the main reason that customers opt for you over your competitors.

    Amazon’s value proposition, for example, consists of fast delivery, a diverse selection of products, and a premium loyalty program (Amazon Prime). Etsy’s value proposition is made up of unique, hand-made products, free shipping, and a personal shopping experience

    It’s essential that customers are exposed to your value proposition when forming a first-time impression of your store.

    It's essential that customers are exposed to your value proposition when forming a first-time impression of your store. Click To Tweet

    Showcase it prominently across your site, including in your header, sidebar, and on product and category pages.

    3. Personalize the User Experience

    Ecommerce personalization, which leads to happier, more satisfied customers, can be used right across your customer journey, including those stages that involve moments of truth.

    Customers that receive tailored product suggestions after making an initial purchase are much more likely to become repeat buyers, for example. And personalized support provided after a customer receives an item will contribute to a positive post-purchase experience.

    Customers that receive tailored product suggestions after making an initial purchase are much more likely to become repeat buyers. Click To Tweet

    Ask the question, “For each moment of truth on the customer journey, is there any way I can personalize the experience?”

    4. Update Customers About Delivery

    Keeping customers updated about delivery is a vital part of positively influencing the “second moment of truth”. In one study, 66% of buyers said they opted for an online store over competitors because of better delivery options.

    Customers like to know what’s happening with their items. Sending delivery updates via email and app notifications will ensure that they form a positive impression during the period between order and arrival.

    But there’s one important point to keep in mind: don’t overdo it.

    Customers don’t want to be bombarded with emails. Just one or two emails (one when the item has been dispatched and one when it’s out for arrival) are all that’s needed.

    Include a link to a more detailed tracking page should users want more in-depth updates.

    5. Build Loyalty with Incentives and Offers

    The moment a customer turns into a repeat customer is usually dictated by the impression they form after they receive their item.

    If you can show customers they will be valued members of your audience, receive rewards for shopping with you, and that you will provide superior offers, holiday deals, and customer service, they are likely to return to your store.

    Sending offers, discounts, promotions, and other incentives to customers is one way of achieving this. Consider offering a financial reward, such as a gift voucher, for a high-ticket purchase.

    This strategy also works well for turning repeat customers into evangelists.

    6. Track the Right Metrics

    Moments of truth usually correspond with key metrics on the buyer journey. By tracking the right metrics, you’ll ensure that any changes are influencing moments of truth in the ways you desire.

    Use the following metrics to track your progress:

    • Bounce rate – If buyers are leaving your site in droves, you’re probably not making a positive first impression.
    • Customer satisfaction – This is a useful metric because it charts satisfaction at all stages of the customer journey. If your customer satisfaction improves as a result of changes geared towards moments of truth, it is likely a good sign.
    • Customer retention rate – This metric tracks how customers are making second purchases and beyond.

    Metrics are a crucial part of any optimization strategy because they are essential for testing, which leads nicely onto the next point.

    7. Test, Test, and Test Some More

    This point almost goes without saying. Testing should be an absolutely essential part of your strategy for influencing moments of truth.

    There’s no exact formula for “optimizing” moments of truth. Instead, you need to find the mix that works for your store.

    What’s more, a testing-based approach will allow you to continuously drive results. With a commitment to testing, you can incrementally make changes going forward, leading to exceptional user experience in the long-term.


    Efforts to positively influence moments of truth should be part of your broader customer journey optimization strategy.

    That said, moments of truth present a significant opportunity to boost sales and revenue, over and above any other part of the customer journey. Because of this, you should prioritize optimization of moments of truth above most other aspects of customer experience.

    If you get the moments of truth right, pretty much everything else will follow.

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