NEW YORK: A study featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Advertising Research adds a new digital dimension to the most critical juncture on the consumer path to purchase: the "moment of truth".

In Consumer Moments of Truth in the Digital Context: How 'Search' and 'e-Word of Mouth' Can Fuel Consumer Decision Making, Gillian Moran and Laurent Muzellec (University College Dublin/Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School) and Eoghan Nolan ( offer a new take on the classic "moment of truth" (MOT).

This concept has famously been espoused by the likes of Procter & Gamble, the FMCG giant, and – in revised form – by Google, the search-to-mobile giant, which focused on the Zero Moment of Truth.

As digital technology has empowered shoppers with more information delivered more often, the path to purchase has become both richer and more complicated, according to Moran, Muzellec and Nolan."Digital consumers' purchasing behaviors have outgrown traditional purchase decision-making models," they write.

More specifically, shoppers no longer have to rely on official brand messages in a world where social media and user-generated reviews give them access to a raft of searchable information.

"The true leverage that brands should be capitalising on is the MOT created by customers – including searchable e-WOM recommendations," the study says.

"These shared expressions offer continuous leverage possibilities within the cycle of peer-to-peer influence."

As digital channels have complicated the voyage to making purchases, they have simultaneously provided tools for better understanding customer behavior.

But for Moran, Muzellec, and Nolan, these new tools mean that old tools can work harder and smarter, too. Word-of-mouth recommendations, in particular, add a powerful new interactive variable.

"Brand managers, regularly frustrated with the lacklustre ROI results of social media-marketing strategies, need to shift focus away from simply counting metrics such as 'Likes' and '+1s' and, instead, focus on driving e-WOM activities that increase direct, customer- brand engagement," they suggest.

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research