A term first coined by Google, which expresses 4 ‘game changing moments that really matter’. They are:

Micro moments. Source: think with Google

For Google and other organizations, these 4 moments are key in the shopping journey. Understanding them and anticipating them, will result in better mobile conversions (up to 29% more) and overall more brand engagement (being ‘more relevant’ for your customer).

(Side-note: Previously, a well-known marketing model (that still does apply) is the AIDA model, which was based on Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. However, in today’s day and age in which people are connected 24/7 and expect ubiquitous information at any point in time, the Micro-moments model seems a bit more ‘concrete’ than the AIDA one.)

The four moments are defined in a pretty straightforward way, so I won’t go into detail about them – please read here for more information (on Google’s own knowledge platform). However, let’s see how they relate to the (physical) shopping journey and how you can capitalize on these micro-moments.

Convergence of digital & physical

Did you know that 90% of people checks their mobile phone while in-store, before making a brick-and-mortar purchase? The three top tasks are:

  1. Price comparison
  2. Looking up product information and
  3. Checking reviews online

Notice how these actions are mostly centered around the micro-moment: ‘I want to know‘, allowing people to pull up info instantly about a potential purchase they’re going to make. This underlines the notion that digital and physical are converging, as people find the easiest and best way (for them) to make informed buying decisions. Micro-moments happen anytime, anywhere and can be part of a ‘physical buying journey’ just as much as a fully digital one.

You can imagine, as a business, that it’s of crucial importance that you are top of mind and relevant for a customer in the moment he consults his phone in one of these micro-moments. If I’m checking reviews of two sound systems, I’d be happy to find out there is a better, more recommended product that fits my needs. That’s why Google argues you have to be quick, be there and be present if you want to increase inversion. Technology can help in achieving this, for example by using beacons in-store (also called: proximity marketing), chatbots and voice interfaces. As such, tech reinforces those micro-moments.

That is also the reason why messaging platforms offer a great potential: instead of leaving your browser or app, you can stay in the platform and practically do anything you want, all from one place. Something that is already happening in China:

Difference between ‘normal’ app and browser usage (left) versus offering services on messaging apps (right)

How do you design for micro-moments?

Whilst keeping mind how technology can play a role in living up to a better experience, first you need to understand your customer’s journey, needs per phase and how they can be met by applying design principles.

Design for micro-moments – generic process

As depicted in the image above, let’s look at the generic steps you can apply (mind you: there are other ways to do this):

  1. Understand top tasks per journey phase
    What do they want to know, do or where do they want to go to? Why? What drives them? Use qualitative research techniques to find this out. By understanding the intrinsic needs of your customer, you can design for them, not for yourself. For example, if we know that 77% of people pays more for a service that is personalized, it’s easy to see that statements like: “Understand and know my needs when I’m buying a kitchen” or: “provide me with a tailored advice for buying a new sweater” could be logical outcomes of your research. Use this knowledge to get a feeling of how people would like to use their micro-moments.
  2. Design experience and apply design principles
    Once you know what the desired journey is, apply design principles to each phase of the journey and appropriate channels. For example, for mobile usage only, Design Principles could be: fast, real-time and contextual (much in line with Google’s paradigm of ‘be quick, present and useful’).When you define design principles, brand is an important factor to take along:

  3. Yes. Customer insights are important. And yes: they should be leading in defining our design principles. However, ensure to understand your brand and how the to-be journey will come to strengthen it. What are important (brand) values and drivers for you? Speed? Authenticity? Transparency? Security? Think about what fits your DNA before you lay down your principles. Good design principles are the culmination of user insights and brand values.

    A good example of this, is a simple one: Uber’s integration in Google maps is a perfect example of how you get information when it’s most needed: “I’m going to Google maps to find a place and it’s very likely I will need transport to get there”, hence Uber’s plugin into Google Maps:

    Uber and Lyft integration in Google maps

    However, for other channels such as face to face communication or desktop/laptop experiences, you might decide to offer more in-depth information, focusing on things like video tutorials and reviews, related product categories, or partner offerings. By defining top-tasks per channel, you get better idea of what people want and need to do per phase of the journey. This helps you setting scope for developing your MVP or initial offering.

    For example, see how Fitbit’s ecosystem shows a richer, fuller experience on the laptop than it does on the app – showing prioritized tasks per channel:

    Fitbit dashboard experience mobile (left) and desktop (right)


  4. Orchestrate touchpoints in overall experience
    Then, when you know which functionalities are relevant per journey-phase, it’s time to ‘glue it all together’ and ensure that these touchpoints are orchestrated. For example, view this movie:

    See how the mobile phone first acts as primary channel (playing around with financial scenarios), but after connecting it to the TV it’s nothing more than a controller for the TV and becomes the secondary channel, facilitating the face-to-face financial discussion between family members (which was the goal of this particular concept).

Design for micro-moments

Micro-moments form an interesting conceptual model because they are concrete, understandable and together, nicely build up their way to the final buying decision. Although Google puts an emphasis on applying micro-moments to mobile design (only), keep in mind that it’s important orchestrate all of your touchpoints so that they fit the needs of your customer in the best way possible – not just for mobile.

By 1) understanding the future journey, 2) applying Design principles to each of the journey phases and 3) making sure those phases are connected we can provide a personalized, rich (shopping) experience that will drive engagement and conversion.