Recognize customer intentions: Use new possibilities of intent marketing

Many marketing experts are currently encountering a relatively new term: intent marketing. With this you can deepen the understanding of your own customers and recognize the intention behind a digital search query faster. Only when companies understand their customers and know their needs can they meet them at the moment of buying. This article shows what exactly is behind intent marketing and how it can deliver individual customer experiences and concrete answers and increase the conversion rate.

Intent marketing reaches users in the context of individual interests

Pop-up banners, direct mail and TV spots: A difficult time is dawning for such classic advertising: customers are increasingly realizing that they can expect specific and correct answers. The credibility of “one-way communication” has already declined in recent years. In intent marketing, a customer is not interrupted by an activity such as reading or watching TV, but is offered exactly what he needs based on his questions and previous actions.

A few years ago, targeting was based on the results of demographic research. Customers were grouped based on factors such as age, ethnicity, gender, or income to determine who might be interested in which products. “Women between the ages of 21 and 45” as the main target group for baby products was a fairly general and inaccurate assumption, but before the Internet age, marketing experts could only use demographic targeting.

A rough idea in “target groups” is inaccurate

Customers cannot be defined solely by age or gender. Marketing experts who rely solely on demographic target groups risk losing more than 70 percent of potential buyers. It is therefore important to determine a customer’s online and offline behavior and thus understand their mindset. Knowing what customers’ intentions will help create a more personalized customer experience, maximize profitability, and increase conversion rates.

The successively changing behavior of customers online plays into the hands of marketing professionals: more and more people are not searching online with a single keyword, but typing a series of words or entire sentences or questions into the search field. In particular, when consumers use voice assistants, they ask questions in full sentences. Customers express their true intent, ie their “intent” and thus their intent to inform, act or buy, much more clearly and more often than in earlier times. This change means that intent marketing is becoming increasingly important. Companies should adapt themselves and their marketing strategies to these new developments.

The customer’s previous action provides information about possible intent

Intent marketing means any form of commercial interaction that is based on a customer’s original act – such as an online search, a click on an ad or the downloading of content. In contrast to classic demographic marketing, which makes general assumptions about customers, intent marketing can be used to determine the respective needs of customers based on their actions. The aim is to understand each customer’s original motivation and to orientate themselves towards his or her intention. In other words, you should offer customers exactly what they want or need at a certain point in time.

For example, according to a study by “Think With Google”, 40 percent of buyers of baby items live in households without children. If one were to focus only on the target group “women and men with children” in this case, one would miss a considerable part of the potential buyers. However, if you concentrate on the actions of customers and their search queries – for example, when they search online for “gifts for babies” and then click on their own website – you will find out who the customers are, what they were looking for and what they were looking for really want. Such a differentiated understanding enables companies to reach new groups of buyers when they are ready to act.

Further development of intent marketing through artificial intelligence

The progress in the AI-based search function has given intent marketing a special boost. With Natural Language Processing (NLP), a branch of artificial intelligence, computer programs can “listen”, that is, process human language, and also give answers in our language.

Of particular interest: this development is self-reinforcing! Because we can interact with search engines more and more “organically”, we are also looking for more. On average, consumers make a search three to four times a day. Since NLP enables search engines to answer complex questions, more is searched for online. In addition, 15 percent of all search queries made every day are new – this corresponds to more than a thousand new queries per day. These can all be used to improve the user experience through correct answers to the respective search query and thus to do justice to the intention.

New opportunities for marketing

These developments open up undreamt-of possibilities for marketing managers. After all, customers are looking for company products or services online more than ever. They ask dialog-oriented questions that span several words. Such questions from consumers are easier to convert into customer interactions because they reflect the intent to act to a high degree. Long questions from customers indicate a precise search intent and consequently a high willingness to buy.

In fact, the longer the request, the higher the likelihood that a customer will click on the company’s website. According to an internal Yext analysis, long search queries consisting of more than six words lead to a click 55 percent more often than queries with only one word (Yext data from 2019).

This is because a customer looking for a keyword like “insurance,” for example, can have a variety of intentions. For example, he might want to find out how insurance is structured or which insurance agents are nearby. However, a search query such as “How do I find good insurance in Cologne?” Signals that the customer is already much deeper in the purchase process or “Purchase Funnel”. This person is more likely to be ready for a certain action – namely to want to take out new insurance in the Cologne area with an insurer.

When keywords fail alone

A customer who is looking for “tips on renovating my bathroom” on Google, for example, may be just beginning his research, but is signaling the intent to want to renovate his bathroom. A brand like Hornbach should not be missed. Hornbach, however, would not be able to serve this customer’s customer journey if only keywords such as “Hornbach” or “do-it-yourself” were taken into account throughout the entire purchase process instead of intent-based, dialog-oriented search queries.

The customer journey no longer begins today in a retail store. It starts with a question and is not linear. That is why intent marketing redefines the marketing funnel. Thanks to Natural Language Processing technology, the search experience is better than ever, which is also reflected in a significantly higher search volume. As a result, people are increasingly expressing their intent.

If you imagine the motivated customers behind such requests, it quickly becomes clear why intent or search queries account for around 62 percent of the total web interaction (estimates made using web traffic data from and yext listings data ). Responses to longer, intent-based inquiries are 37 percent more likely to click (Yext data from 2019). For brands that pick up customers exactly when they make the search query, this means a higher return on their investment.

Customers signal their intent more frequently and increasing in detail. It is the job of marketing professionals to pick up customers at key moments – both on their website and when searching on third-party platforms such as Google Maps.

What should be done specifically

If you want to determine customer intentions, the first step should be to analyze customer behavior over a certain period of time and then determine trends. This includes recurring search queries or interaction-promoting website content that leads to a conversion – such as a purchase, an appointment, a newsletter registration or a job application. Marketing employees can then target potential customers who carry out these actions. In this way, customer intentions can be determined on the basis of search data trends and your own marketing can gradually be made more effective.

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