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What is customer intent and how to use it in your marketing

As times get tough and budgets get tighter, marketers need lean on data insights to identify customer intent and target them at the moment they're ready to convert.

Is customer intent just another buzzword floating around the marketing industry or is it something we should be sitting up and paying attention to? In this article, we’ll be diving into what exactly it is, why it’s important, and how we can use it in our day-to-day marketing.

What is customer intent?

Customer intent is often confused with buyer’s intent – i.e. the thoughts or actions directing customers to make a purchase. In basic terms, that would be the moment a shopper enters a brick-and-mortar store and heads to the jeans aisle. Their intent to buy is clear.

However, in the wide world of marketing, buyer intent doesn’t take into account the wide range of online actions customers can take before converting.

Some actions can be simple, such as an immediate click-through from your homepage to a product page. But with the extensive range of channels customers can interact with you on, there are many actions that, when added together, can express their intent.

Why is customer intent important?

Today’s customers demand fast, friction-free experiences. They want brands to understand what they’re after and help them achieve their goals in real-time.

At the same time, marketers are being asked to do more with less; to make marketing budgets go further.

Identifying moments of customer intent is essential to meet both goals. For marketers, data insights that highlight micro-moments of customer intent provide you with more opportunities to convert customers and drive revenue.

For customers, brands that use customer intent are able to deliver personalized messages at the right time, making them feel valued and driving the into action.

Why is customer intent more powerful than demographics?

Marketers who exclusively rely on demographic information to target customers risk missing more than 70% of potential mobile shoppers.

Demographic information and marketing preferences are great tools to help marketers build a customer profile and understand what they want from you. Unfortunately, they offer little insight into what they’re looking for in the moment.

When customers are looking for something; a product, a solution, or a service, they go to the web. More often than not, they turn to their smartphones. These intent-filled micro-moments are what brands need to be targeting to connect with people.

How do you identify customer intent?

Marketing is no longer as simple as ushering customers down the funnel. The customer journey isn’t linear but cyclical and chaotic. We expect browsers to visit our sites repeatedly and communicate with us on multiple channels before they’re ready to make a decision.

So now we know that we’re looking for intent-filled interactions to signify customer intent, how do we determine what these moments are?

1. Collect actionable data

Demographic and preference data is essential for creating personalized and engaging marketing messages. However, you need to be collecting more than just customer data. Action such as category page views, product page views, registrations, on-site searches, and landing page clicks should all be measured.

These can help you identify patterns in customer behavior before they convert such as how many times they visit a page before the point of conversion. You will then be able to target specific high-intent actions to drive customers towards completing your goal.

2. Spot key customer starting points

Your homepage might be the page most frequently landed on, but it doesn’t reveal real customer intent. Instead, you need to decide where you consider the customer journey to begin. Site searches are always good indicators of customer intent. Shoppers are looking for something specific so you should be acting on this and making the journey to conversion as simple as possible.

Similarly, specific category pages or feature pages can be a very clear indication of what customers are looking for. If a customer knows what they’re after, then this is a vital place for you to track and target.

3. Create pre-intent content

Understanding customer intent goes hand-in-hand with understanding the pain points that have driven them to your website in the first place. By strategizing your content marketing to focus on these specific pain points, blogs and learning resource pages can capture customer intent before they realize yours is the solution they need.

For example, if your brand offers a kitchen fitting service you can create content targeting first-time homeowners with a checklist of things they need to consider when renovating a kitchen. This will help you pre-emptively capture customers interested in finding out more about your service. You can then guide them through your customer journey and lead them to the point of conversion.

How to use customer intent in your marketing automation?

Targeting intent-filled micro-moments can produce a significant rise in revenue. There are several scenarios where you can use customer intent to trigger timely, relevant, and personalized marketing messages.

Abandoned browse and cart abandonment emails

Active carts or high-intent page visits demonstrate clear intent. To turn these moments into opportunities you need to build abandoned carts or abandoned browse programs.

Landing in the inbox within one hour of abandonment, these programs are guaranteed to make you money. Don’t give them time to forget you, drive customers back to your site as quickly as possible to maximize their potential.

Repeat page hits

As part of your work identifying customer intent, you should have a clear idea about which pages on your website are essential to your customers’ journey. Using this intelligence, you can create automation programs that are triggered when a browser views the same page three times.

For example, if you’re a furniture company and have noticed customers frequently visiting your payment plans page, you can use this insight to trigger a campaign. When a shopper views the page numerous times, a friendly ‘ask us anything’ email might be just the push they need to convert.

Customer engagement

Customer modeling tools such as eRFM and lead scoring help you measure how engaged subscribers are. You can identify which customers are actively interacting with your brand and which have lapsed.

Using customer modelling means you can trigger campaigns to begin when customers move between audience groups. So, when a customer stops engaging with your marketing and they fall into a needs-nurturing or lapsed group, you can automatically enroll them into a win-back automation campaign.

Similarly, when an unengaged subscriber starts re-engaging, you can deliver a personalized campaign using data you already hold on them. Product recommendation blocks and dynamic content are just a couple of ways you can drive newly engaged customers to convert.

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