In other words, consumers often search for information online about a product, or post about a brand on social media, without any plan to spend money. The motivations behind this behavior are many (curiosity, revisiting past purchases, etc.) but the result is usually the same for companies: lost time and revenue.
After all, serving an ad to a consumer who has no intent to purchase is a waste of spend in most instances. It is much more efficient to go after people who legitimately have a chance of buying your product.
The problem is nothing new, of course—physical retailers have always struggled to distinguish window shoppers from probable buyers. The difference is that there is now a solution; it is possible to close the gap between interest and intent, at least online.
What has changed? These three major advancements, in particular:
1. Big Data Has Become Really, Really Big
The first key to successfully determining consumer intent is data—lots and lots of data.
Truly predicting future behavior usually requires multiple highly specific, reliable, data points. Over the past few years, this breadth and depth of data has become a reality.
Thanks to sophisticated tracking across multiple sites and networks it’s now possible to know not just what products people are researching online, but also at what frequency and in what context.
Consumer databases have become massive—encompassing a wide range of signals, some occurring in real-time. The many pieces of the intent puzzle—demographics, keywords, timing, etc.—are now all finally available for brands to play with.
2. Companies are Learning How to Make Sense of It All
To carry the puzzle metaphor further (perhaps a bit too far): it’s useless to have the pieces if you don’t know how to put them together.
That has been the fundamental problem with intent prediction for a while. Even with a wealth of data points, you have to know how they connect. Luckily, a few changes have occurred recently that make it easier to successfully draw actionable intent insights from data.
First, technology—both software and hardware—has gotten better. Savvy companies are now able to process vast quantities of data and make the necessary links. Second, the rise of social media networks has given marketers new types of data that contain important intent clues.
The impact of big data combined with social media can be seen in a recent statement by Don Faul, head of operations at Pinterest. Faul noted that “the focus this year is on intent data” and “new ad products will be based on broader data and will enable the company to delve deeper into users’ interactions.”
In other words, Pinterest and many other companies are primed to put all that valuable data to use in 2015. For example, if a user pins couch options to a board called “Living Room Remodel Planning,” Pinterest is now able to flag that action (because it has the data), identify the intent (because the platform is now sophisticated enough to process the signals), and link the product to an advertiser (because the company has built out an ad product).”
3. Individual Targeting is Finally a Reality
The Pinterest announcement highlights another important evolution: marketers can now target specific consumers.
To some extent this is nothing new; via cookies or search queries, it’s long been possible to serve certain ads to certain people based on behavior. However, the advancements in ad tech, and the increased sophistication of social media platforms, have dramatically expanded this ability. Personalized ad targeting—beyond just demographics or keyword interest—has become a reality.
Why is this so important? Because knowing intent is not enough; companies also need to be able to reach the individual who is interested in purchasing. Moreover, to be truly effective, it needs to be possible to reach that individual across multiple platforms and in specific situations (for example, retargeting an ad after the consumer visits a product page).
Ultimately, this combination of big data, analysis, and targeting is why this should be an important year for digital intent-based marketing. Everything is (finally) in place, now marketers now just need to put it all into action.
MDG Advertising is a full-service advertising agency and one of Florida’s top branding firms. With offices in Boca Raton and New York City, MDG’s core capabilities include branding, logo design, print advertising, digital marketing, mobile marketing, email marketing, media planning and buying, TV and radio, outdoor advertising, newspaper, video marketing, website design and development, content marketing, mobile marketing, social media marketing, and SEO. To discover the latest trends in branding and advertising, contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797.
Written by Michael Del Gigante