A buyer about to make an online purchase
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Digital marketing is a constant battle trying to understand why consumers make purchase decisions and how to leverage this information to optimize future marketing campaigns. According to Target Marketing Magazine, 25% of B2B companies were using intent data and monitoring tools, but 35% of companies expected to use them within the next 12 months. 

With this in mind, we’ve asked digital marketing experts what intent data is and how brands can better leverage it for marketing in 2020.

What Is Intent Data?

“Intent data is the data that indicates your buyers are likely to make a purchase soon,” said Greg Cypes, VP of product at Zaius. This could include consumer behavior like viewing product detail pages, browsing many different product offerings, or abandoning their cart. “Obviously, some intent data sends a stronger buying signal than others,” he continued, “but all of it is incredibly useful information for digital marketers.”

Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence at SAS, said intent data comes in various forms depending on how it’s sourced and analyzed. “For example,” he explained “intent data can be synthesized from static data (attributes such as demographics. etc.); observed data (online and offline behaviors); and inferred data (analyzed data from static and/or observed data).” Altogether, this data helps brands understand what their customers really want during critical moments along the customer journey.

“Intent Data shows which leads or accounts are actively conducting research online,” said Usama Raudo, digital marketing executive at Gaditek. He said data about these high-quality leads that are already in buying mode can be used to alert sales and marketing teams later on. “If used properly,” he added, “intent data can play a vital role in boosting conversions and increasing sales.”

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How Marketers Can Make Use of Intent Data

Intent data is highly valuable for digital marketing, but how exactly does it impact marketing teams?

Consider Brand Awareness

“What many marketers may not realize (or choose to ignore) is that intent begins before the buyer even lands on your site,” Cypes said. It’s challenging for digital marketing teams to know how much awareness a person has when they first visit a brand’s site, but this can dramatically impact decision-making. Intent signals and the customer journey, therefore, can vary greatly. “Thus personalization is key,” Cypes said.

Map the Customer Journey

“With a unified view of intent data and analytics,” Raj explained, “marketers can respond to and predict audience intent in a proactive, contextually relevant manner — regardless of where customers are in the journey.” That’s why he recommends that brands map intent data to specific points along the customer journey. Afterwards, Raj suggested that brands “apply AI and advanced analytical models to cultivate value generating behaviors and extend the customer’s lifetime value.”

Hyper-Personalize Digital Experience

“Digital marketers can use this data to trigger hyper-personalized marketing campaigns,” said Cypes. If someone visits the same product detail page multiple times, for example, this signals that they may be interested in this product. It’s worthwhile, therefore, to have a system in place so that this automatically triggers a cross-channel campaign to push for a conversion. “But none of this is possible without accurate and detailed intent data,” Cypes said.

Optimize In Real-Time

“When your customer is actively evaluating your brand,” Raj said, “intent data and the appropriate analytics can help you dynamically adapt marketing efforts to customer response — in real-time.” Today’s marketplace is fast-paced, and marketing teams need to remain agile to meet rapidly evolving consumer demands. With intent data, marketing teams can automatically optimize product offers, for example, based on past behaviors or purchase decisions. “Also, A/B and multivariate testing can assess various marketing variables, such as messaging and content types,” Raj explained, “before you roll out initiatives on a wider scale.” High-quality intent data enables marketing teams to optimize their efforts in real-time.

Uncover Patterns for Long-Term Customer Value

“Further, you can use intent data and analytics to help you uncover patterns of usage behavior and further drive customer engagement in the post-purchase phase of the customer journey,” Raj said. The customer journey doesn't end with a purchase, and for many brands — especially B2B — customer retention is critical for maximizing the ROI of marketing efforts. “You can apply churn models such as uplift modeling and survival analysis,” Raj explained, “to preempt customer defection with corrective actions, such as special offers or free upgrades.”

Leverage Intent Data in 2020

Today’s brands can’t afford to ignore customer intent data when they’re developing their digital marketing strategies for 2020 and beyond. In the end, Raj concluded, “For the brands that can see the world as their customers do — and shape the customer journey accordingly with data and analytics — the reward is higher brand preference, revenue and cost improvements, and a lasting competitive advantage.”