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How to identify and leverage customer intent

Last updated

25 May 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

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Customer intent (also called buyer intent) is the intention that drives a customer's behavior while they are interacting with your brand. By identifying customer intent, you can develop high-quality marketing strategies and address customers' pain points most effectively.

Studying customer intent involves taking a deeper look at the customers' needs and requirements. By catching this wave, it's possible to provide better solutions to the audience's problem than the competition can.

The importance of customer intent is growing by the hour. It has already become an integral part of search engine marketing. Let's take a closer look at the importance of customer intent and its integration into your marketing strategy.

What is customer intent?

Customer intent is the reason behind customer actions when interacting with your brand. For example, a customer enters a clothing store (online or offline) to buy a pair of jeans. While their goal is to buy jeans, the intent can be:

  • To buy something to keep their legs warm (since the summer is almost over)

  • To be stylish because of a new fashion trend

  • To get a new size because they lost/gained weight

The intent behind the action can tell you about the customer's journey with your company much more than the action itself.

Customer intent can be complex and multifaceted. If they plan to buy jeans but enter a store and find another product that addresses their pain point, a customer can change their mind quickly.

When you study customer intent, you collect customer intent data. This data allows you to react to the customer's immediate needs by understanding what they are looking for.

So, if the real intent behind going into a clothing store is to get something stylish, you can create an offer that really resonates with the buyer's needs and increases customer satisfaction tremendously.

What are the four types of customer intent?

For the purpose of search engine marketing, it's possible to break customer intent into four types. Figuring which one applies to the current stage of the customer's journey with the company, it's possible to implement the right marketing tactics.

  • Navigational intent — a customer is looking for a specific website or webpage. This usually happens when they already know about your brand or product and want to find it online.

  • Informational intent — a customer isn't ready to buy yet, so they are searching for information about a relevant topic. For example, they could be googling "which jeans are trending this month."

  • Commercial intent — a customer thinks of buying a product or service but wants to find more information about it before making the final decision.

  • Transactional intent — a customer already knows which product or service can solve their problem. They are searching the web with the intent to make a particular purchase.

By studying the customer's intent, you can develop relevant content that guides the buyer down the sales funnel smoothly.

The importance of customer intent

Identifying customer intent is key to designing an effective marketing strategy. Knowing the reason behind a customer's actions, you can create the right content, identify relevant channels, implement effective touchpoints, and much more.

Customer experience and personalization

Personalization is the driving force behind successful marketing in the 21st century. Customers don't just want personalization; they demand it. Research shows that 80% of customers are more willing to purchase from brands that offer personalized experiences.

Knowing the customer's intent can help you create a highly personalized experience and optimize the customer's journey. A frictionless buyer experience isn't just the key to higher purchase rates. It's the power behind retention.

Influencing buying decisions

Today, AI-driven technologies don't just help you gather customer intent data and analyze it. They make it possible to influence buying decisions. By using customer intent data, you can show the customer a relevant product and guide them toward making a specific purchase.

By leveraging digital touchpoints, you can sell products that customers may not have considered buying earlier. For example, if their intent is to buy warm clothing, you can offer them much more than just a pair of jeans.

In addition, knowing customer intent creates various upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Improving SEO efforts

In the past, to provide search results, search engines focused on keywords that users typed into the search field. Today, new technologies make it possible to analyze the searcher's intent. In fact, search intent is currently Google's top goal. Recognizing the intent makes it possible to provide the most relevant search results and keep users happy.

To ensure your target audience finds your website on top of the SERPs (search engine result pages), you must study the customer's intent and provide relevant content.

For example, when your customer searches for "choosing stylish jeans," they probably aren't looking for a list of the latest fashion styles. They want a guide that helps them with selection.

If you write an article around the keyword "choosing stylish jeans" but don't provide valuable advice, your website won't stand a chance against the competition who writes a "10 steps to choose the most stylish jeans in 2023" blog post.

Streamlining marketing strategies

All marketing strategies, not just SEO, depend on the quality of customer intent data. When you know customer intent, you can:

  • Optimize marketing emails

  • Improve paid search marketing

  • Tweak social media marketing strategies

With content being the driving force behind most marketing strategies, knowing how to provide valuable information is key to achieving marketing success. When you know the reason behind customers' actions, you can create relevant content and implement it as a customer-guiding tool.

Product development ideas

Studying customer intent data and analyzing customer interactions with your brand provides valuable information for product and service development. When you know what customers want and why they want it, it's much easier to develop new solutions for their pain points.

Implementing customer intent strategies in your marketing campaign generates comprehensive data. This data can be highly useful for creating new products and designing future marketing tactics.

How to identify customer intent

According to Salesforce research, more than 65% of consumers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations, but only 34% of companies do it.

Meanwhile, identifying customer intent isn't easy. While creating buyer personas is an integral part of customer intent marketing, it's not sufficient to look deeper into why consumers act as they do.

Collect customer feedback

Customers are the most valuable source of customer intent data. By asking them directly, you don't just analyze existing customer intent and behavior; you gain insight into your potential target audience.

Surveys and feedback forms can help you gather relevant data and use it for analytics. The simplest question, like "What was your intent when you arrived at this page?" can go a long way toward tailoring your content and offers to fit customers' needs.

Study customer behavior

Studying your website's customer behavior can help you determine how well you met their intent. To do that, you can monitor such metrics as:

  • Average time on page

  • Bounce rate

  • Average session duration

  • Social referrals

  • Page views

  • Conversion rate

This information can provide insight into the quality of your content and the effectiveness of customer-intent marketing tactics.

Monitor customer activities

To see the customer intent and how well you are meeting it, you need to follow their digital journey. When visitors visit the homepage, there isn't much information to collect. Following their next steps gives you a better understanding of the customer's intent.

For example, if the customer signs up for the newsletter but doesn't make a purchase, they have a commercial intent. If they use a search bar to type a query, they are in the informational phase.

At any point of the customer's interaction with your website, you can collect customer intent data by monitoring their behavior.

You can also arrange pop-ups that ask customers about their intent at any stage of their website journey. This doesn't just collect data but helps direct visitors to the right page.

Taking full advantage of customer intent marketing

Understanding customer intent is key to improving customer experience, enhancing marketing strategies, and putting your website on top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Focusing on the reasons behind customers' actions can help you predict customer needs, develop relevant products, and stay ahead of the competition.

Today, customer intent data analytics is integral to successful marketing campaigns across many industries.


What are examples of customer intent?

An example of customer intent is someone searching for a new pair of soft slippers online. The goal is to buy slippers. The intent is to feel comfortable while walking on a tile floor.

What is the definition of purchase intent?

Purchase intent is the customer's willingness to buy your product in the nearest future (the timeframe depends on the industry).

What is customer intent data?

Customer intent data is data that helps you identify customer intent. You can use it to analyze the reasons behind customers' actions and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

Should you be using a customer insights hub?

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