This is “intent marketing.” And this is where it’s going

This article was written by Qualia CEO Kathy Leake.

There’s never been any shortage of advice on reading romantic signals. Analog signals have long been found in all sorts of quaint, off-line ways: a hand on a shoulder, a brush of the hair. Now, via digital devices, we reveal our intentions with modern short hand in the form of emojis or acronyms. These are the no-nonsense signals of the 21st century.

The same can be said of digital marketing and commerce. Demographic, behavioral and contextual information are the targeting information of yesteryear, as predictive a signal of a potential sale as a sideways glance. Maybe it means something, maybe not. Either way, it’s a gamble.

Now, there are much more powerful signals of “commercial intent” — real-time, multi-level signals that identify consumers who are ready to buy. It’s called “intent marketing,” and it will recast traditional methods as nothing more than tech-enabled guesswork.

In the coming weeks, Qualia will take a look at intent marketing’s potential — now, next and down the line. But first, let’s look at where we started and what we can do today.


Intent marketing’s evolution

Back in 2007, apps like Foursquare gave digital marketers their first taste of consumers expressing their intentions — live, online and without filters. These disclosures were a watershed moment for us: We suddenly knew where customers were and, by association, what they were buying.

Today, digital declarations are rampant across apps, social and even within the e-commerce experience. We’ve moved from Foursquare’s megahorn-like declarations of whereabouts, needs and desires, to a more usable matrix of signals.

Consumers now emit signals around the clock, and a great many of them directly indicate their intent to buy. Wish list activity, for example, and social inquiries, content sharing and any number of other digital “flares” — they all communicate intent that we can understand and use.

This trend is only going to expand. As new apps and social platforms arrive, more data — including feedback on products and services that can be analyzed for intent — will be shared. According to KPBC, close to eight zettabytes of data will be created and shared by the end of 2015 alone.


Moving from understanding to application

While many brands understand social intent, they don’t grasp the extent of available clues and how they can be applied. According to comScore, for example, app usage now accounts for seven out of every eight minutes of mobile media consumption.

The key to making the most of this new reality is analyzing data from a combination of sources. The power is in the composite.

Intent-targeting allows an advertiser to tune into a consumer expressing a social need for product. Take, for example, a consumer who places an item on a wish list and also signs up for a price-checker alert. There’s an obvious opportunity here.

By focusing on signals that identify consumers who are interested — or, even better, are in the process of deciding — marketers put themselves in the heart of the purchase cycle. This is when consumers are most open to influence.


Making intent work for your brand

Right now, the industry’s most widely accepted measure of ROI is the click. With this mindset and data-targeting focus, we can look at three related considerations:

1) When we targeted based on intent, did an execution drive a lift in social chatter?
2) Did it change in consumer behavior?
3) And did it engage the consumer in further conversation?

All, of course, while arming us with more first-party data to optimize our ad units down the path to conversion.


We all strive for a clearer view of the consumer that represents their real journey, and intent targeting is the most promising path. Stay tuned to find out what signals you should monitor today, what’s coming down the line, and what the industry will make available to satisfy your desire to truly understand intent.

More from Digiday

What TikTok’s e-commerce launch could mean for marketers and content creators

TikTok has officially launched its new e-commerce platform, TikTok Shop, earlier this month on August 1. Using the new e-commerce platform, brands and creators can sell products directly on the platform, potentially creating new revenue streams, and tap into the short-form video platform’s growing popularity.

‘The influencer industry can be really vile’: Confessions of an influencer marketer on the industry’s unfair hiring practices

While the influencer industry might sound exciting and like it’s full of opportunities, one marketer can vouch for the horrific scenarios that still take place behind the scenes.

Digiday+ Research: Marketers said revenue grew in the last year, with more growth expected ahead

After a tumultuous 12 months, marketers are getting a clear picture of how they really did during a time of true uncertainty. And, as it turns out, it wasn’t all that bad.