Remember that marketing funnel you used to create your strategy? Turns out it might not be so linear after all. Over the last year more research has come out hinting at the theory that there are multiple dimensions of consumer intent—of which few (if any) fall easily into a nice, clean line formation.
At this point, it’s fair to say there’s no longer one clear path to purchase, which makes discovering consumer intent more valuable than ever. In fact, user purchase paths are beginning to more closely resemble star constellations than anything remotely linear. In this chaos of purchase paths, consumer intent is the driving force—a force that we, as marketers, must open our minds to understand, and then adapt our strategies accordingly.
Marketers who have a clearly defined understanding of consumer intent are able to better produce content that, in turn, produces actionable results. But how do you determine consumer intent if it can’t be easily traced in a linear fashion?
1. Don’t Just Collect Data; Collect Actionable Data
Every action, no matter how minor or repetitive, should be captured: purchase views, video or other rich content views, registrations, sharing, searching and everything else that involves a user interacting with your site. The more information you have to start with, the more easily you can start to determine patterns—which should consistently be reevaluated and refined.
2. Determine Real Starting Points
You know the buyer cycle starts before a user lands on your site, but how far back does it go? Often it’s further than you think. When users search, they do so with one of four intents: I want to know; I want to go; I want to do; I want to buy. Obviously, users who want to buy are the easiest to create profitable content for, but these purchase paths are becoming less and less direct as a whole.
A user could want to go, and then want to know, and then want to buy. Or a user could want to know, then jump right to wanting to buy. Regardless of the path (the concept itself becoming less and less important) your content needs to reach the user in aspects of his or her intent.
3. Strategize Content Around Pre-Intent
With some strategic thinking, you can capture the ‘I want to buy’ users before they realize they want to buy something. To do so, think about what likely sparks an, ‘I want to buy’ moment, and produce content around such topics to make your site a go-to resource for that user.
For example, if a user wants to invest in a painting service for his or her home, think about what sparked that intent and create content around it. Perhaps it was due to destruction from a rough winter or leaky gutters. Maybe this was the user’s first year as a homeowner and he or she didn’t know to look for signs of a poor paint job before purchasing. Or, on the flip side, the user could be looking to sell his or her home. All of these pre-intent moments are content ideas you could, and should, be catering content towards.
4. Identify Hidden Agendas
We all know about the big retail holidays, but there are many other situations in which a user will have money to spend. Tax season is an excellent example for working professionals, as are the summer months before college for high school graduates. Don’t let traditional holidays dictate your content. Instead, consider the lifestyle and major events of your target audience and base content around these areas.
5. Familiarize Yourself With Query Classification
Among SEO professionals, search engine queries are generally classified as either navigational, informational, commercial or transactional. However, as with most aspects of SEO, there are various theories around this subject. Understating query classification helps you identify consumer intent through keywords, which you can then base your strategy around. RIMSEO has an excellent list of keyword intent resources to get you started.
As we so often say with marketing concepts and ideas, the only constant is change—and the ways that consumers make purchase decisions is no different. Each new advancement in technology (especially in mobile technology) has the potential to disrupt your vision of your target market’s path to purchase. Collect actionable data, learn the logic of consumers in your vertical and study their behaviors to learn their true intent. Then you’ll be poised to help make those intentions reality.