As the customer journey has ceased to follow a linear path to purchase, marketers have had to develop more sophisticated ways to predict which customers are likely to take a particular action. This knowledge is highly coveted as it allows businesses to deliver a more personalized experience, maximize spend, and ultimately, to drive more revenue.
This is where intent marketing (the practice of marketing a product or service based on a data-driven analysis of a specific consumer's intent to make a purchase decision) comes into play. But the rise of intent marketing doesn't mean that past audience segmentation techniques should be forgotten. Quite the opposite. Demographic, psychographic, and behavioral marketing all work together to set up intent — and help marketers make sense of it. Here's how.
Wait – Psychographic Marketing?
To start, a few quick definitions:
Demographic segmentation refers to segmenting an audience according to demographic factors like age, race, gender, family size, income, or education.
Psychographic segmentation is a method used to segment customers by their personality traits, attitudes, interests, values, and other lifestyle factors. These characteristics may or may not be instantly observable, but the customer has demonstrated them in some way through their online behavior.
Behavioral marketing offers a view of a customer's online behavior in near real time, and encompasses search data like keyword usage, providing a better view of measurable actions and needs.
When we start to talk about intent marketing, the data set that intent encompasses includes all of this information.
Getting to Intent: The Evolution of Demographics, Psychographics, and Behavioral Marketing
Marketers have understood the basics of demographics for a long time, and it has helped them make slightly more informed decisions about who to market to in order to maximize spend. For example, if women of working age were more likely to buy pantyhose, creating ads that spoke to them helped drive more purchases. Simple.
Later on, psychographics provided the intersection of demographics and interest — helping marketers understand how interests or attitudes expressed online might impact consumer opinion and purchase decision. For example, psychographic marketing could display a link between what someone shared on social media and what they bought in the real world — a huge step forward. Demographics never gave marketers a view of the emotion behind a purchase decision, and psychographics started to provide that.
The next layer was behavioral marketing, capturing information in near real time about important data points like keyword usage. With keyword tracking and analysis, the online research process before purchase was no longer a separate funnel. Behavioral marketing gave marketers a view of people doing research, essentially in real time — and showed where that research might lead, and what that consumer might click.
How does all of this tie into the new era of intent marketing strategy? Well, just layer intent on top of all of this, extending the marketing funnel upward. Consumer intent is what leads to the research itself. For example, imagine that someone wakes up and thinks, "I want a cup of coffee." That question models their intent (to drink coffee) and all the steps they'll take to get there — whether that's searching for coffee to brew at home or looking for a coffee shop nearby. The idea is that all the steps taken on the way to a particular action — in this case, to enjoying a great cup of coffee — theoretically become predictable once we understand the intent. That's immensely powerful.
As search has evolved from keywords to questions, the ability to get hyper-specific and understand the way intent informs a non-linear purchase journey that begins online matters more than ever. Understanding all of the data that comes from demographic, psychographic, and behavioral marketing allows marketers to get smarter about intent, predict journeys that once seemed unpredictable, and provide a better, more targeted experience along the way.
This holistic view of intent is important, but it can be difficult to capture. Remember that consumer self-discovery happens in real time. Let's keep going with the coffee example: Say that customer had their intended cup of coffee and enjoyed the taste — but then decided they didn't like feeling jittery because of the caffeine. Now, their intent is layered: It has become "Tomorrow, I'll get decaf so I can still enjoy coffee, but remove the jitters."
As a business, you need to understand the totality of this experience. How? Let's use Starbucks as the coffee example: Starbucks knows that some people are negatively affected by caffeine. They won't market about that negative, but they can market to the positives about the caffeine-free drinks they also offer. Intent marketing informs specific targeting, to be sure, but understanding the breadth of differing consumer intents should also inform how you market and talk about your products more generally.
When the Intent Keyword Is Only Implied: The Vegetarian Burger Experiment
Let's put it all together with this last example. A consumer, Sally, isn't a vegetarian, but she has been making an effort to eat a healthier, more plant-based diet. When she craves a burger, she might search for "vegetarian burger" — or she might just search for "best burger" without explicitly stating that it has to be vegetarian. Now, she might still end up visiting a restaurant that showed up under general "best burger" results, but a restaurant would have a much higher chance of winning her business if it showed her it had burger options that were health-friendly.
Without the "vegetarian" or "healthy" keyword, though, how would marketers know? Well, that's where psychographic and behavioral marketing come into play to inform the holistic intent marketing strategy. Sally didn't say "best vegetarian burger" in this particular search, but maybe she has posted publicly about visiting vegetarian restaurants on social media — and maybe she has also been searching on Google for gyms or health tips. Psychographic and behavioral marketing provides a window into her intent to get a better idea of how to advertise to Sally when she searches for "best burger."
Intent is all about what marketers can infer about a mindset, how that mindset will influence consumer action, and how all of these marketing pieces work together to help you infer more intelligently.
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