As a marketer, your job is to deliver to customers precisely what they need at every point of their customer journey, even when they don’t know what they need.
Customers often give us clear cues through their actions. When customers put a book in their shopping cart or repeatedly view the product page for a sweater, they clearly signal their interest in the product. These cues are easy to interpret and use as a basis for steering the customer journey.
In another situation, the customer may send you subtler behavioral signals about their implicit intent that, if correctly interpreted, could help you create an equally powerful customer journey for them. How do you ensure you’re collecting the right behavior signals and interpreting them correctly? Here’s what you need to know about explicit vs. implicit intent and how to use these indicators to drive business growth.
Sound overwhelming? It may seem insurmountable, but with the right tools and a targeted measurement approach, you can gather the data to analyze explicit actions and implicit intent, which is critical to business growth.
Explicit Intent is Easier to Understand
Explicit intent usually signals a customer’s willingness to buy a product in an obvious manner. A shopper expresses explicit intent by engaging in high-certainty behaviors, such as adding an item to the cart or providing specific information indicating a high likelihood of purchase, such as completing an interest form. Explicit intent is straightforward.
For example, if a banking customer clicks on a social media post about a credit card offer, that action shows explicit intent. If the bank issuing the offer creates a personalized credit card application journey for that customer, it will have a good chance of earning a conversion. Likewise, if a retail customer clicks on a music store’s social media post about an electric guitar on sale, they will likely buy that instrument.
As a marketer, you’re probably already familiar with how explicit intent appears in search results.
If a prospective customer searches for “best marketing automation software,” that behavior demonstrates the customer is seeking education and looking to compare the top marketing automation solutions. Meanwhile, a search incorporating the word “buy,” such as “buy office chair,” is a good sign of transactional intent.
Implicit Intent Requires a Deeper Investigation
Implicit intent, or implied intent, is typically suggested by behavioral data and predictive analytics. While implicit intent isn’t always as black and white as explicit intent, you can also use this intent data to infer what your customer wants and create a personalized customer journey to match. Often, your customer isn’t aware of the intent signals they send through their behavior.
Take the bank customer mentioned earlier as an example. After clicking on the social media post about the credit card offer, suppose they browse the bank’s website and click on articles about family business succession. Then, they search for “small business planning.” The bank can use this behavioral data to identify the customer’s implicit intent: to begin succession planning for their small family business.
The data indicates this customer is likely in one of its highest-performing, most coveted customer segments: affluent family businesses. The bank now has a chance to earn conversions for two customer journeys arising from the same social media post.
Implicit intent can provide other valuable insight businesses can use to serve their customers better. For example, a prospective customer clicks on a product page for a specific desk. Perhaps they’re on a mobile web browser, which allows them to pinch and zoom for a more detailed product view. Then, they open a new window to compare it with another desk. These are signs of consideration behavior. From there, the retailer can support the customer’s decision-making process by serving them a relevant offer, such as a free shipping code, or a piece of content, such as a video comparing desk models.
Measuring Explicit vs. Implicit Intent
As you might expect, measuring explicit intent is often a straightforward process. Many marketing automation platforms already allow you to identify common behaviors associated with explicit intent, such as placing an item in a cart, so you can follow up with the customer and earn the sale.
However, various behavioral insights are necessary to determine a customer’s implicit intent and accurately predict its meaning. Measurement should occur across all channels and platforms. You’ll need the right tools to track and analyze low-level click behavior beyond what’s available in retrospective web analytics tools like Google Analytics.
For example, you'll better anticipate what your customers will do next by capturing data correlated with common predictive behaviors, such as mouse hover while reading content, product page revisits, or gestures like zoom. To understand a customer’s intent, you’ll need to capture data from digital marketing channels (i.e., email, social media, or SMS), website browsing, app interactions, or even in-person communications such as a sales call. You can then retarget them with a relevant offer in real-time or near real-time and deliver engaging content they’ll find helpful or create a customized customer journey just for them.
Understanding Intent is Powerful
Intent provides a broader view of the customer’s needs and wants. Sometimes, customer behavior is crystal clear, and there’s no mistaking what it means. Other times, you need to read between the lines to figure out what your customer wants. Both types of intent reveal threads of information that weave together to form your customer’s story, empowering you to tailor communications to fit their needs.
We often explain to clients that experience happens to you; engagement is a choice. To deliver on that perspective, you should engage your audience through tailored communications, which may take several forms:
- Use the Customer’s Words: For example, individuals searching for your customer data platform (CDP) using the term “comprehensive customer database” are signaling to you how their company refers to the platform. You can attract the customer with a targeted email highlighting the top three features of your “comprehensive customer database.” Using the customer’s language will strike a chord of familiarity because it uses language they used to describe the product.
- Leave No Questions Unanswered: Suppose you’re an electronics retailer. A customer has logged into your website to browse for a new gaming computer. They open a product page and expand the specs menu. After reading the specs, they read the product reviews and scroll through product photos. Then, they open a new browser window and search your site for another computer with similar specs from a different brand. The customer is signaling their intention to purchase a laptop with the specs that fit their needs. Understanding this intent allows you to educate the customer with a tailored email with a link to a video about the top five features to look for in your next gaming computer.
- Incentives: Perhaps you’ve noticed that a buyer has logged into your site repeatedly over the last few days. They’ve added items to their cart but haven’t yet followed through on the purchase. When they log in, they’re browsing items similar to those in their cart but sold at a lower price point with less favorable reviews. The customer’s behavior indicates that they are price-sensitive. You can send a tailored email or SMS message with an incentive to complete the transaction, such as a code for free shipping or a percentage discount.
- Product Recommendations: Suppose a customer browsed your website for winter weather gear. They briefly scrolled through the search results for hats and gloves, hovering over a few choices, but didn’t click through to the product page. However, during the same session, they purchased a jacket. The customer has signaled that they are interested in outerwear and are likely still searching for hat and glove options. Being in tune with customer signals opens the door to nurturing with a targeted email highlighting outerwear accessories that match the jacket they’ve already purchased.
This focused effort goes beyond generic marketing messaging to improve customer relationships by providing engaging experiences focused on this notion of customer choice, thereby increasing the likelihood of conversion or continued customer loyalty.
Research has found that companies can outperform their peers by 85% in sales growth and 25% in gross marginwhen they implement the principles of behavior economics. Tailoring content to the customer makes them feel seen, heard, and understood, which leads to increased trust and loyalty to your business. By understanding explicit vs. implicit intent and building the capacity to measure both through behavioral analytics, you can create even more robust customer journeys that drive business growth.
Let HCL Software help you outperform your peers by harnessing deep customer insights with the power of HCL Discover and HCL CDP.