Why consumer intent is a vital part of your metrics

For consumers today, shopping is not just about the destination (or purchase), but rather the entire journey. Beginning at the initial discovery of a product, the consumer's path to purchase includes multiple steps. Think about it: Are you always ready to purchase the instant you discover something that interests you, such as a sports watch, a pair of summer shorts, or a new anti-aging cream? It's more likely that you'll make note of the product, look into more, and then spend time thinking about it before you decide whether or not to buy it. 

Yet technology has more often than not focused on driving the consumer right to the purchase, which ignores the natural shopping process. As a result, media companies, brands, and agencies are only measuring initial audience and actual sales, missing what is transpiring in between. These key performance indicators (KPIs) are based on what's easiest to measure, but not what's most valuable from a success evaluation standpoint.

In addition to click-through rates, impressions, readership numbers, and rich media engagement, media companies, brands, and agencies would benefit greatly if they could measure actual intent to purchase. Until recently, that was only available through cookies that tracked browsing behavior or custom surveys and, even then, were not always accurate. Furthermore, tracking and projecting this "intent" was impossible once the consumer crossed platforms.

However, that is finally changing. With new technology available today, these organizations can measure true intent across multiple channels for the first time. By providing a consistent layer of interactivity that follows the consumer across print, online, and mobile, marketers can see -- and therefore measure -- the intent of consumers as they interact with content and advertising prior to making a purchase. In addition, this intent data can go even deeper, uncovering price sensitivities, preferred retailers, or timeframe to purchase, providing invaluable information that has never before been available as a "standard" measurable output in marketing.

New shopping tools provide consumer value and invaluable marketing insights

Today's shopping tools are moving in this direction of allowing for natural shopping, which therefore captures "demonstrated" consumer intent versus last click attribution and cookies. Here are three types of tools that can deliver invaluable marketing insights to media companies, brands, and agencies:

  • Slideshows: Someone who clicks through a slideshow on a website of the latest fashions and dives deeper into one of the items, going all the way to the retailer's site, is clearly demonstrating a deeper level of intent and possibly brand affinity (or aspiration) that can be captured and used for retargeting later when they are ready to buy.
  • Augmented reality: A consumer who scans a print page and launches an augmented reality experience is not only discovering a product, but also demonstrating interest. This can then be moved to intent if the right experience is presented.
  • Shopping experience tools: Designed to provide a value to consumers, shopping experience tools offer a rich, in-context shopping experience that enable the user to learn more about products they see, price compare, watch a related video, request a sample, register for an event, or simply save the product to be alerted when the price drops or it's available at retail.

With any of these offerings, the consumer is entrusting the technology provider/service with their preferences, intents, and even aspirations. This allows data collection through goodwill, rather than via cookies. In turn, this unique collection of intent and affinity shopping data serves as a gold mine for the advertising industry that will transition billions in spending to native ad development and programmatic ad buying in the next three years.

Measuring intent

As the media landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, so should KPIs. And now, with the ability to capture intent data, marketers can use intent as a crucial performance measurement when evaluating the success of an ad, campaign, or initiative. The benefits are compelling. Media companies can validate ad effectiveness or content influence within a particular consumer segment, strengthening business performance through growing ad revenues and reader/viewership. Agencies and brands can capture the consumers' intent and follow them across platforms with one ad to see what's really resonating. They can also validate ad effectiveness and are able to show their ability to adapt rapidly as consumer behavior changes.

Through technology that values consumer behavior and engagement, media companies, brands, and agencies can gain terrific insight into the consumer and their shopping journey to help guide future advertising and content strategies.

Scott Cooper is founder and CEO of ShopAdvisor.

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