Big data and analytics have become the holy grail of marketing speak. Being more data driven has definitely become hip, but it’s not hype. Brands and marketers are using data to track customer journeys, to target and capture new customers, and to retain existing ones. Today’s consumers have come to expect a lot more from brands than simply the ability to make a purchase from them. They are looking for greater levels of interaction, better products, and faster and more responsive services.
Big data can help brands deliver on these customer expectations. How? By offering rich insights that can enable brands to reach the right people with the right message for maximum impact.
Here’s the challenge: How do you reach a prospective buyer right at the moment of need? Brands can keep analyzing data until they’re blue in the face. However, if they don’t know who really needs their product, all that fiddling with data will not help them stand out from the hundreds of competitors who are probably doing the same thing.
Truth be told, it’s a lot easier to decipher what buyers have done, than it is to predict what they will do. But predicting is what we all want to be doing—so that we can anticipate what consumers want—perhaps even before they realize they want it themselves. This is where intent data comes in.
What is intent data?
People leave behind crumbs of behavioral information every time they search the internet. Relevant bits of this info can be pieced together to gain insight into the intent of a buyer. This is intent data. Simply put, it’s information that tells you when a customer is ready to make a purchase. Now, intent-based marketing is nothing new. Think about cookie-based ads, Web analytics or marketing automation—we’ve been using these tools in marketing and ad targeting for years.
So what’s new? For marketers, the source of intent data has been their websites, marketing automation systems, CRM data, and so on. This is called first-party data. Now, a new type of third-party intent data has emerged, powered by external data providers. This info is captured by publisher networks—either through IP tracking, user opt-ins, or shared cookies—when people read an article on their website, download content, search for sites, and sometimes even when they leave a comment on a blog post.
Marketers can access this data, and tease details out of the activities of an IP address or a registered user. It may be a bit scary to think that you could be handing over your personal info even while being on so-called “trusted” sites. This just becomes another reason for people to be ultra-wary of how, what, and where they share their personal information online.
Are we fully equipped to leverage intent data?
The right use of intent data can definitely take personalized marketing to a whole new level. It can open windows to the buyer’s mind in a way we’ve never seen before. But the question remains, are we there yet in terms of measuring buyer intent?
A recent study by Forrester found that 78 percent of surveyed marketers believe using intent data can lead to better ad relevancy, and 67 percent think it could help them gain a competitive edge. However, inaccurate data (57 percent), inability to combine first and third-party data (49 percent), and not knowing how to feed intent data into targeting technology (54 percent) were cited as some of the biggest roadblocks of using intent data to reveal desired insights.
Plus, the basic shortcomings, such as lack of proper technologies and limited human resources, indicate that marketers may not be fully equipped to benefit from intent-based targeting just yet.
I think we need to first overcome the basic challenges of capturing and making sense of the right data before we can use it to understand buyer intent—which for now, remains more or less a nebulous thing.
This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site Power More. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.