Online, consumers are looking for solutions and ideas -- before they go to a store, visit an e-retailer or consider a product. They are on a mission driven by their unique needs, desires, interests, situation and tastes. They possess intent and express this intent through what they do and where they go online. They want you to engage their intent in ways that are relevant and meaningful. They want you to communicate your intent as well (what you offer, what you want them to do, etc). This is expressed in the higher conversion rates and brand lift that accompanies Intention-Based Marketing strategies.

Markets formed around intent present opportunities for retailers that go well beyond clicks. These pockets of intentions represent real people willing to let you know what they want. If your message acknowledges this and your offer is on target -- they'll pay attention to you, remember you and buy from you. Intention-Based Marketing puts the focus on getting to know your best potential customers in relation to your offer.

Of course, search is an ideal starting point for engaging consumer intent. Through search, consumers tell us what their intentions are by the keywords and terms that they use. A marketer can know how many people are looking for a particular product or a solution related to their product, and they can know this before they launch a campaign or develop messaging for a campaign. Indeed, a marketer can even know the size and characteristics of an intention-based market before a merchandiser sources a product.

Understanding consumer intent in relation to your offer is vital. It forces marketers to think like a consumer and design processes that are focused on consumers. This insight helps to construct the offers and messaging of a site – regardless of the method used to acquire visitors. Intent can be discovered using keyword tools, social media, analytics and the information of external sites. It should also be discovered from testing (on-site and off-site). This intent can be classified into three main types: Broad Targeted Intent, Purchasing-Centric Intent and Brand Intent.

Broad Targeted Intent (BTI)

For a retailer, broad targeted intent represents one method of establishing overall market potential for a site or specific product. Consumers in these markets are usually in the earlier stages of the buying process. They haven’t decided on what they want but are open to ideas and possible solutions. Getting in front of them as they narrow their choices helps establish your brand and offer. Usually, the traffic is high and there’s a less defined motive to purchase – if any. Although broad intent has a clear affinity with a site or offer, these consumers have not yet reached the Action stage – or even the Desire stage -- within the AIDAS model. The AIDAS model encompasses the stages of Attention, Interest, Desire, Action and Satisfaction. For this reason, retailers can expect the conversion rates to be lower than the other campaign types. Broad intent is usually interest-centric and problem-centric – rather than solution- and purchasing-centric. Done well, however, this broad intent can offer retailers a profitable channel that’s more scalable than other Intention-based Market types.

Purchasing-centric Intent (PCI)

Purchasing-centric intent (PCI) represents consumers that are most receptive to a retailer's offer -- and who have a willingness to buy. PCI markets can be reached at the Desire and, ideally, Action position of the AIDAS model. They have an idea of what they want and are actively looking for a particular type of solution. This type of Intention-based market usually converts at a much higher rate than Broad Intent. The size of these markets, however, are usually smaller and much more competitive.

Brand Intent

Brand Intent represents consumers going directly to a retailer’s site or searching for terms directly related to a retailer and its offers. The size of this market helps demonstrate the effectiveness of a retailer's online and offline campaigns – since the act of searching for or going to a retailer’s site implies previous exposure. At the initial launch of a retail site or product, brand intent doesn't exist because consumers haven't interacted with the offer or retailer. Brand intent is built over time as consumers begin viewing a solution in terms of a particular product or company, rather than within the broader Intention-based markets. Building brand intent is vital since this market will convert the overwhelming majority of all sales for an Online Retailer.

Communicating Your Intent

Although Intention-Based Marketing strategies start with the consumer in relation to your offer (consumer intent), they also incorporate the intent of your company and brand. This is especially true in relation to messaging for online advertising and conversion optimization. You don't want to attract non-buyers to your site or encourage site visitors to be non-buyers. Better to disqualify these non-buyers by communicating your intent openly and proudly -- ideally, before they get to your site.

Intention-Based Marketing is a Strategic Process

Intention-based marketing is not a tactic but a strategic process built around the capabilities of a retailer or brand. It's a way to identify and understand markets formed around intent. It's a strategic process leveraged to successfully design, measure, manage and optimize campaigns. For e-Retailers, success translates into profitable campaigns that can be reproduced and scaled. Because retailers have different markets and resources, the process developed evolves to reflect unique needs and objectives over time.