The benefit to understanding intent lies in targeting. Targeting ads, tags, copy, images or creative to source or behavior and whether in-session, in-site or retargeting is a proven and highly effective optimization strategy. Targeting will continue to drive the growth of digital marketing for the foreseeable future because it does one thing really well. Deliver relevance.
All users have intent when they are searching or surfing. Some marketers will tell you intent is only present in search. That is wrong. If there has been a click there has been an expressed intent. So how do we align the intent with relevance? The first part is the easier of the two. We have to craft messaging and creative that ensures a contextually relevant experience for either intention. The second and more difficult part is getting scent of the intention. This is where optimization and analytics are crucial and actionable as well as the navigation and messaging that is used in your ads and site. Of course one simple strategy to picking up scent is to allow users to self-segment.
The Two Intentions (Goals) of Users (for more details see my very first post)
Recovery is the intention that drives purchase and content consumption behavior. The user knows what they want. They are using the digital space as a way to obtain it. In order to optimize this experience it is crucial to understand the subset of three goal stages that drive recovery behavior; primary, secondary and latent goals (for a deeper exploration of goal stages in the context of search see this post).
Discovery is the intention that drives consideration behavior. The user does not know what they want but they do know that they want to get there. They are using the digital space for its breadth of information and its convenience. Here the goal is obtaining information (many times for comparison). This is of course a content consumption intention. In order to optimize for this experience it is crucial to understand the flow of information distribution and consumption and the need to merchandise relevant content at important user touchpoints.
Interestingly, and maybe obviously, content consumption is present over both recovery and discovery goals/intentions. This is one reason that publishers have such a hard time thinking about optimizing their content. But with every challenge there is an opportunity.
This opportunity is what I call flow targeting. The ease of clicking from one site to another or one page to another (flow) and the ease of finding content related to consideration and purchase means that users intentions and goals can and will advance during the course of the flow. Companies that can find ways to leverage discovery to drive recovery, especially in Social Media will be the big winners. If you want to understand where online marketing and advertising is going over the next 5 years look no further.
So how do we optimize around these two intentions? With the same messages and content consumers have always responded to.
In Part 2 we’ll look at these strategies in more detail.