What if you could know exactly which potential customers were actually looking to buy your product? What if you could know exactly when they wanted to make this purchase, as well as where they were going to be hanging out ready to be shown a clickable ad for it? Well, with intent data, you can. Is it perfect? No. Is it worth it? Most marketers say, 'Definitely.'
Defining Intent Data
Intent data is data that indicates the intention of buyers, or more specifically to the marketer, data that leads them to the customers most likely to buy their products. Venture Beat goes even further, splitting the definition of 'intent data' into two:
Internal Intent Data (also referred to as first-party data) is the activity a company captures on its own website or through application logs. This kind of information usually contains highly predictive buying signals because the content is so relevant to the purchase decision - i.e. exactly what pages a prospect touched, which links they clicked on, and how long they spent on each page.
External Intent Data (also referred to as third-party data) is collected by publisher networks either at the IP level, or through user registration and shared cookies. These sites track the articles a user reads, content they download, their site searches, and potentially even comments they leave. For example, data might show that people from the ibm.com domain are viewing more articles than normal about "help desk software," which could provide a hint about IBM's software needs.
Suffice it to say, intent data is a deeper set of data with more powerful possibilities than the regular Name, Address, Title, and Phone Number derived from your typical webform.
Deriving Intent Data
Intent data comes from various sources, sometimes online and sometimes offline. Most e-commerce sites focus solely on online intent data, such as search history, sites visited, social media shares, etc. But most businesses would be well advised to include offline data when and where it is available. Today's customers aren't so simple -- some search and buy exclusively online, while others search and buy exclusively offline. But there is a significant portion of customers who search stores and buy online, or search online and buy in stores. The more points at which you can collect customer data and use it to create an accurate picture of their intent, the better your marketing practices will be.
Directing Ads Based on Intent Data
Once you gather the intent data, how should you use it? It all comes down to timing, insight, and personalization. First, the right ads have to be delivered at the right time. Second, the ads have to be used with some insight. Is the person actively looking for the product to buy, or are they conducting research for another purpose? Sometimes this is a hard question to answer, so smart marketers put frequency caps on their ads so that they won't inundate and frustrate a casual researcher who has no intent to purchase. Lastly, the ads have to be personalized. How well does your ad speak to that individual buyer? Does it address what they want or need?
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