Dear Valued Customer. It's Not Enough We Know You’re Female, 35, and College-Educated?

Dear Valued Customer: It's not enough to know you're female, 35, and college-educated 

“Dear Valued Customer.”

These three words once comprised an acceptable way to open marketing communications with consumers. However, in 2017, these words are symbolic of an out-of-touch business that has no regard for its customers. Today’s audience wants an individualized approach and a great customer experience — and they want it every time.

This consumer evolution means it’s time for marketers to raise their games once again. The traditional demographic-based approach to marketing doesn’t work, and I’d argue that it never really was a viable solution for understanding consumers. We need a new way to understand our audiences. The answer can be found in understanding the intentions of customers as they move through the buyer’s journey and by layering this intent data with demographic, transactional, and behavioral information to create a single customer view.

Why Demographic Data Isn’t Enough

Since the advent of data-driven marketing, demographic data has been a staple for most businesses. In the infancy of data analysis, demographics were a revelation. They enabled marketers to segment their audiences, allowing them to send different messages to various sections of their customer base.

As marketing has changed, so too has the science behind data collection. Modern technology allows marketers to capture virtually everything about a given consumer, providing a business unlimited insight into the buying habits of that individual. It’s this information, not the demographic data, that will help companies market to their desired audiences in the future.

This isn’t to say that demographics are without merit. They remain a valuable tool for introductory market segmentation, and they’ll always be a great starting point to learn more about consumers. However, using demographics as a standalone tool is now obsolete. The data that’s really important for predicting consumer behavior is  that indicates intent.

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Inferring Consumer Intent from Data

As important as demographic data continues to be, it’s limited for one major reason. Demographic data shows basic information about groups of people. It doesn’t really speak to who your individual customers are. Intent data, on the other hand, will help you to understand exactly who each of your customers are, but it does far more than just that.

The value behind intent data is simple. It answers the question “why do consumers do the things they do?” Why does someone conduct a Google search? Why do they click on your results page? What makes them sign up for your email list? You’ll find intent in the answers to these questions. Intent data is the series of digital clues that show a given customer’s interest in pursuing a purchase — for example, a visit to a page about shipping information on your website, or a Google search for promo codes that leads someone to your site.

Although intent data is great for alerting you to potential buyers, the simple act of analyzing intent can help you to develop deeper insights into your customer base. Suppose for a moment that you’re marketing for a photo printing business that sells a great deal of its merchandise to people aged 35 to 45. Using demographics, you could easily spot this trend, and you could even tailor your advertising to meet the requirements of this population. But without intent data, you’re only solving part of the puzzle. Intent data will help you to understand exactly why these people are coming to your business.

Maybe it’s this group who wants to print the pictures from their travels, or maybe they simply want photo books from the times they spend with their families. Understanding the real reasons behind your audience’s passion for your product will help you to exceed expectations every time a consumer sees your brand online or visits a store.

Intent Data’s Role in Driving Consumer Action

Whereas demographic data deals in easily digestible information, intent data is layered and often multi-faceted. Identifying intent in one area prompts you to question the consumer’s interest in three other areas. It can be a tricky web to untangle, but it’s one that’s well worth your time and effort.

In short, understanding consumer intent is a major element in getting your consumers to become customers. When you understand what goes on in the heads of your audience when you ask them for their email addresses, you’ll be able to push the right buttons that will prompt them to take action.

One of the best things about analyzing intent is that it will enable you to create a fully integrated path to purchase — an immersive buyer’s journey that incorporates all possible decision points, as well as all mediums through which people can take action. Intent data, in conjunction with the demographic and transactional data you already have, will be your guide in constructing this pathway. After all, consumers make their voices heard with their every action. It’s up to you to take notice and to find ways to reach people at their level.

This path to purchase will not only be eye-opening for your marketing team, but it’ll help you see the big picture when it comes to understanding how and why people act. What’s more, having all of this laid out will enable you to better anticipate what a consumer might do next. When you can anticipate what’s coming next, you’re ready to provide the truly individualized marketing that’s only possible with a comprehensive understanding of consumer intent.

Developing an Individualized Marketing Experience with Intent Data

Modern audiences have come to expect marketing at an individual level. No longer are they content with the impersonal, demographic-based, “Dear Valued Customer” marketing of yesteryear. They want marketing that’s unique to them and their personal set of needs — and they’re willing to pay more for the individualized experience.

Such a system would be impossible using only demographic data. Fortunately, the use of intent data not only makes individualized marketing feasible, it’s a natural step forward for any business that means it when they say they make their customers a priority.

Having a firm grasp on intent data means knowing what happens after a consumer takes a given action. For instance, you should know exactly what might prompt an individual to follow your company on Facebook, and you should have a good idea as to what they might do next. It’s this information that will allow you to move quickly, reaching that individual at the right time so that they continue down the path to purchase.

The more you grow to understand the intent behind these actions and what typically follows them, the better equipped you’ll be to send the right message to the right consumer at the right time. While it’s a lot of ground to cover, knowing the ins and outs of your audience is a sure-fire way to boost your ability to market individually, enhancing the customer experience as well as your own understanding of your customer base.

Customers expect more from their favorite brands, and it’s up to you to deliver. Making intent data a part of your data analysis will transform your marketing, taking a traditionally demographic-based data operation and cramming it full with a thorough understanding of consumer behavior and customer tendencies. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to reach your audience on an individual level, giving you an edge on the competition while simultaneously fulfilling your data contract with your customers.

Get the eBook: Why Individualized Marketing Demands a New Method of Data Integration & Interpretation