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Intent-Based Customer Journeys – The Next Phase for Customer-Centric Brands 

Understanding intent allows brands to deliver value to customers at the right time, in the right place, in the right way. It is less about selling consumers products and more about complementing their life experiences.

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Author: Benoit Soucaret

July 15, 2021

The next phase of personalization involves understanding intent. An intent-based journey moves away from selling people something relevant, to anticipating a discrete need at an exact time, with a highly relevant and curated offer. Content supports an experience, not just a product.

Intent goes beyond reactive personalization based on what a consumer has done – think product recommendations. You know that consumer X, purchased Y so we can now serve them Z. It is clearly focused on past buying behaviour.

Although customer behaviour can be erratic, complex, and difficult to know, companies need to dig beyond in-the-moment behaviours and look for intent. Intent-based journeys are based on proactive, anticipatory science. It’s all about “know me, engage me.”  This approach relies on data from multiple sources, ideally with a 360-degree view of the customer. It not only encompasses past shopping data, but also looks at personal preferences, propensity modelling and anticipatory shopping techniques to inform companies what the consumer is likely to do in the future – all at scale and at lighting speed.

This then allows companies to understand more about the customer, deliver actionable insights that marketers can use to make decisions, such as proactively offer products to customers before they think they may need them.

Like a good waiter

Delivering intent-based marketing also moves beyond personalizing a message, to additionally personalizing the context in which consumers are engaged. Context is the crucial bit. It’s like a good waiter; they know the customer’s tastes and needs; they are there when needed but invisible when not.

These journeys should appear fortuitous – delivering value to a consumer at the right time, in the right place, in the right way. It is less about selling consumers products and more about complementing their life experiences.

Delivering upon intent is an authentic, one-on-one engagement. But at no point can it appear disconcerting, intrusive or annoying. Brands will win by curating good experiences that utilize personalization, but without solely relying on it.

This next phase is also about delivering messages consistently across multiple channels and at crucial times during the customer journey. This involves a new level of sophistication for marketers. They need to be able to learn quickly and optimize their strategies. They also need a great deal of data, insight and knowledge when to engage. In the process, brands need a customer engagement strategy that is second to none.

Why it matters to brands right now

Like a human relationship

For brands, enabling intent-driven engagement should not be instant. It’s not just a case of flipping a switch. It’s a journey, approached as a human relationship. The process is about taking time to get to know the customer and it is continuous. This involves data-sharing bit by bit, allowing brands to build up a picture of the customer and trust to develop gradually. 

Like a human relationship, your full knowledge of a person is not instant. You don’t ask your friends 20 questions at once, nor should brands bombard consumers. The drip-fed mutual sharing process generates trust over time, this is especially true for older online shoppers.

The focus is on forging a connection with the customer, whilst slowly sowing the seeds of your unique proposition, and why it should appeal to this customer at this time. This is a two-way process and involves brands attempting to get to know consumers better and at the same time telling them more about the brand. 

It is also worth having a strong welcome period with customers. First impressions count, and all channels should be considered, whether via email, live chat, in-store, social media, or push notifications on apps. These days consumers know no boundaries when it comes to communications, and consistency across different touch points is an excellent way of nurturing loyalty.

Once we have understood end user intent (whether purchase, inquiry or complaint), only then can we start adding value and create opportunities for them. 

This then empowers companies to help customers reach the desired outcomes – which naturally leads to longer, more meaningful relationships.

There are three factors shaping our understanding of ‘intent’. We pull insight from all journeys, across all touch points, and – this in important – continuously.

This can change our understanding from what someone is doing, to the deeper question of why. Orchestrating an intent-driven journey is influenced by each individual, guiding them to ‘best’ content or conversation based on their current and historic behaviour. Instead of a blanket journey for everyone looking for a pair of shoes.

4 steps to delivering intent-driven journeys

Identify – Where there is an opportunity to add value both to the consumer and to the company. Every interaction or touchpoint is a chance to develop a relationship and build trust.

Isolate – The consumer as an individual. If they buy one product, why offer them the same via an ad or an email the following week, or a discounted offer on a similar product they no longer need? Consumers want to be remembered in an intelligent and intuitive way that builds trust. 

Deliver – That fortuitous moment improves the customer experience, not degrades it. It can be based on previous activity, data, and preferences. It doesn’t have to be something to buy, it can be an experience, video or blog.  

Ensure relevance – This is so important. The more relevant a blog, a message, a product or service is, the more likely it is to build trust and loyalty for your brand. Anything irrelevant degrades the customer experience and devalues your brand.

In the long term, the positive impact of an intent-driven journey focused on needs and motives of the customer is clear. By moving an individual customer from one path to another that better suits their needs improves customer experience and has the power to lead to longer, more meaningful relationships.

About Benoit Soucaret

Benoit Soucaret is Group Creative Director, Design, LiveArea EMEA.

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