Intent – the motivation behind what someone does or says — has been fascinating us for centuries. The phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” was first documented in 1150 B.C. The ability to understand someone’s behavior is a clear advantage. That is why collecting and understanding a customer’s intent is one of the best ways to increase profitability.

Intent data is any information that tells you when a customer is ready to make a purchase or take a specific action. Intent data comes in many forms. Marketers having been using third-party data, with limited success, for years. Some of examples of third-party data are search engine queries and companies that sell their user registrations or website conversions, IP numbers, etc. Third-party external data companies provide intent data for a premium price.

First-party intent data provides customer insights derived from the assets you own, such as your website, marketing automation system or call center. We have seen tremendous success with first-party solutions. In fact, first-party intent data is far more reliable than third-party data.

Intent data increases profitability

Most marketers agree that using intent data leads to increased profitability. A recent study by Forrester revealed that 78 percent of marketers believe intent increases relevancy and 67 percent believe the ability to leverage intent data is a competitive edge.

Why? Intent data typically provides sales with high-quality leads early on in the purchase cycle. This is a valuable customer life cycle capability. It helps shrink, and in some cases, eliminate the consideration and evaluation phase.

When it comes to intent data, reacting with immediacy makes all the difference in the world. Google’s latest focus is on micro-moments for that very reason. Your ability to respond immediately to a customer’s intent is crucial. If you do not act quickly, you may lose the prospect. Google’s research shows that 51 percent of smartphone users purchased from a company/brand other than the one they intended to because the information provided was useful. And research shows that real-time marketing experiences provide a 26 percent lift in conversion rates.

Marketers are eager to use intent data. However, a surprisingly high percent of marketers reported to Forrester that they struggle with implementation for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Inaccurate data (57 percent)
  • Inability to combine first- and third-party data (49 percent)
  • Inability to feed intent data into targeting technology (54 percent)

Examples of how you can use intent data

Here are two examples of how finance companies have overcome these struggles and paved the road to profitability with good intentions.

1) Digitize PDF forms

PDF forms are a lost opportunity. Yet PDF forms are rampant on the Internet as a type of conversion form. A simple search for credit applications pulls up well over a hundred PDF credit applications. My guess is that there are tens of thousands of credit PDF forms out there (we stopped counting).

If consumers are taking the time to fill out a credit application, they are serious about making a purchase. Most consumers will only submit one credit application because multiple credit checks may have a negative impact on their credit score. If a prospect wants to fill out a credit application form, he or she has decided to buy from you.

If you make prospects download and manually fill out a PDF form, you increase the chances they will walk away. This is an example of how a road paved with good intentions can go bad.

Simply digitizing a form does not mean people will follow through. On average, less than 46 percent of online borrowers complete a credit application. Unlike the PDF form, if they started the dynamic form, you still have their contact information and can have a sales person follow up with them.

The easier you can make the application process, the more likely your prospect will complete the form. User experience best practices can significantly increase your online completion rates. We have seen companies achieve completion rates for credit applications that are higher than 78 percent. Companies that add real-time approval to the process close 80 percent of those loans.

Transforming PDF forms into dynamic forms can pay off for insurance, credit cards, mortgages, consumer loans and more.

2) Provide self-service options for declaring intent

Self-service options offer a unique customer engagement opportunity. Forrester reports that Web self-service is the most widely used communication channel for customer service. Why? Customers prefer the convenience (available 24/7) they get and the time they save with self-service. Government agencies, financial institutions, insurance companies, retailers and many other sectors use self-service tools.

One automotive finance company significantly increased its profitability by using the customers’ self-service accounts to collect intent data. The company asked their lease customers to share their transportation plans 90 days before the end of their lease. The company asked its customers if they plan to buy a new car, lease a new car or keep the car they currently have. In one year, 34,000 people declared whether or not they were in the market for a new car. The intent the customer shared then enabled the company to market to the consumer in a very personal and relevant way.

This approach works for many self-service situations. Take the situation where customers use their self-service site to request payoff information on their vehicle. This is a major intent signal that customers are planning to sell their car and/or buy a new one. Time any of the following actions with the payoff request, and you have a great chance at retaining your customer:

  • Share that you have a low interest rate on a new vehicle for preferred customers.
  • Offer to pre-approve the customer’s next vehicle purchase
  • Provide a loyalty offer

These examples are simple ways you can increase your revenue through intent data. The best part of asking customers directly through the self-service option is that the leads are free and high quality.