Published November 29, 2023

Unraveling Buyer Intent: Your Key to Understanding Customers’ Purchase Decisions

8 min read

Figuring out what makes a potential customer tick is the holy grail of marketing. As businesses, we’re on a constant quest to decode the signals that point to a ‘yes, I’m interested in what you’re selling.’ This is what the experts call ‘buyer intent.’ But how do you tap into these elusive cues without waiting for the sales to roll in? This is where we roll our sleeves up and dig into the art of interpreting buyer intent signals.

Deciphering the Signs Before the Sale

You’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into your marketing efforts, but the nagging question remains: Is it actually working? The traditional route of waiting for purchases to happen is like trying to find a black cat in a coal cellar. You need insights, and you need them fast.

Enter the science of using buyer intent data. With the right approach, you can begin to collect and analyze behavioral metrics that give you a crystal-clear indication of your audience’s buying probability. This isn’t just about tracking numbers; it’s about understanding your prospects’ sentiments, perceptions, reactions, and satisfaction levels. It’s a full-spectrum analysis.

Your audience has three levels: 1. Low intent (not ready to buy), 2. Medium intent (exploring), and 3. High intent (ready to buy). Chances are that low- and medium-intent represent 90% of your total market. They are not ready to buy. If you are hard selling to them, you risk burning your brand.

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Pierre Herubel, Writer of Marketing Guides & Frameworks

The Four Cornerstones of Buyer Intent

Thanks to thought leaders like Pierre Herubel, we can now access robust lists for assessing buying intent. His compilation of 30 signals is an invaluable cheat sheet for anyone ready to fine-tune their marketing strategy.

30 buying intent signals to test for target account prioritization

Before you dive headfirst into testing these signals in Helio, let’s break down the four key categories of buyer intent signals that’ll help you put this information to good use.

Market Intelligence

Savvy marketers know that the right intelligence can make or break a campaign. This means tuning into insights from your sales teams, C-level exec reports, and industry chatter. Keep your ear to the ground with social media listening, and don’t underestimate the power of partnerships and customer reviews. Each of these elements is a thread in the tapestry of buyer intent.

Content Consumption

Content is king, but context is queen. Tracking how your audience interacts with your content is a window into their interests. Newsletter open rates, shares, comments on social posts, and direct messages after content delivery are just a few breadcrumbs leading to buyer intent. 

Tech Insights

The digital footprint of your prospects is a treasure trove of intent signals. Every touchpoint tells a story, from website visits to interactions with your CRM. Diving into product analytics and past CRM prospects can offer you a timeline of interest and engagement.

Community Activities

Never underestimate the buzz of the hive mind. Engaged community members often signal a higher buying intent. Track event participation, webinar attendance, and network with personal brands. These activities give you a pulse on potential buyers’ commitment and interest level.

Measuring Buyer Intent With Helio: A Case Study

Fabletics is a clothing company that makes products to elevate your game, no matter how you move. Everyone gets to play. They believe movement should be fun for everyone and every body — and that fashion-forward, high-performance activewear should be accessible. 

Their VIP membership program, which is more than 2.3+ million members, is a key part of their business model. Community is their biggest advocate and at the heart of everything they do. Without them, Fabletics wouldn’t exist.

Naturally, converting more web users into VIP members is a top digital marketing priority. To illustrate how Helio can help optimize this page for conversions, we asked an audience of 100 online shoe shoppers in the US and Canada to evaluate Fabletics’ VIP membership webpage. This size sample is large enough to get quick signals on what informs buyer decisions and how to tailor your approach.

Step 1: Know What Resonates with Your Audience 

Every audience is unique. First, we wanted to pinpoint the activities and content that this audience finds irresistible. We asked an open-ended question to gauge expectations before putting ideas into action. We asked our audience of online shoe shoppers what they would want from a monthly clothing brand membership, and found some very strong expectations already established:

If i was going to sign up with a clothing brand they would have to give me a free gift of good value every month and discounts that are no less than 75% and clothing would have to also have one year guarantee.

Helio Participant, Online Shoe Shopper

Step 2: Craft Real-World Scenarios 

Next, we asked buyers, “how well does this membership offer match your expectations?” Since the expectations had been established for a membership program in the previous question, we put Fabletics’ membership page in front of users to see how well it stacks up.

Buyer intent data results from asking "how well does this membership offer match your expectations?"

More than 65% of users said the membership matched their expectations. Fabletics must be in-tune with their community.

However, a full 18% of participants indicated that the Fabletics membership doesn’t meet their expectations, largely because of the monthly fee for being a member while also requiring minimum purchases amounts to gain certain member benefits.

Step 3: Present Choices to Your Prospects 

This step is about interaction. Offer your prospects clear next steps, whether it’s a clickable call-to-action or a physical product to try.

In our Fabletics example, we asked our audience of online shoe shoppers where they would click first on the page. Click data is important for setting the stage and learning how visitors interact on first contact, like the majority of consumers (30%) who traveled to the middle of Fabletics’ page to explore FAQs and the Get Started CTA.

buyer intent data results from a click test on the Fabletics web page

This large concentration of clicks so far down the page indicates that Fabletics’ may want to reprioritize the actions on their page to have these more significant CTAs near the top for easy access.

Step 4: Analyze Engagement and Collect Data

Click data can show interaction, though it may not lead you to visitors’ preferred next step. That’s why we presented our audience with a closed-ended question: “After you’re finished with this page, what would you most likely do next?” with four response options:

  • Explore FAQs
  • Get Started
  • Take Special Offer Quiz
  • Explore Products
  • Leave Site

Two of Fabletics’ important CTAs on the page, Get Started and Take Quiz, were the least likely destinations for consumers who would rather explore products or learn more before committing.

Keep an eye on this data, because there’s usually gold. This data shows how visitors decide on one direction over the other, and whether your desired actions take precedence.

Step 5: Conduct Follow-Up Probes 

After the initial engagement, don’t be shy to ask for feedback. Their expectations, understanding, and satisfaction are key to their buying intent.

Despite visitors assurances that they understood Fabletics’ membership offer overall, we found that many could not clearly explain the VIP subscription in their own words:

What’s unclear is how many credits you’re awarded in exchange for your monthly payment. You also still have to pay for shipping if the value of your order is less than $49.95 (but how will you know the value, if you paid in credits?) A bit confusing.

Helio Participant, Online Shoe Shopper

Step 6: Prioritize and Strategize 

Use a scoring system to prioritize the signals. This helps you zero in on where to focus your efforts.

With some interaction and comprehension issues identified, we can see the full emotional effect of the Fabletics page with our final impression question, “What impressions does this membership offer page give you?” 

We hope to see positive impressions like simplicity and helpfulness dominate the data, with negative impressions being shared by less than 10% of the participant group.

With feelings of confusion and complication reaching up to 20%, and all of our negative impressions scoring over 20%, we can see some clear emotional problems caused by the VIP Membership page. View the survey data.

Next Steps for Fabletics:

Fabletics should work to reduce the confusion and complication of their membership program. The top of their membership page is packed with information, all connected to the membership benefits, but presented in such a way that is overwhelming.

Fabletics may consider leading with the core benefits identified from consumer expectations, such as discounts, free shipping, and gifted items. Then, center the message around those key points. Also, they could provide a clear path to learning more about these benefits or engaging more with the membership program, rather than leaving the primary CTA to sit deep in the middle of the page.

The Benefits of Staying Ahead of Your Buyer’s Intent

Testing for buyer intent offers many benefits that can significantly improve your business’s sales effectiveness, marketing strategies, and overall customer engagement. Here’s why focusing on buyer intent can be a game-changer:

1. Improved Lead Quality and Increased Conversion Rates

By understanding buyer intent, you can differentiate between those who are just browsing and those who are serious about making a purchase. This allows you to focus your efforts on leads that are more likely to convert, improving the overall quality of your sales pipeline.

When you know what your customers are looking for, you can tailor your sales approach to meet their needs more effectively. This alignment between customer intent and your offering can dramatically increase the likelihood of conversion.

2. More Effective Marketing & Reduced Marketing Waste

Buyer intent signals help you understand which marketing activities are working and which aren’t. You can then allocate your budget more efficiently, doubling down on the tactics that drive the most interested prospects.

By not targeting individuals who show low buying intent, you can reduce waste in your marketing spend. This means less money spent on uninterested parties and more on prospects who are likely to become customers.

3. Streamlined Sales Cycle and Better Customer Insights

Knowing where a buyer is in the purchase journey allows you to provide the right information at the right time, potentially shortening the sales cycle. This is because you’re removing barriers to purchase by preempting what the buyer needs next.

Testing for buyer intent isn’t just about understanding current behaviors—it can also provide predictive insights. By recognizing patterns in buyer behavior, you can forecast future sales trends and market movements. If you can decode buyer intent better and faster than your competitors, you can create a competitive advantage. This can help you win over customers who might otherwise have gone to a competitor.

4. Higher Customer Satisfaction from Your Marketing Efforts

When you understand what your customers want and need, you can deliver a better experience. Satisfied customers are likelier to return and recommend your business to others, driving repeat business and new customer acquisition.

In essence, testing for buyer intent allows for a more strategic, informed, and customer-centric approach to business. It’s not just about capturing sales—it’s about creating an ecosystem of engagement where every interaction with a potential buyer is informed and intentional.

Get Help From the Helio Advocates

If you’re thinking, “Great, but where do I begin?” – don’t worry. Helio advocates can help. After all, the more you understand your customers, the better you can serve them. Speak with an expert today.

Understanding buyer intent is not just about interpreting data; it’s about listening to your prospects and customers, engaging with them on a deeper level, and building relationships beyond the transaction. Helio can help you keep a pulse on the myriad of signals that indicate buyer intent

Buyer Intent FAQs

What is buyer intent?
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Buyer intent refers to the likelihood that a potential customer is interested in purchasing a product or service, indicated through various signals.

What are the benefits of understanding buyer intent?
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It leads to improved lead quality, more effective marketing, streamlined sales cycles, and higher customer satisfaction.

How do you determine low, medium, and high buyer intent?
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Low intent indicates not being ready to buy, medium intent suggests exploring options, and high intent means being ready to buy.

Who is Pierre Herubel?
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Pierre Herubel is a marketing expert who creates guides and frameworks to understand buyer intent. He’s established the four cornerstones of buyer intent: Market Intelligence, Content Consumption, Tech Insights, and Community Activities.

How is content important in understanding buyer intent?
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Content interaction gives insights into an audience’s interests, helping in predicting their buying behaviors.

What role does technology play in assessing buyer intent?
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Technology, like website visits and CRM interactions, provides valuable data on a prospect’s engagement and interest.

How can one test for buyer intent in Helio?
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Helio involves identifying audience interests, crafting scenarios, offering choices, analyzing engagement, conducting follow-ups, and prioritizing strategies. It helps businesses understand and cater to their customer’s buying intentions more effectively. Scroll up and read the Fabletics case example.

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