Monday, March 28, 2016 1:36:00 PM

If you want to make the most of your advertising budget, you need to know what matters to consumers and the steps they take to make purchasing decisions. Building your presence in the wrong places eliminates valuable opportunities to target a receptive audience and promote your brand. Demographics have long been a tool for predicting consumer behavior, but are these superficial characteristics most effective?

Marketers miss out on potential shoppers when they only rely on demographic segmentation. Information such as age, gender and race provides basic identification, but it doesn't tell you what individual consumers look for or think about on the path to a purchase. Intent drives behavior. Shoppers turn to search engines to help them learn and make decisions — whether it involves researching products, asking questions or making comparisons. Consumer intent peaks during these focused moments, providing you with strategic opportunities to connect and target your messages.

Consumer Intent and Search Marketing

According to Millward Brown Digital, 98 percent of the U.S. browsing population uses search engines. Many of these shoppers likely fall outside your typical market based on demographical identifiers. Consider that females make up 56 percent of mobile searchers who look for sporting goods. Businesses that target the majority of campaigns toward men may waste advertising dollars by ignoring a large portion of the market.

In addition to defining the ideal consumer, businesses can design better marketing strategies by determining how different consumer groups relate to the product category and brand. For example, home improvement products aren't only relevant to homeowners. They appeal to upcyclers who like to make old things appear new again. They appeal to renters who want to customize apartments without making permanent changes. They appeal to first-time home buyers, retirees, renovators and people who want to upgrade their appliances.

Each path to a purchase is unique, and the most effective way to target the largest group of consumers is to capture attention right when people are first engaged in shopping. Search engines reach shoppers at the moment of intent and influence where they go next. A successful brand is present at these moments and able to anticipate the needs of consumers. For example, the Home Depot has a reputation as a helpful, authoritative brand that teaches consumers how to do new things. The company attracts traffic online with a wealth of how-to content and fact sheets, providing both answers and guidance for home improvement projects.

Using Consumer Intent to Drive Sales

Don't assume that a shopper has already made a purchasing decision before getting online. According to Millward Brown Digital, the average consumer spends about 9 days engaging with the apparel product category before a purchase, about 6 days for beauty products and about 19 days for laptop purchases. During this browsing phase, the goal is to create useful content to influence a consumer's next steps on the purchase path. Focus on providing information that solves problems or offers ideas on how to move forward, giving shoppers a reason to choose your brand over competitors.

Categories: Marketing Tips

Tags: marketing tips, SMBs

Source: "State of Search 2016." Millward Brown Digital; "Demystifying the Consumer Journey: Establishing a Consumer-Centric Marketing Strategy." Millward Brown Digital.