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Closing the gap between intent and behaviour in native advertising

Jan 3, 2023

In native advertising and digital advertising in general, there’s a lot of talk about analysing people’s online behaviour.

But what about intent? What is intent, why should native advertisers focus on it and how do they measure it?

Mark Carroll, Creative Strategy Lead at Pinterest, says intent differs from behaviour because intent includes what a user is seeking to find.

“Often they're in search of something; [they] come with a higher level of intent,” Carroll tells the Native Advertising Institute. “You are searching for that idea, [even though] you're not quite sure what it looks like at that specific time. You're looking for that inspiration.”


Two stages of intent

Once the user sees a few things, they’ve reached a higher level of intent, which brings them closer to the moment of purchase. Intent essentially comprises two stages, says Carroll. The first is the inspiration stage, where the content of native advertising must inspire its audiences to drive a higher level of intent. The second is capturing that higher level of intent that will lead to a conversion.

“The important thing is that native advertisers can’t get close to intent without first providing the inspiration,” he says. “The inspiration phase sets the groundwork for higher intent and conversion.”

What does the focus on intent mean for content creation?

According to Carroll, intent is relevant to the full marketing funnel.

At the awareness stage, the intent may be educational. The audience could be seeking to understand a subject or issue. At this point, the brand wants to ensure the audience knows it exists.

But it doesn’t stop there.

“Ideally, intent should reach much further down the funnel also,” Carroll says. “The brand wants the audience to know it exists, but it also wants it to know its products’ attributes, understand that it is a great solution and move further into the consideration stage with a higher intent to purchase.”

When creating content, Carroll says it’s important for native advertisers to know the objectives they are working toward. That means building the content and sending the user directly to what you want them to do – whether that's finding out more or actually clicking and making the purchase.

What is it about intent that makes it so powerful?

The closer a brand is to capturing intent, the more likely it is to close the gap between that and an actual purchase.

So while a user may have started off very loosely, at the top of the funnel, searching for inspiration, it finds the brand and ends up purchasing the product then and there.

But Carroll says it’s important to be able to deliver on that intention in as few clicks as possible. The last thing a brand wants is for a customer to have to figure out how to buy the product once it has moved from intent to action.

That’s why he says it’s so important to look at data that can indicate where a potential buyer is searching for something and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

“Underlying data – from websites, third-party data, email lists and so on – will reveal the indicators of intent,” he says. “It’s then a matter of matching the creativity to the right phase in the funnel, to the right people, in an effort to close the intent–purchase gap.”

Ideally, the native advertiser then takes the content to a higher intention level and ultimately conversion. Or retargets the content commensurate to the level of intent.

In summary, native advertisers should not only focus on the behaviour of their target audience but also the intent of that audience. Lay the foundation through inspiring native content and structure campaigns in a way that leads the audience down the funnel to a purchase.

Story by Janine Ford

Janine is a copywriter at Brand Movers with a background in law and history. Originally from New Zealand, she has worked as a historian investigating Maori land claims and as a solicitor in public law. Janine now enjoys writing thought-leadership articles for businesses.

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