In today’s world, consumers are constantly signaling their intentions to us through a variety of digital channels.  By tapping into their digital behavior, we can uncover consumer needs, expectations and even brand perceptions.  This is why at Performics we see search as a behavioral insights machine; every single touchpoint leads us to learn more about the consumer.

Research from the Intent Lab, a partnership between Performics and Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications, shows us how consumers signal where they are in the purchase spectrum based on queries, signaling intent.  And especially during critical marketing days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, understanding consumer intent is key to unlocking relevance and standing out in the crowded marketplace.

Spending during the long Black Friday weekend rose a whopping 40%, according to the National Retail Federation, and SAP reports the conversion rate on Black Friday alone grew globally by 12.6% compared to 2017.

Adobe Analytics reports that $7.9 billion was spent online by the end of Cyber Monday, an increase of 19.3 % year over year, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S. and beating last year’s $6.6 billion record.

And it didn’t stop there.  Early data on “Giving Tuesday” shows that consumers continued to shop online in strong numbers following Cyber Monday, according to Adobe, which expects online spending for the day to be roughly $2.9 billion, 26% higher than last year.

But the season isn’t over, and the digital realm affords us an opportunity to tweak plans before it’s too late.  Coresight research estimates that U.S. e-commerce holiday sales will grow 16%, thanks in part to a longer shopping season that gives everyone more time to both browse and buy, making sure there’s still time to leverage consumer intent this holiday season.

Map Your Digital Presence Strategy Based on Consumer Demand

You will be hearing a lot of guidelines and methods for marketers to achieve their goals during the holiday season.  The reality is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model in today’s digital world.  The only North Star that you should be following is the intent signals from consumers.  Leverage digital behavior like search to uncover the core needs and mindsets of consumers during the holiday season.  Instead of trying to be present across everything, focus your attention and budget on areas where consumer demand is actually present.

Leverage the Intent Signals for Your Brand

Beyond understanding consumer demand, identifying the intent signals toward your brand is critical.  Based on historical holiday search data, brands can map the highest brand association from a consumer perspective toward categories, products and even deals.  Don’t force new brand associations during key holiday events; instead, leverage your existing strengths.

As always, there are top categories during this season with the highest consumer demand like consumer electronics, toys and household goods. The key question is which one do you already have a strong association with?  If you have been co-searched with electronics the most, or if you received the most traffic from electronics terms last year during the holidays, that means you need to be prepared from a search and landing page perspective to win those consumers.

Focus on Consumer Experience

Even top retailers in the marketplace sometimes fail in consumer experience during holiday events like Black Friday.  If you skim through social media platforms on big sales events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the majority of the comments and posts towards brands would be about their crashing app or website.  That’s not the brand impression anyone wants to leave.

Consumers have very high expectations from brands; especially when they have limited time to go through multiple websites and deals before making a purchase during holiday shopping, they expect the fastest and most convenient experience.  Once again this year, only brands that follow through consumer intent from search all the way to conversion with top-notch user experience will make the breakthrough in the marketplace.

Author: Burcu Agma, Group Director, Planning and Insights for Performics.