What Is Customer Intent?

A man lying on a couch using a smartphone.

Customer intent is what your customer may not be telling you they want.

Customer intent is what customers are really looking for

Customer intent is generally understood as the intention of driving a customer's purchasing journey. Essentially, it is the reason a customer chooses to interact with a brand.

And understanding it is crucial for brands to be able to push options the customer is more likely to buy — especially online, where customer journeys are more fragmented, mobile-based and time-sensitive than ever.

Interpreting customer intent can be a powerful tool when it comes to marketing. In an article for Think with Google, Lisa Gevelber, Google’s VP of Global Marketing writes, 

“Marketers who rely only on demographics to reach consumers risk missing more than 70% of potential mobile shoppers. Why? Because demographics don't help us understand what we really need to know—consumer intent—what consumers are looking for in an exact moment or where they are looking to find it.”

How to predict customer intent

Customer intent is not always explicit, and your customers won’t necessarily tell you exactly what they’re looking for. This means that many companies struggle to correctly predict consumer intent.

In fact, in a special report on customer intent, Customer Contact Week Digital (CCW) states,

"Only 6% of companies believe they are very successful at assessing customer intent and orchestrating customer journeys."

This is where AI and analytics come in. Today’s contact centers have a variety of channels they use to communicate with customers that are a veritable gold mine of information. By analyzing your past communications across channels, your organization can pinpoint trends and patterns in what your customers are looking for and how.

Analyzing past behavior is always useful, but with advancements in AI technology, like virtual agents and AI chatbots, we can also predict customer intent as it’s occurring. The CCW report states, “Uncovering customer intent is, in fact, one of the most effective use cases for chatbots. By using intuitive questions and natural language processing, bots can quickly identify why a given customer is interacting. This allows businesses to tailor the conversation — whether through additional self-service or escalation to an agent — based on the customer’s specific intent.”

Understanding consumer intent allows brands to provide better service, but also to identify actionable areas of improvement (on the website's design or the support process, for instance). Ultimately, it is a powerful tool to stay ahead of the customers' expectations on all fronts.

Find your most common customer intents