How Real-Time Consumer Intent Is Changing The Sales Cycle

Ralf Kern

As a marketer, it’s your job to know what a consumer bought, thought, and did a month ago, a week ago, and even yesterday. But do you know what a consumer is thinking right now?

Understanding real-time consumer intent allows marketers to deliver targeted information, like special product promos or offers, at the exact moment in time when a consumer is searching for this information. Real-time intent is a powerful marketing tool that helps businesses close more deals by providing the information consumers need at the exact moment they’re open to receiving this information. This drives decision-maker consensus, reduces barriers to sales, and primes consumer to take immediate action.

The contemporary sales cycle: More options, more stakeholders, more challenges

Motivating a customer to complete a purchase has always been a challenge for sales and marketing professionals at both B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) companies. At B2B companies, for example, shrinking budgets and a greater wealth of available options has led to longer sales cycles. More decision-makers means everyone needs to weigh in on a potential decision. This makes it more difficult to drive stakeholder consensus and also lengthens the decision-making process. Everyone wants to have a voice in the decision, but no one wants to be the deciding voice and risk getting blamed if the decision is a mistake.

The B2C decision-making cycle is also changing, thanks to social media and smartphone technology. Mobile shopping is disrupting the consumer decision journey for retail. Google reports that while foot traffic in retail stores has declined by 57% in the past five years, the value of every visit has nearly tripled. With smartphones in tow, consumers are researching product information, checking social media for product reviews, and doing a quick price comparison search before they make a purchase. Most significantly, these mobile searches are happening at the exact moment consumers are in stores. They’re holding the product in their hands, asking, “Should I buy this right now?”

How does intent targeting increase sales?

Intent targeting allows businesses to reach consumers at these critical, decision-making moments. Whether it’s delivering a case study that drives decision-maker consensus at a B2B company or targeting consumers with a special promo discount while they’re doing a mobile price comparison, intent targeting delivers the right information at the right moment.

Intent targeting is different than showing an ad on a website that simply mirrors that website’s content. When businesses truly understand real-time customer intent, they can target a customer with information aligned with the consumer’s needs across a variety of touch points. Most importantly, the timing is spot-on: marketers can target a customer at the exact moment that customer is open to receiving information.

Targeting consumers in the moment with dynamic, contextually relevant experiences

Successful customer engagement must be proactive, tapping into the emotional drivers behind the buying process and delivering relevant customer experiences in real time. The more compelling and relevant the experience, the more likely customers will stay engaged (or re-engage) during the buying journey.

In order to successfully engage with today’s customers, businesses need more than just historical data. They need knowledge of “in-the-moment” customer activity to accurately target and deliver relevant and engaging customer offers and promotions. They need to understand the real-time intent of each customer and dynamically deliver contextually relevant experiences across channels. This requires a 360-degree view of customer’s behavior and actions. Businesses need to be able to process large volumes of structured and unstructured data, score implicit and explicit behavior across channels, and convert this information into real-time insights that drive marketing decisions.

Static customer segmentation approaches don’t cut it anymore. Progressive customer profiling taking into account each and every customer interaction and sentiment are required to show empathy, build trust, and earn customer loyalty. Customer happiness is the ultimate currency in retail. A concise and contextual brand experience based on a deep understanding of the customer is a prerequisite to creating customers for life.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value: Accelerating Digital Transformation in Retail. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Ralf Kern

About Ralf Kern

Ralf Kern is the Global Vice President, Business Unit Retail, at SAP, responsible for the future direction of SAP’s solution and global Go-to-Market strategy for Omnicommerce Retail, leading them into today’s digital reality.