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Will Semantic Search Predict Future Buyer Behavior?
Posted on August 19th 2014
This post is the third and final of a multi-part series about the future of marketing and the role that semantic, context and intent will have on how we experience the internet.
It’s becoming eerily apparent that the Internet knows a lot about us. Due to our lust for free applications and our complete oversight of the privacy we relinquish for access, there are cookies and bots that have endless insights about what we are interested in.
Don’t believe me? Recall your past few conversations online and then look at the ads that appear on your Facebook page.
This is the result of big brother and big data, not some type of ESP that the internet has about our needs wants and desires. However, the internet is getting smarter and this growing intelligence is populating a new kind of semantic web that is providing more than just the most relevant results for people searching; it is also providing some key data to marketers that may just tell us about intent.
Movie fans out there may remember the movie Minority Report. In this Tom Cruise feature film, the star would go out and stop crimes before they would happen, as intelligence reached a point where authorities could see a crime that was about to be committed. At the time the concept seemed pretty far-fetched, but really this type of intelligence is very similar to how the semantic web may be able to tell you who may be your next big customer.
Marketers, what if you didn’t have to wonder where your future business was coming from? What if the Internet could tell you through the application of insights supported by data visualization?
Well, this future isn’t so far away. Let me explain further.
The Semantic Web Is Creating Clarity On Intent
By its very definition, the idea of “Semantic” is to find meaning and or intent in someone’s words. But as of today, through knowledge graphs, socially validated search and modified SEO, most of the intent is to bring clarity as to what is being searched for today.
Revisiting one more time the example of the “Chicago Steak” query in the first two parts of this series, it was about knowing that the person searching wanted to go out for steak in downtown Chicago at a high quality restaurant, even though very few of those words actually appeared in the search.
This same type of ability to extract meaning from search could also be a powerful tool for marketers to better understand what a consumer may intend to do. The question comes down to how marketers can collect, sort and utilize this to connect with a consumer at the right time to drive an inevitable purchase their way.
An Example On Future Purchase Intent
One of my favorite examples of a consumer-driven purchase that can take place almost entirely online is the purchase of a car.
What may have been driven early on by a disdain for car salesmen has evolved through a consumer driven purchase experience that puts the buyer at the controls when it comes to gathering information that is critical to their purchase.
But for a marketer, by the time the buyer shows up at the dealership it may be too late for them to drive the purchase one way or another. But through the potential of the semantic web this could be possible.
If a marketer could acquire information on a buyer that was searching for information, pricing and reviews on three different car models, they could likely gather that they have an interested buyer, although at this point they are undecided as to which of the three most interests them.
However, the time spent researching shows clear intent that the shopper is interested in purchasing one of these cars. Now that the intent is clear, their next clicks on features or lease options could show more about the exact vehicle they want and how they may be looking to pay for it.
Using other semantic queues like social data from public posts, data visualization could pull out the buyers in a geography that are asking their networks about a certain type of car. The responses could be graphed to better understand how their network may have influenced them providing the marketer with a clear picture of just how interested the buyer may be.
Knowing the buyer is looking for a lease and a certain type of car with a subset of known features, a marketer could potentially target that consumer acutely by packaging the entire deal based upon their intent. If delivered at just the right time the marketer could steer them to one particular model over another all while really using the intent data that was provided by the consumer.
Semantic Web Means Better Understanding For Marketers
In the end it is going to be the marriage of Big Data, Semantic Search and User Generated Content that will tell the story of intent for consumers.
The web is smarter, but mostly because we incessantly use tools that allow data to extract meaning. For consumers that leads to some better content to be driven our way, but for marketers this is a goldmine for understanding current behavior and how that may lead to a purchase in the near future.
This trend is in motion and irreversible. The marketers that maximize it first, will have the chance to cash in by taking the benefits of mass customization and driving it into a 1:1 marketing experience.