Metrics to Monitor: 5 Ways to Better Understand Customer Intent

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Robert Erich

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It’s been said that we judge others based on their actions and ourselves based on our intentions. In a business space where KPIs measure performance, and not intent, it can be difficult to figure out what people are thinking when they act. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to grasp at the correct metrics because intent isn’t a sexy concept. Sales are sexy. Revenue growth is sexy. 10% conversion rates are sexy.

But what many forget is that understanding customer intent (whether it be intent to purchase, to abandon a service, or to learn more from you) will help you identify how your business can leverage intent into action. Many large organizations have detailed matrices of micro-moments that give greater insight into their customer base. But what can every

Figuring out customer intent is no easy task– especially across support, web, mobile, POS, and social channels. But there are a few metrics that can help you understand your customer’s intent.

Email List Sign-Ups

If you don’t have an email list yet, get on it! Email is still one of the best ways to reach people, with reliably high open rates. Look at email sign-ups (both as a raw number and as a percentage of web page visits), which tells you who likes what you’re doing enough to engage further.

This intent to engage, although it doesn’t immediately translate to increased revenue, tells you that there is a customer base compelled to hear from you regularly.

Email List Metrics

The commonly tracked metrics for email subscribe and unsubscribe rates alone may appear to indicate intent or disengagement, but these metrics may be a measure of annoyance or complacency rather than engagement. To understand intent to interact with your information, measure click rates. Subsequent bounce rates will tell you that the recipient wasn’t interested in directly responding to the call to action, but that she still found the email compelling.

However, low open rates or high bounce rates both indicate that the recipient has (at least in that moment) low intent to engage with your message.

Ad Clicks

Targeted ads tell you a lot about what your targeted demographic thinks about your value proposition. Whether it’s a product or service, your ad clicks– especially those outside of your target demographic, can tell you a lot about the segment’s intention.

For example, holiday shoppers act atypically. Thus, measuring intent according to demographics through ad clicks during gift-giving times is a great way to see where you can grow your customer base. For example, if you run a gaming review site, your actual customers might be women aged 35-55, and not the 12-25 demographic you assume intend to purchase video games. Your targeted ad towards a seldom-tapped demographic should give you insight into their general intents– especially during gift-giving seasons.

Intent is tough tough to track, but honing in on these micro-moments can help you turn a demographic’s intent to make a general action into specific intent to seek you out.

Sales Page Bounce Rate

When a visitor leaves your sales page without taking any action towards purchase, you might infer that their intent was simply to look around. However, an unusually high bounce rate could indicate that your site navigation, call to action, or price is too high. So look at your bounce rate– is it steady, or does it fluctuate wildly based on your calls to action or navigation in A/B testing?

If your sales page bounce rates fluctuate, then bounce rates might be more reflective of your optimization efforts, and less indicative of your customer’s intent. But on the other hand, A/B testing on a sales page lets you know the effect your optimization efforts have on an action. The bounce rate could simply indicate that your prospective buyer doesn’t intend to act yet, but is still interested.

Cart Abandonment Rate

There is no clearer indication of intent to buy than when site visitors add an item to their shopping cart. Abandonment simply means that the potential purchaser didn’t follow through with the transaction. As with sales page bounce rates, cart abandonment rates indicate intent to purchase.

Measure your transaction volume and cart abandonment rate. Are they heavily skewed one direction or another? High transaction follow-through indicates that those who intend to buy are making purchases. High abandonment rates indicate that there is a block, either with the customer or stemming from website issues, that results in an abandoned web transaction.


Understanding intent is a tricky proposition. But if you monitor these metrics early on, you’ll be able to recognize the signposts that point towards intent, and ultimately the desired action. So keep your finger on the pulse of your new KPIs, test and repeat!

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Robert Erich

Robert Erich is a content marketer and energetic entrepreneur. He spends most of his time reading, writing, and teaching others about business. When not working, Rob enjoys sailing and traveling with his beautiful wife.

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