Intent Marketing Done Differently

When people have a bad experience with marketing or sales, it’s usually because they perceived someone or something as being too pushy. Or misleading. Or irrelevant. Intent marketing reverses that. It tries to figure out which way the consumer is already pushing. Then it delivers what they want or need in that particular moment. Intent marketing underlies all search engine marketing. And now, it’s evolving even further. 

Hopper, a flight-booking app, is a prime example of intent marketing done differently. 

Hopper received investment from the Business Development Bank of Canada, Citi Ventures, and others. In total, the data-driven travel company has raised over $184M. 

For decades now, many dot-coms have scrambled for dominance in the internet booking engine space. Hopper is trying to distinguish itself with big data and better predictive analytics. 

The startup recognized that there was a massive opportunity to disrupt how people purchase airline tickets. They did this by throwing away the standard model of intent purchases and thinking about latent purchases instead. 

Typically, consumers decide where and when they want to fly. They do an online search and have the intent to book something. Sometimes, they have scheduling flexibility but wind up picking random dates. Maybe they strike it lucky with a good fare on those dates. Maybe not. 

But Hopper asks for patience and encourages users to delay their bookings if better prices await them. Users receive customized notifications that are based on their own signals of flexibility as well as a substantial record of airfare data. This relationship builds trust. 

Hopper’s prediction algorithm considers a vast amount of information in order to determine the most affordable time for each consumer’s specific, desired trip. As a consequence of this tech, Hopper claims to have saved travellers more than $2 billion to date. This has happened over the course of nearly 38 million app installs. 

Other applications try to monetize their userbases hurriedly through in-app purchases and restricted value. Hopper’s approach here stands out. 

“Over 60 percent of notifications ask people to wait for a better pricing,” said Simon Lejeune, head of user acquisition at Hopper. “When you step back and think about it, it’s crazy for an eCommerce site to tell someone not to buy what you’re trying to sell.” But as Lejeune explained, there is a compelling business case behind that. 

He said that Hopper was the first company to go into price prediction and make it the center of the value proposition. Other booking sites source and aggregate their data from the same source — a global distribution system. Then they throw money at Google in order to capture the attention of travelers. 

“We really own the relationship with users and get to know users more and more,” said Lejeune. He described it as a less marketing intensive business. Hopper’s mobile-first system checks user signals around preferences and flexibility and slowly earns trust by providing money-saving, personalized recommendations. Twenty-five percent of Hopper’s bookings are inspired by the app’s suggestions, not active searches. 

By contrast, Lejeune suggested that some of the company’s online competitors provide a lesser experience due to their dependence on Google Ads. 

“If you need to convert the people right away because you don’t know when they’re going to come back, then your incentive as a product is to use tricks and create anxiety,” he said. Notifications show you the number of other people who are looking at the same flight. Countdown timers threaten to wipe away your carefully discovered option. Lejeune said that these companies invested heavily in digital ads and they’re trying to recoup those dollars, instead of going after customer lifetime value. 

By using big data to predict and analyze airfare, Hopper is an example of disruption as well as intent marketing. Other companies are also noticing and responding differently to explicit or implicit consumer intents to purchase. Instead of hurrying consumers down the purchase funnel, these unique startups are engaging with them more deliberately. 

Rosemary Waldrip is VP of Marketing for Music Audience Exchange, which matches brands with music artists for mutually-beneficial partnerships. Her company is changing the formula when it comes to marketing campaigns in the automotive category. 

The ultimate goal is to drive sign-ups for test drives. But sometimes the best way to get there is by applying the brakes slightly. 

“Traditionally, automotive advertising is super heavy on the product features and “why-buys” incentives, to try and get people into dealerships,” she explained. “Our approach is to start soft with messages that are relevant to the consumers the auto company wants to connect with.” 

For example, a conventional 60-second audio ad might involve a musician listing off product features and incentives to come into a dealership. But this type of ad could be perceived as an interruption by consumers who were fully engrossed in the native music experience offered by a radio or streaming platform. 

By contrast, Music Audience Exchange opts for the slow nurture approach. The featured artist introduces themselves, talks about their partnership with the brand, and provides samples of their new music. The audience can hear more by visiting a branded landing page. More specific messaging comes later. 

By leveraging massive datasets, Hopper says that it can predict airline prices with 95 percent accuracy up to one year in advance. Like Hopper, Music Audience Exchange relies on big data. 

“Our platform and the AI algorithms we’ve built around musicians and their fan bases is helping automotive companies identify which musicians appeal to their target consumer for specific vehicles, regions of the country, and other demographics and psychographic behaviors,” said Waldrip. 

Intent marketing is well-established but these two companies show that there’s a way to do things a little differently. Instead of immediately jumping on a consumer intent to purchase, it’s possible to earn trust, grow partnerships, and respectfully nurture leads.

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