What Is Intent Data and Everything You Need to Know

Online competition in the retail industry has decimated the traditional high street shopping sector. The ability to buy online, wherever and whenever you want, has led to intense competition in this area. Consequently, online marketing has been ratcheted up to a different level. It is now essential to use all of the information and the metrics available to you, one of which is intent data.

It is important to know how the information is gathered, the detail and the best way to use it. So, we will now look at intent data, what it is and everything you need to know.

What is Intent Data?

Intent data is often described as your digital footprint, those footprints in the virtual snow that you leave behind when visiting websites. Using intent marketing and incorporating it into the latest behavioral analysis systems allows you to choose the optimum moment to place a highly relevant advert in front of a potential customer. You can create your own buyer journey and identify prospective buyers.

While the details recorded in a set of intent data will vary from site to site, there are several typical details, such as:

  • Detail on products/services a potential buyer was looking for

  • Expressions of interest in particular topics

  • Time spent on individual pages/websites

  • The overall buyer’s journey

We live in a world where data can be invaluable, information is bought and sold, and new software systems can analyze your every move. While the concept of this type of data is not new, the way it is collected, analyzed and used is very different.

Why is It Important for Your eCommerce?

Pre-Internet, if you wanted to buy a product/service, you had to visit the local premises in person or make several phone calls. Aside from mainstream media adverts, keeping track of price, service and feedback comparisons wasn’t easy. Fast-forward to the Internet and the ability to shop on your phone, at home or in the office. We live in a very different world!

Consequently, it is improbable that a prospective customer landing on your website will immediately carry out a purchase. A quick search of Google may show several companies offering similar services/products to your ecommerce business. As many of us have a limited engagement span, we may have forgotten about the first one by the time we checked the fourth or fifth company.

By gathering and using intent data, you can monitor a prospective client’s purchase journey, where they’re up to and the exact moment for you to strike with a bargain of a lifetime. Every visitor to your website has a cost, whether they have spotted you through online advertising, third-party content or your rankings on the search engines. As an ecommerce business, you need to maximize the return on your investment and ensure you are there when they finally decide to buy. What is the alternative?

Without advertising based on this kind of data, you’re back to square one. A prospective customer may need to be reminded of your business for them to visit again. This may be another online advert, third-party content or your on-site content and search engine rankings. The second time around, you are paying again for the same prospective customer. In any business, this does not make sense.

Types of Intent Data

Akin to different variations of tracking cookies, there are three different types of intent data which are as follows:


This information is gathered on your website using recognized cookies and other tracking strategies. It allows you to track landing pages, exit pages, visitor’s journeys, timescale, etc. Of course, this information must be collected within the realms of data protection regulations, which protect all parties.


As the term suggests, this is data purchased from another website/party, allowing you to pick and choose the elements you require. The information is then used to enhance your marketing strategy, which, when successful, is akin to preaching to the converted. When acquiring second-party intent data, it is vital to be aware of the quality, age of the information and history of the data provider.


Often referred to as B2B intent data, third-party data involves the in-depth analysis of often vast numbers of individual datasets. While most of these datasets will have originated from the Internet, this information may also include physical research and other available data. It allows third-party companies to build a profile of a potential client, analyze their behavior and start to predict, with unerring accuracy, when and where they are likely to complete their purchase.

While there may be a temptation to focus on one type of dataset, there’s also the opportunity to incorporate all datasets into the mix and create a greater understanding of your potential client base.

What’s the Difference Between First and Third-Party Data?

While first-party intent data is the most accurate, collecting data from users on your website, there is not the same broad context as that achieved with third-party intent data. Additionally, you will often find that third-party data will throw up some potential marketing opportunities that may not have crossed your mind. All of these different data collection solutions have merit, but ultimately, how you use the information will dictate how successful you are in securing sales.

We live in a day and age where data protection and privacy laws are forever being tightened. Even though this has reduced the abuse of personal data, it is still important to be aware of the source of any data you acquire. First-party intent data is under your control, and you can ensure visitors opt-in to the use of cookies and other tracking tools. However, there is less control over third-party data, which may be defined as a tracker or opt-in basis.

Conscious of using all data in a responsible manner, it is vital to check the basis upon which the third-party data was collected.

How is This Type of Data Collected?

As the vast majority of intent data supplied to e-commerce businesses is from online activities, this has traditionally been collected using cookies and analytical tools. While the use of third-party cookies is changing, this has to an extent been superseded by data-sharing cooperatives. However, there are distinct differences between how first-party, second-party and third-party data is collected.

First-party data collection

While you can add various analytical tools to your own website, one of the most popular is Google Analytics. For many e-commerce businesses, this is a good starting point, although more in-depth options are available. A good old-fashioned online inquiry form will often unearth a treasure chest of valuable data, which can significantly increase sales.

As the information is collected from your website, you own the data and have total control over how it is obtained (you can learn more about this type of data here).

Second-party data collection

Second-party data could involve cooperation between two complementary businesses, with the potential to create cross-selling opportunities. In reality, while this kind of intent data can be helpful, it is a compromise between first-party and third-party data collection. Even though it is limited in the depth of information available, it allows ecommerce businesses to obtain a greater understanding of potential client interests.

Third-party data collection

Third-party data is by far and away the most in-depth analysis of a prospective client, taking in a broad range of interests and activities. The raw data used in this type of behavioral analysis can come from an array of different sources, such as:-

  • Individual B2B website arrangements

  • Media publishers

  • Data-sharing cooperatives

While the source data needs to be broad and accurate, it is the way in which it is analyzed, sliced and diced which will determine the quality of the client profile created. This is something which intent data providers do for a living, literally 24/7.

Nowadays, with the ongoing tightening of data protection and privacy laws (such as GDPR), it is essential to know where the raw data comes from and how it is obtained. As a result, intense competition in this area has prompted participants to up their game/quality of output.

How Can You Use It?

Whichever route you take to obtain intent data, it is crucial to identify potential uses. You have the raw ingredients; now, you need to create recipes which will allow you to enhance your sales. Some of the main ways in which you can use this type of data include:

1. Identify early buyer interest/buyer intent

How often a client visits an individual page to the time spent browsing particular product/services can identify potential early buyer interest. Conversely, if visitors to your website find their way to a specific page, but this is a common exit point, it may be time to address this pain point and brush up on the marketing content.

2. Target accounts

Using behavioral analysis and historical purchase data allows marketing teams to create a target audience for a particular product/service. Often referred to as account based marketing, there are two benefits to this specific approach. On the one hand, you are preaching to the converted in many ways as there is a distinct link between their previous activity and the products/services you are selling.

But on the other hand, this ensures that the information you are sending out is of interest to the client. The best way to lose a client is to continually bombard them with sales data which, if you look at their history, is of no interest to them.

3. Personalizing your marketing approach

Whether looking at online adverts, content or direct contact via marketing and sales teams, personalizing your approach to individual customer sales can be a game-changer. The client has an immediate impression that you understand their interests and historic purchase activity and can present them with appropriate products/services. Each time clients feel like an individual, and not just “another number”, they will be more likely to deal with you.

4. Focus those marketing dollars/lead scores

When looking at a broad range of data on individual clients, it can be challenging to know where to start, how to spot patterns and maximize the use of the information. Rather than taking a scatter gun approach, the best marketing programs focus on squeezing the last cent out of your marketing dollars.

This is where automated analysis comes into play, assigning points to individual data elements and creating a lead scoring model to rank customer accounts. Now all you need to do is let your sales and marketing teams contact them and sell!

5. Customer retention

By analyzing the potentially massive datasets available, you can enhance areas of your website which are working and restructure those which are failing. While intent data is focused on intercepting “warm” customers/potential customers before they look elsewhere, it is also about promoting the full range of your products/services. If a client is unaware, you have a particular product available, and they look elsewhere, you could lose them forever.

This kind of data may come across as a relatively complex marketing strategy, but it is relatively simple in theory, although sometimes challenging in practice. In essence, it promotes a particular way of listening to those interested in your business, analyzing their activity, content consumption and presenting them with what they have been seeking. If only it were that simple!


The use of intent data should be an integral part of any marketing strategy and is, to all intents and purposes, a case of “preaching to the converted”. Online activity is analyzed, and early buyer interest is identified using various methods. This not only ensures that potential buyers receive the best service and the most appropriate products but, more importantly, it ensures they are less likely to look elsewhere.

While some people are critical of focused marketing, it saves businesses and customers time. They are presented with relevant information and products they are looking for, the route to direct purchase and further information, if required, to close the deal. We have seen tremendous strides in the use of artificial intelligence to analyze data, looking for trends and specific triggers. While this information and the enhanced selling process are invaluable to any ecommerce business, data must always be used ethically.

Table of Contents

Ecommerce tips and news right to your inbox

Enter your email and stay into the industry trends and Verfacto news