How to Quantify Purchase Intent with Social Media Data

Using social media analytics to measure intent to purchase

Brands know the value of purchase intent, but they may not know that social media analysis provides a perfect way to measure it via consumer conversations. This post covers why social media analytics works so well for measuring purchase intent and how to do it.
Think about the last time you made a big purchase decision. Did you go straight to to the brand’s website or social media page to do your research? Probably not. Did you discuss the potential purchase before you pulled the trigger? Probably. And if you’re like millions of consumers, you even talked about it on social media.
Today’s web analytics and digital marketing technologies allow brands to track how specific online views, clicks, and actions lead to a purchase. But that’s only part of the story. What happens before a potential customer clicks your ad or visits your landing page? What about word of mouth and offline marketing?
Social media analysis allows brands to tap into consumer discussion leading up to a purchase.
Consumers are researching products before they hit any of your brand’s web properties. Additionally, they are sharing nearly every thought and action on social media, including their feelings about specific products. They may have read a review of your product on a blog, watched a TV ad, or simply heard about your product from a friend. No matter where they heard about your product, they’re talking about their intent to purchase (or not) on social.
This tweet is a perfect example of someone expressing genuine purchase intent that wouldn’t get picked up by your web or ad analytics.

So how can you use this type of data to start getting a fuller picture of purchase intent for your own products?

The Challenge of Measuring Intent to Purchase

You probably already know that purchase intent is defined as a measurement of the probability that a consumer will purchase a service or product.” But the ability for brands to quantify purchase intent has come a long way in recent years. Paper- and phone-based surveys evolved into online surveys and are now augmented with digital marketing metrics like clicks, impressions, and other online actions.

Purchase intent is defined as a measurement of the probability that a consumer will purchase a service or product.

Tracking purchase intent on social media allows you to tap into unsolicited consumer conversation that isn’t siloed by specific marketing channels and campaigns.

Measuring Purchase Intent with Social Media Analytics

Social media analytics can provide valuable insights about everything from your audience to your campaigns. Social conversations can also be the perfect place to start to identify and track purchase intent in a number of different ways.
Purchase intent can be expressed in posts about wanting to buy or pre-order a product, asking for a gift, requesting guidance on which product to buy, in addition to many other statements of interest. These types of posts can all be used to help you measure purchase intent before consumers are adding items to their cart or subscribing to your emails.
Here are some examples of how you can use social media analytics to measure different aspects of purchase intent.

General purchase intent for your product category

How many people are talking about buying products like yours? Whether you’re selling headphones, hamburgers, or handbags you may want to measure and track how many people are planning to purchase these types of products in general before diving into your specific brand.
Here’s an example looking at three different stages of purchase intent for new cars:


Indicator of sales success for a product launch

The announcement of a new product can generate a lot of excitement and conversation on social media. Beyond looking at the buzz around an announcement, looking at purchase intent can help brands better forecast what the demand will look like at launch.
For example, the Nintendo Switch was such a huge success at it’s launch that demand immediately outpaced stock. Whether or not the scarcity of the new gaming console is part of Nintendo’s strategy, a thorough analysis of the social conversation leading up to the launch could have helped them better understand the demand.

Nintendo Switch pre-launch:

Nintendo Switch post-launch:

Competitor’s products

Understanding how consumers feel about your product in comparison to your competitor’s product is is useful, but comparing purchase intent is even better. You don’t need to stop with one-to-one comparison. Looking at the discussion of purchase intent across multiple products at once can help you understand where your products stands against many similar products.
In this example, social media analytics was used to example the discussion of tech gifts for the holiday season.

Identify what’s driving intent to purchase

Why do people want to buy your product? Social media analysis can help you determine the most common things that drive people to choose your brand. Is it price? A specific feature? Outstanding customer service? Once you identify these top reasons you can add them as categories to your purchase intent analysis to determine what is having in the biggest impact.

Understanding why people want to buy your products opens up a variety of other opportunities for insights. You can compare what’s driving intent to purchase your products over competitor’s and vise versa. You can also use this “why” info to create better marketing campaigns that highlight the things that drive people to make a purchase.
An analysis of reasons people purchase or want to purchase the Apple TV shows that the cross-pollination of Apple’s ecosystem is the main selling point, including the ease of the AirPlay feature and integration with Apple Music.

Stages of the buying cycle

In addition to understanding why people purchase your products, social media analytics can help you better define and measure the stages of the buying cycle around your products. If you already have a good grasp of the stages of the buyer journey for a product, you can use those stages to create analysis categories for each (machine learning can help).
This example shows the comparison between Apple TV and Roku:

What to do with the insights?

These purchase intent insights become even more powerful when they are applied to improve your strategy. Creating specific campaigns based on the top reasons people buy it can give your marketing a bigger impact on sales. Beyond that, looking at social purchase intent data in tandem with your web and advertising analytics and real sales number can help sophisticated marketing organizations develop more precise and predictive purchase intent models.
Want to more on how to measure purchase intent gain other insights from social media? Download our free Business Insights Guide:


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