The key to studying user intent is understanding the context and intention behind an online search rather than just the words used.
What is the customer’s goal or aim?
What are they hoping to get from the search?
Why this search at this particular moment?
It’s this understanding of intent that makes a huge difference to how relevant a search result is – the more relevant to the intent, the greater the chance the customer will make a purchase.
As such, user intent is really one of the foundations of e-commerce. It’s just that, before now, we didn’t have the tools to properly utilize it.
Why Is User Intent Important in E-commerce?
E-commerce is the fastest and most efficient retail channel when consumers know what it is that they want to buy.
Rather than having to search store shelves or go from shop to shop, they can simply type what they want into a search box and be taken to the exact product.
This is only possible because of the retailer’s understanding of user intent.
Most websites and search engines today use natural language processing to interpret the customer’s intent. In the same way that we, as humans, can infer much about one another from the things we say, natural language processing allows digital systems to understand more of our language beyond just grammar.
From the keywords used in search queries and the context of those search terms, the system can try to interpret what the intention of the customer is.
What Are the Three Main Types of User Intent?
- Informational – where the consumer is looking for information about something.
- Navigational – where the consumer is trying to find a particular website.
- Transactional – where the consumer wants to buy a product or service.
Some consumers will have more than one intention driving their search, which is fine. The sophistication of today’s search engines can use other data, like clicks and navigation patterns, to interpret those multiple intentions. The system will then match its understanding of the user intent with the best possible content or product.
User intent is particularly crucial for retailers and brands because many e-commerce purchases don’t start on a retailer’s own website. They start in search engines and marketplaces such as Google, Amazon, eBay and Alibaba.
E-commerce is, in many ways, a journey that the shopper embarks on with the intent to purchase something. That journey can have many twists and turns, and more often than not it will begin with Google.
On its own, Google accounted for an 87.76% share of the global search engine market in June 2021 according to Statista.
In 2018, Jumpshot reported that 46% of product searches begin on Google.