The Reasons for Targeting Based on Intent


Do you ever wonder about the difference between Intent Targeting and Demographic Targeting? You’re definitely not alone. Let’s break it down.

Intent targeting is what does. It’s about reaching people based on their behavior, including the sites they visit, the keywords they search, the content they read online, and more. If you include geo-fencing in the mix, intent can even be based on the places people visit in the real world.

On the other hand, demographic targeting relies on information that puts a targeted audience into more specific groups based on their age, gender, income, race and other factors. Demographic targeting is still a commonly used method of targeting but in most cases, targeting based on intent is more effective then by demographics.

Demographics tell us who a person is, but not what they want.

And because of this, “Marketers who try to reach their audience solely on demographics risk missing more than 70% of potential mobile shoppers.” (Google)

Knowing what interests a person is much more valuable than knowing who they are. When someone is navigating through the purchase funnel, they leave digital breadcrumbs that can be used to target them based on their interests.

Limiting targeting based on gender, income or any other demographic categories ignores the value of those intentions. Below are some eye-opening examples of how Demographic Targeting may not measure up.

Accuracy matters

Simply because a person fits a certain demographic doesn’t mean they have interest in buying a particular product. For example, the company selling strollers might think, “let’s target new parents” but mom and dad still might have big brother’s stroller so those ads are wasted.

If you have ever fibbed about your age or income on an online survey, you might have an idea of how accurate much of available demographic data is. In fact, a lot of demo data is based on probabilistic algorithms that assume a person’s identity based on their online behavior. Lastly, have you ever bought a gift online? Demographic targeting overlooks people who are shopping for someone besides themselves. Did you know that 40% of all baby product purchasers live in households without children? (Google / Ipsos MediaCT)

Reaching users based on their intent targets people based on their intent. The audience is chosen not by how they are labeled, but rather by their behavior, including the searches they are doing online, the keywords in the content they read, the categories of the pages they visit, and even the locations they visit in the real world while accessing their smartphones.

This intent data is a powerful source of information and tells us a lot about their interests and what kind of ads and content would resonate with that unique individual. For advertisers currently using demographic targeting to reach your audience, consider instead leveraging intent data to maximize the performance of your programmatic campaigns.