Social shopping: How to use social media analytics to quantify purchase intent

Social shopping: How to use social media analytics to quantify purchase intent

With millions of consumers talking about their shopping experiences on social channels, columnist Ben Cockerell explains why social media insights are necessary for measuring purchase intent.

Marketers today have advanced technologies at their fingertips to gain a deeper understanding of their potential customers. They use keyword performance metrics to learn how customers are finding them and attribution modeling to follow customers’ paths to conversions. But tracking what happens before the customer ever clicks your ad or visits your website to make a purchase is still a mystery to many marketers.

Most consumers — myself included — do not go straight to a brand’s website when evaluating a big purchase. We do research, online and offline. We may go to the store to try out the product, ask for friends’ recommendations or read product reviews.
And millions of consumers are talking about each step of their shopping experience on social channels. This is why social media analysis is necessary for brands to quantify purchase intent.
Below are three ways to gauge purchase intent through social media analytics.

  1. Understand your product category and buyer cycles

No matter what you are selling, from cars to clothes, you need to understand how people are discussing and making decisions to buy these types of products. And just as you define and measure the stages of the purchase cycle for your product category, you can conduct a similar analysis on social media to get richer insights into the buyer journey.
Once you understand how many people plan to purchase these products and which stage of the buyer cycle they’re in, you can get into brand-specific metrics.

  1. Predict product launch results

Social media can give a good indicator of whether a new product launch will be successful or not. Brands can measure buzz around an announcement, but they can also dig deeper into the conversation to look at purchase intent conversations — posts that express wanting to buy or pre-order a product, asking for a gift or requesting others’ opinions on whether to purchase the product.
With a large volume of posts indicating purchase intent, brands can better anticipate product demand and prepare inventory. For example, with the debut of the Nintendo Switch, social media analysis ahead of the launch could have helped the brand better understand demand for the product, which outpaced stock.

  1. Identify drivers to purchase

Social media analysis can help you determine why people choose your brand, whether it’s price, specific product features or outstanding customer service. To take it a step further, brands can also conduct a competitive analysis to understand why customers buy competitors’ products instead of theirs, and vice versa. This insight can help marketers craft better campaigns that highlight aspects that actually drive purchases.
Purchase intent insights from social media are most powerful when used to improve strategies. Marketers can help boost sales by focusing campaigns on the top reasons people buy a product. Or brands can adjust product launch strategy based on how much social buzz there is for the new product and how much of that buzz is about purchase.

And combining social purchase intent data with other metrics, such as web and ad analytics or sales figures, helps create more predictive purchase intent models.


Ben Cockerell is the director of global marketing for Crimson Hexagon, a leading provider of social media intelligence software. He has more than 10 years of experience in marketing and communications. Previously, he served as product marketing manager for Hootsuite Media Inc., after working as the director of marketing for social startup uberVU. He has a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College and a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst






I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.