One of the fundamental weaknesses in many approaches to measuring purchase intent is inherent in the very thing we are trying to predict: human behaviour.

Focus groups and surveys, both elaborate and simple, are staples in market research. Make an online purchase and more than likely, within 48 hours (sometimes 48 seconds) you will receive an email asking for your feedback on your ‘experience’. There are two important aspects to this. The obvious is to identify your level of satisfaction with the process and your likelihood of purchasing from the company again.
The more sophisticated marketers will also be looking at data (and your responses) in an attempt to reverse-engineer the processes that led you to purchase.

We’re all familiar with the concept of a person ‘hearing’ what they they want to hear versus hearing what was said. A similar phenomenon is what a person might ‘say’ they are going to do versus what they actually do: what they say in focus groups or write in surveys versus actual behaviour.

Reverse engineering purchase intent is a start and the professionals doing the heavy lifting in that work are the ones writing algorithms. The convergence that may not be too far in the future will be when the Algorithmists team up with the NeuroPsychologists: the professionals studying the physiology of brain activity and how it drives behaviour.

That day will come. And our every move will be measurable, predictable and for some, a tad Orwellian.

Until that day, our tools continue to be intelligently-designed data assembly, data collection, market experience and (for some marketers, the most frightening) gut instinct. There is science on that, too. But that is for another post. Let’s just leave it that your ‘gut’ does more than digest food: it processes information.

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