As a mar­keter, it’s your job to cre­ate an opti­mal vis­i­tor experience—a smooth, easy, well-designed path that leads directly to the cart (or the opt-in page, down­load but­ton, or what­ever marks a suc­cess­ful trans­ac­tion for your site). But, of course, not every cus­tomer obe­di­ently fol­lows the path you’ve laid out. Some drop off early in the process, while oth­ers make it to the end only to change their minds. Either way, you’re left scratch­ing your head and won­der­ing what went wrong.

The answer won’t be the same for every cus­tomer, because every cus­tomer came to your site with a dif­fer­ent intention.

In a pre­vi­ous post, I talked about ways to turn aban­don­ments into oppor­tu­ni­ties. Today, I want to cover another key aspect of boost­ing con­ver­sions: under­stand­ing vis­i­tor intent.

No two vis­i­tors are identical—which means no two inten­tions are the same. Every­one who comes to your site has a prob­lem to solve, whether it’s find­ing the right dress for an upcom­ing party, get­ting a good deal on a flight, or just stay­ing enter­tained dur­ing a long sub­way ride.

With so many dif­fer­ent inten­tions, how do you align your offer­ings to meet them?

Most likely, you’re already look­ing at some key indi­ca­tors in your cur­rent test­ing schema, such as site search strings, time spent on site, and pre­vi­ous pur­chase behav­ior. But to truly get into your cus­tomers’ heads and under­stand what’s dri­ving them, you need to go straight to the source.

What Do You Need to Know?

To get accu­rate, rel­e­vant answers, you need to ask the right ques­tions. Start by mak­ing a list of what you wish you knew about your cus­tomers and prospects. I’ve listed just a few sug­ges­tions below, but your list may look very different.

  • What brought them to your site, and how did they get there?
  •  Were they able to imme­di­ately deter­mine what you offer?
  • How easy (or dif­fi­cult) was it for them to find the prod­ucts, ser­vices, and/or infor­ma­tion they needed?
  • Did vis­i­tors find the “flow” of the site to be easy or confusing?
  • Is the check­out or reg­is­tra­tion process too lengthy or complex?
  • Is the site equally friendly to vet­eran and first-time users?
  • Have you cre­ated a wel­com­ing, reas­sur­ing, and help­ful environment?
  • What is the most impor­tant thing your cus­tomers look for in a shop­ping experience?

Stop Guess­ing and Start Asking

Now that you’ve iden­ti­fied the right ques­tions, it’s time to ask them. One of the most effec­tive ways to pin­point vis­i­tor intent is through per­son­al­ized sur­veys. Most cus­tomers love talk­ing about them­selves, and they have strong opin­ions about their shop­ping expe­ri­ences. The key is to pro­vide the right mech­a­nism for them to share all those valu­able insights.

Before launch­ing a sur­vey, use a tool like Adobe Tar­get to define cus­tomer seg­ments so you can eas­ily gauge trends among cer­tain groups. For instance, you might send one sur­vey to cart aban­don­ers to find out where you’re miss­ing the mark. Another ver­sion could go to your high­est value cus­tomers, to deter­mine which inten­tions you’re sat­is­fy­ing for them. You can then use these seg­mented responses to opti­mize for the var­i­ous groups.

In addi­tion to email­ing a sur­vey, you might con­sider imple­ment­ing an on-site sur­vey. By cap­tur­ing real-time feed­back as cus­tomers are shop­ping, you can get fresh feed­back about what brought them to your site, what they’re find­ing or not find­ing, and what you can do to move them along the path. This is a great strat­egy for deter­min­ing why a spe­cific page has a high aban­don­ment rate—are vis­i­tors con­fused about an ele­ment of the design, or are you fail­ing to pro­vide the infor­ma­tion they need?

Turn­ing Con­nec­tions into Conversions

After you’ve gath­ered feed­back from users, act on it. If vis­i­tors tell you the reg­is­tra­tion process is too com­plex, sim­plify it. Are they uncon­vinced of your product’s ben­e­fits? Spell it out with well-written copy, pho­tos, and videos. The key is deliv­er­ing the right expe­ri­ence, prod­uct, and/or ser­vice to meet their needs, with a min­i­mum of has­sle and uncertainty.

Every vis­i­tor comes to your site look­ing to solve a prob­lem or achieve a goal. When you under­stand their intention—and then read­ily respond to it—they’ll be much more likely to choose your solution.