What is Behavioral Marketing?

Behavioral Marketing

Be·hav·ior·al mar·ket·ing

/bəˈhāvyərəl märkədiNG/


Definition: Behavioral Marketing enables brands to identify and react to consumer behavior in real-time, driving more relevant and productive one-to-one communications and unlocking incremental revenue for brands.

Behavioral Marketing in Concept

In concept, Behavioral Marketing is not at all new and finds its roots in a brick and mortar past. Sure, customer experience in stores today is, more often than not, lacking. But think back to your best in store experiences.

For me, it happened at Urban Outfitters, back when I was shopping for the perfect (and trendy) interview outfit. Overwhelmed by the options before me and unsure of where to start, I was approached by a sales associate, asking to assist in putting together that job-capturing ensemble.

She was amazing, not only bringing me a variety of options to try on but also advising me on what looked best and why. Ultimately, I walked out of the store completely satisfied and confident, even though I’d spent way more than I’d budgeted.

But let’s back up and understand why this particular instance of customer service was so successful:

  1. She approached me – I didn’t have to ask or search for a sales associate. She read my body language, understood that I was in need of help, and came over.
  2. She made it easy – I explained what I was looking for and she jumped into action, making me feel like I had my very own personal shopper who truly cared about my needs.
  3. I trusted her – As she educated me on each option offered, my trust in her and her advice grew.

By the end of the shopping experience, I was so confident in the options she’d helped me put together that I didn’t even hesitate when I spent nearly double the amount of money I’d budgeted.

Ultimately, this is the goal of Behavioral Marketing: to create experiences so engaging that the consumer is fully motivated to take the next most productive and profitable step with a business.

Keep in mind, however, that my experience was limited to a single-channel – the brick and mortar store. Today, particularly in the digital world, shoppers begin on one channel and end on another.

Consumers switch between between, emails, social media, and ads while brands pay to drive them from those channels back to their core businesses. For this reason, creating relevant, behavior based experiences across all of those touch points has become increasingly crucial.

Behavioral Marketing in Practice

Today, when individuals arrive on a website, they’re most often treated exactly the same, regardless of where they came from and how they got there. It’s only once the user reaches the point of abandoning their shopping cart that they’ll be targeted with a unique experience, most often in the form of a cart abandonment overlay and email. But considering that 75% percent of visitors who land on a product page never add items to cart in the first place, brands are currently ignoring a large portion of their traffic.

Imagine if store associates didn’t acknowledge consumers until they reached the checkout line.  That’s exactly what eCommerce retailers are doing today. Of course, marketers should ensure those highest intent individuals (the ones who have added items to cart) complete the journey they started, but what about all those other consumers?

According to Salesforce, it takes consumers between 6 and 8 different touchpoints to create a conversion-ready consumer. That’s where Behavioral Marketing comes in, ensuring that every single touch point is relevant, engaging, and ultimately guides the individual to conversion.

In order to create those motivating experiences, however, brands must first gain a better understanding of their audience, which begins with understanding the friction points that exist across the conversion journey.  ‘Friction Points’ refer to all the reasons why an individual may pause, hesitate, abandon or choose not engage at all while interacting with your business.

Just take a look through the analytics for various marketing channels, including the website, the email program, the ads. Identify the drop-off points and isolate the elements responsible:

  • Is there discontinuity between the subject line and the email content?
  • Does the home page encourage deeper navigation?
  • Is there confusion about pricing?
  • Is the ad relevant enough?
  • Etc.

Of course, there are an endless number of reasons why an individual may abandon. But if you can alleviate the leading factors, you’ll notice a change in your digital business, transforming its currently stagnant state to one that mirrors the sales associate I described above, guiding your traffic toward conversion.

Take an example from our guide, The Blueprint to Behavioral Marketing.  SuzieQ is struggling to make the decision of whether or not to add an item to cart while visiting a product page. Without Behavioral Marketing, her experience likely looks something like this:

What is Behavioral Marketing? SuzieQ strip showing lack of behavioral marketing in eCommerce businesses.

As it is for many people, making the decision to actually add an item to cart (particularly for prospects who have never purchased from a brand previously) can be stressful. It represents the visitor’s first commitment toward purchasing the product.

With a little guidance, however, that decision can become much easier. Let’s take another look at the example with Behavioral Marketing in play.

What is Behavioral Marketing? SuzieQ strip showing Behavioral Marketing in play for eCommerce businesses.

By combining the fact that product pages are a major drop off point for brands with the understanding that the add to cart decision is often a point of friction for consumers, brands can react to consumers productively.

In the above scenario, as the brand detected that SuzieQ was showing interest in a particular product, it reacted by creating guiding experiences that alleviate the friction associated with that initial commitment of adding the item to cart.

That’s not to say that Behavioral Marketing is limited to onsite experiences. It can and should be utilized across all marketing channels from ads to emails to push notifications.

The goal of Behavioral Marketing is to create more relevant conversations with your audience regardless of how you’re communicating with them. With the behavior-based approach, brands will begin to develop relationships with their audience, tailored to the unique experiences of each user.

Behavioral Marketing the People-Based Way

In order to maximize the value of Behavioral Marketing, we recommend going the People-Based route. People-Based Marketing is a type of Behavioral Marketing that allows you to target the specific individual in question, as opposed to reacting to their behaviors.

Since the crux of People-Based Marketing is user identification, you’ll be able to create behavior-based, engaging experiences across every device and channel, regardless of where or how a user chooses to engage for a truly omnichannel approach to your business.