CX Insights

Visitor Intent: Tracking The “Why” Behind the “What”

Visitor Intent: Tracking The “Why” Behind the “What”
3 min read

Visitor intent is a key UX metric. Yet, the jury is still out on how best to track it. Things get complicated when you throw mobile versus desktop intent into the mix — not to mention the differences between transactional and informational visits.

Why Track Intent?

Since you can’t actually greet and meet every visitor personally, tracking intent provides insight into what visitors want – and how to give it to them. Regular analytics only tell part of the story – so, don’t be shy to ask visitors what’s on their minds.

Types of Intent

Let’s untangle the two types of visitor intent first:

  • Informational intent: The visitor came to learn something.
  • Transactional intent: The visitor came to accomplish something, like book an appointment or buy something

Sometimes, these intentions seem to overlap. For example, an estimated 50% of items in online shopping carts are abandoned: the visitor adds an item, but then navigates away without completing the purchase. Why??? Is something wrong with the checkout process or the product? If you only look at earnings, you may incorrectly reach that conclusion.

Cart abandonment doesn’t necessarily have to do with how you sell your products. Visitors may simply be looking for information: they use the shopping cart “informationally” to learn shipping prices, return policies or other info they couldn’t locate elsewhere.

Visitor Intent: Tracking The “Why” Behind the “What”

Mobile Versus Desktop

Users often have different intents when visiting sites on a mobile device versus a desktop. For example, most of us would rather search for and book airline tickets on a desktop. Yet, we’ll visit the airline’s site on a mobile device when we need our boarding pass.
Remember, mobile intent tends to be more location- and time-specific than desktop. We use mobile devices to retrieve information we need immediately, like finding a shop or restaurant nearby.

Tracking Intent

Unlike purely fact-based metrics (pageviews, uptime, revenues, etc.), intent is highly subjective, so it can be tricky to pin down.
Analytics-minded experts argue that statistics contain all the clues needed to identify intent. Key intent statistics include visitor return rates, engaged pageviews and navigation bounces. Yet, the only way to truly know what visitors want is to ask them. Experts have found that surveying visitors is an effective way to improving user experience and increase conversions.

Visitor Intent: Tracking The “Why” Behind the “What”

If You Don’t Ask for It, You Won’t Get It

Survey for intent by randomly offering a questionnaire to visitors to your site. Here are steps to follow:

  • Start with a question like, “Which option best describes your reason for visiting today?”
  • Give users a single-select list of options. Multiple-select responses water down the accuracy.
  • List about 6 options – no more than 8, or the visitor may turn off or answer less accurately.
  • Include an “Other, please specify” option.
  • Follow up with the yes/no question, “Did you find what you were looking for?”
  • If the answer is “no,” ask, “How can we help you find what you are looking for?”


The responses read like a window into your visitors’ minds. Once you know the “why” behind your traffic, you’re ready to sculpt your site into a next-level UX success. Here are some clever UX design tips that will help you do just that.

If you are curious to know more about similar topics like “What are the best questions to ask your users,” consult our related article. Hungry for more? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our consultants: it’s easy to reach out through this page!

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