How To Uncover Buyer Intent for Handmade Products

When I started my handbag business, I chose material based on what stood out to me at the fabric store and created bag patterns based on what I liked or what I thought would be unique.

 

I did sell most of those handbags, but I wasn’t making the kind of sales I wanted, or that I needed to be able to rely on my handmade business as my sole source of income.

 

The jump in sales really came when I started creating with buyer intent in mind and designing bags that served a purpose.

 

Instead of handbags made to hold “stuff”, I designed bags to hold laptops.

 

There was a lot more to designing bags that generated consistent sales but determining why someone was shopping is an important step.

 

How many people need another bag? Not many.

 

But they’ll buy a new bag if there’s a void in their wardrobe.

 

Examples of a void might be:

  • They don’t have a bag to carry their laptop
  • They don’t have a “bum bag” (one of the trends this year)
  • They don’t have a bag for their bike

 

When there’s a void, they’re buying with an intent:

  • To have a bag that carries their laptop and keeps it safe
  • To have a bag that follows the latest fashion trend
  • To have a bag that straps onto their bike

 

There’s now a purpose behind a new bag purchase.

 

Even if consumers need a new “everyday” purse to serve a basic function (i.e. to carry their everyday stuff), they’re typically not looking for any ol’ bag.

 

Instead, they’re looking for a handbag that fits a certain:

  • Fashion style or trend (e.g. leopard print)
  • Lifestyle (e.g. vegan)
  • Body style (e.g. crossbody)
  • Attire (e.g. work attire)
  • Etc.

 

That’s when people are willing to spend more money than they need to.

 

If a consumer doesn’t care about specifics, they’re heading to the dollar store, department store, grocery store, etc. to buy their products; not Etsy or a craft show.

 

To boost sales, you can uncover potential buyer intents and create products that serve them.

 

I’ll share how in this article.

 

 

 

What Is Buyer Intent & Why Is It Important?

The way I like to think about buyer intent is uncovering the consumer’s reason behind a purchase.

 

>> It’s focusing on how your products will be used by your customers, instead of what your products are.

>> It’s less about who it’s for and more about the purpose it serves.

 

Determining buyer intent can help your products get found online as well as encourage more impulse buys (online or at craft shows).

 

 

Get Found Online

There’s a sea of products to compete with online, even within a marketplace such as Etsy. And people generally don’t search for basic products, otherwise, they’ll be inundated with a sea of choices. When people search online for a product, they’re looking for something specific.

 

For example, is someone going to go online and type “notebook” into Google, Etsy, or Amazon?

 

Probably not.

 

If they need a notebook, they have something specific in mind they’re going to use that notebook for. Therefore, they’re going to search for a specific type of notebook.

 

When you figure out how people commonly use a product (such as a notebook), you uncover what they specifically search for and can create products that match that purpose.

 

It’s a way to turn your online listings into cream that rises to the top 😉

 

 

Impulse Buys

Even when someone isn’t searching for a product and they’re just browsing, a product made with buyer intent in mind helps a shopper immediately realize what they would use the item for.

 

When you give shoppers ideas as to how they’ll use a product, they’re more likely to buy.

 

For example, if someone comes across a basic notebook at a craft show, it may not make them feel they need to buy because it doesn’t create a clear vision for what they’ll use it for.

 

But a “Meal Planning Notebook” tells a shopper exactly what they’d use the notebook for.

 

Sure, they could use a plain notebook for meal planning too, but a “meal planning notebook” sparks their imagination so they don’t have to come up with the idea on their own.

 

It also makes them realize; maybe a meal planning notebook would be helpful. Something they wouldn’t think if they were presented with a regular notebook.

 

You want to make it as easy as possible for a shopper to make a decision; to buy or not to buy.

 

When they must brainstorm all the ways they could use the notebook and then question if they’d actually use it, if it’s worth the money, and if they want to pull their wallet out, it’s making them do too much work.

 

When a shopper can imagine what they’ll use a product for and/or how it will fit in their lives, they’re more likely to buy.

 

 

 

Are Your Products Basic?

When I say “basic”, I don’t mean it in an insulting way, as though there’s nothing special about your products.

 

What basic means here is that:

There isn’t a purpose to a product beyond the basic purpose it’s meant to serve.

 

Examples of basic purposes would be:

  • The basic purpose of a bag is to hold items and/or be a fashion accessory
  • The basic purpose of a necklace is to accessorize
  • The basic purpose of soap is to cleanse
  • The basic purpose of a notebook is for writing notes

 

Buyer intent is about taking a product above and beyond its basic purpose.

 

When I started my handmade business, I was making bags that were simply fashion accessories. There wasn’t a purpose to them beyond that.

 

Sure, I was trying to make them different by using unique materials and coming up with my own designs, but in the consumers’ eyes, they were just another handbag.

 

There wasn’t a match between what shoppers were specifically looking for and what I was offering.

 

No one ever said: I’ve been looking for a bag like this!

 

My bags were a basic product consumers could find anywhere.

 

Even a small change, such as appealing to the latest color trend in fashion would have given my bags more of a purpose.

 

For example, if neon green was a color trend one summer, offering neon green bags would be offering a product people are actually looking for. Now my bags aren’t just another fashion accessory, they’re a “trending” fashion accessory. That trend is what gives people a reason to buy another handbag and the purpose is to fill a trend void in their wardrobe.

 

There’s nothing wrong with “basic” products.

 

Plenty of people buy “basic” products. My business made sales selling “basic” handbags. But I wanted more sales, and consistent ones. That just wasn’t happening with my initial approach.

 

A plateau in sales can happen because there’s an abundance of “basic” products on the market.

 

There are endless options for consumers to choose from when looking for:

  • A bag to carry basic items
  • A necklace that accessorizes
  • Soap that cleans
  • A notebook to write notes in

 

My bags were basic.

 

No one needed to come to me to get what they were looking for.

 

If someone simply needs a basic bag and they aren’t particular about the style, they probably aren’t spending the extra money on handmade items.

 

But if they need a bag that follows a specific fashion trend (neon green) or one to carry something specific (a laptop) it’s a little harder to come by and they’ll be willing to spend more money on it.

 

When you create a product based on buyer intent, you separate your products from the abundance of basic products on the market. And that’s when you’ll see a boost in sales.

 

If you think you have a basic product, follow the steps below to uncover more specific buyer intents related to your product.

 

 

 

What’s the Buyer Intent for your Products?

Follow the steps below to uncover potential buyer intents for your handmade products.

 

*Before You Begin

The key to this process working is, as always, to keep the customer top of mind. We have to work with our target market’s existing wants/needs.

 

For example, when I started my handbag business with my business partner, our focus was on the details of the lining. We chose fabrics for the inside of the bags that were just as beautiful as the outside of the bags.

 

As nice as those linings made the bags, “beautiful bag lining” isn’t how the consumer shops for bags.

 

Very few people, if any, search “beautifully lined bag” or go on the hunt for a bag based on the fabric of the lining.

 

But people do search for “laptop bags” and details related to laptop bags (e.g. “leather laptop bag”, “backpack laptop bag”, “black backpack laptop bag”, etc.).

 

As much as we wanted to focus on the lining of the bags and for that to be the element that set us apart, to make more sales, we had to go by what customers searched/shopped for.

 

Choosing the right target market will help you find product features consumers care about. How To Find a Goldmine of Customers will walk you through the process of finding a profitable target market and uncovering what they’re looking for.

 

And this article about the labels consumers put on products will also ensure you find a product purpose that earns you money.

 

 

 

Step 1 – Brainstorm Product Purposes

If you know your target market, determining buyer intent may be obvious.

 

For example, if I make notebooks and I’m targeting brides, then I know my customers will use my notebooks to plan their weddings and keep track of wedding-related tasks.

 

But if you haven’t defined your target market yet, that’s okay. This technique will still be helpful. It may even help you uncover your target market.

 

Take a basic product (e.g. bags, jewelry, soap, notebooks, etc.) and brainstorm how consumers commonly use the product, outside of its basic purpose.

 

For example, why might someone buy a notebook? What would they specifically use it for?

 

People who buy notebooks may use it for:

  • Taking notes in school or at a specific type of job
  • Organizing their to-do list
  • Keeping a food diary
  • Meal planning
  • Planning their garden
  • Sketching/Bullet journaling
  • Writing vows
  • Etc.

 

 

Examples

Here are a few more examples based on popular categories for handmade products:

 

Art may be purchased for:

  • A certain room in the house
  • Evoking a feeling
  • Fitting a specific style of home
  • Commemorate a person, place or thing
  • Inspiration

 

Candles may be used for:

  • Scenting a home
  • Relaxation
  • Emergency situations
  • Table settings
  • Meditation/Prayer

 

Jewelry may be purchased for:

  • A gift
  • A wedding
  • Celebrating a special moment
  • Conveying a certain fashion style, interest, religion, or belief
  • A costume

 

Soap may be purchased for:

  • A lifestyle/requirement (e.g. cruelty-free)
  • Relaxation/spa rituals
  • Giving as party favors
  • Accommodating a skin condition
  • An occasion, holiday, or season

 

 

To uncover potential buyer intent for your product(s), try exploring the following questions:

 

  • Who will use this item?
  • What’s the purpose this item will serve? (beyond its basic purpose)
  • Where will this item be used?
  • When will this item be used?
  • Why does someone need a new one?
  • How will they use this item?
  • How will they benefit from this item?

 

*“Used” may refer to wearing, displaying, consuming, applying, etc.

 

If you’re feeling stumped, try Googl-ing phrases such as:

  • Who uses/wears/displays/purchases __________
  • What’s the purpose of __________
  • Where to use __________
  • When to use __________
  • Why do people buy __________
  • How to use __________
  • Benefits of __________

 

 

 

Step 2 – Get Specific

If you haven’t done so already, get more specific with the buyer intent. This may uncover a target market for your business, a niche for your products, or help you come up with product collections.

 

For example, for each of the reasons I came up with for what someone might use a notebook for, I can get more specific:

  • Taking notes in school or at a specific type of job
    • School: Grade level (elementary, high school, post-secondary) or class type (math, music, physics)
    • Industry: interior designer, landscaper, personal assistant, etc.
  • Organizing their to-do list
    • Home reno to-do list, building a new home to-do list, or moving to-do list
    • Family chores
    • Wedding to-do list
  • Keeping a food diary
    • To uncover food allergies
    • For weight loss
    • Improve nutrition or to follow a specific diet
  • Meal planning
    • For type of household (family meal planning, single household meal planning)
    • Reason for meal planning (to save money, to eat healthier)
    • Type of diet (Keto, Paleo, AIP)
  • Etc.

 

I could either focus on a niche (e.g. Meal Planning) and create specific products within that niche (e.g. Meal Planning notebooks for diet types), or, the focus of my business could be on notebooks in general and I could create collections based on the list above (e.g. class notebooks, to-do list notebooks, food diary notebooks, meal planning notebooks).

 

Getting more specific in terms of how people will use your product will help you brainstorm more product ideas, really think about how customers might use your products, and create products consumers feel they need.

 

 

Examples

Let’s take a look at one buyer intent from each category of product explored above, and how they can be further broken down.

 

Art

  • Evoking a feeling
    • Peace and calm
    • Happiness
    • Dark and moody

 

Candles

  • Table settings
    • Celebrations (birthdays, romantic dinners)
    • Holidays (Christmas, Easter)
    • Décor style (modern farmhouse, mid-century modern)

 

Jewelry

  • Purchased as a gift for someone
    • For a specific holiday (Valentine’s Day)
    • For a specific person (mom, best friend)
    • For a big event in one’s life (graduation)

 

Soap

  • A lifestyle/requirement
    • Vegan/cruelty-free
    • Eco-friendly/zero-waste
    • Toxin-free or fragrance free

 

 

 

Step 3 – Design Based on Buyer Intent

Once you decide on a buyer intent, it will influence several aspects of your products, such as:

  • Product features
  • Product name and what you list it as online
  • Product packaging
  • Product photos
  • Product description
  • Etc.

 

For example, let’s say I’ve decided to focus on the buyer intent of “meal planning” for my notebooks and have even gone into a niche within it, such as type of diet. It creates a clear path for me:

  • Product features:
    • Food-theme design
    • Grocery list pages
    • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner spaces for each day
    • Recipe notes section
    • Foods to avoid list (for specific type of diet)
  • Product name options:
    • Meal planner
    • Weekly meal planner
    • Monthly meal planner
    • Meal planner template (if selling as a digital product)
    • Keto meal planner
  • Product packaging
    • natural colors
    • food-themed
  • Product photos
    • Food or cooking utensils used as props
    • Countertop as background
    • Clean, crisp photos
  • Product description
    • Explain:
      • How easy meal planning is with the notebook
      • Benefits of meal planning in helping people stick to their diet
      • Money saved by planning meals

 

 

A buyer intent not only influences individual product details, but it can also influence and help with:

  • Product collections
  • Finding a niche
  • Discovering a target market

 

For example, diving into the buyer intent of “meal planning” and even “diet-focused meal planning” could spark the following ideas:

  • Product collections
    • I could create a notebook collection for each type of diet (Keto, Paleo, AIP, Vegan, etc.)
    • Or focus on one diet (Keto) and base collections on other specific buyer intents I brainstormed. E.g.:
      • Keto meal planning for families
      • Keto meal planning for a couple
      • Keto meal planning on a budget
      • Keto meal planning for weight loss
      • Keto meal planning for weight gain
      • Keto meal planning for summer/fall/winter/spring
    • Finding a niche
      • Depending on how big each market is, I could focus on:
        • The diet niche and stick to popular diets (e.g. Keto, Paleo, AIP, Vegan
        • The health niche (e.g. workout planner, health goal tracker, food diary, etc.)
        • The Keto niche (e.g. Keto for weight loss meal planner, Keto for weight gain meal planner, Keto for women, etc.)
        • A niche within Keto (e.g. Keto for weight loss)
      • Discovering a target market
        • My entire business could target the health market, food market, or specific type of dieter market (e.g. Keto).

 

 

Brainstorm product and business details and determine if it’s a good niche for a product, or even a business.

 

If you’re finding it hard to come up with details for a product or ways you can expand upon it, it may be that it’s too niche of an idea.

 

 

 

Step 4 – Research/Test the Market

One won’t know for sure if a product will sell, until it actually hits the market. But there are ways to check for viability.

 

Before diving in and putting time and money into a new product, product collection, or business direction, take the time to do some research.

 

This article will help you with ways to determine if a product will sell before introducing it to the market:

 

 

 

 

I hope this article has been helpful!

 

 



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4 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this helpful article! It led me to a lot of brainstorming which resulted in great ideas for my product descriptions, marketing strategy and especially my craft show booth. I want the people at the craft fair to be able to see immediately how they could use my products.

    Thanks for the great inspiration and all the great content you made. I’ve learnt so much from your articles and I recommend them to everyone with a craft business that I know.

    1. Made Urban says:

      That’s so great to hear Jana! I’m glad it was helpful and sparked some new ideas 🙂 And thank you so much for sharing my blog with fellow crafters!!
      ~Erin

  2. Excellent, timely, article.

    I’ll be taking it back to the drawing board on each of my products with this 4-step process in mind. I’ll hopefully be able to determine whether they can be improved upon, or if I need to diversify.

    Thank you for this invaluable insight.

  3. Made Urban says:

    Thanks so much for reading Caz! I’m glad you found it helpful. Let me know how it goes as you apply the steps to your business/products 🙂
    ~Erin

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