Buyer Persona Ecommerce

The step-by-step guide to creating target personas for your online brand

Not every customer looks the same, but boy do they act similarly in many cases.

You know, it’s people shopping at 2 a.m. or the same three products getting ordered together again and again.

You can see it when your marketing knocks it out of the park and your order forms are slammed.

You also see it when messaging misses the mark and you get snarky comments online, or a new product launch falls flat.

It’s right there in your gut but hasn’t yet made its way to the calculation center in your brain.

It’s time to take that ethereal knowledge and turn it into something that’ll help in your reality.

It’s time to create the target personas that your online brand needs.

What’s a target persona anyway?

Target personas are the large groups that your customers fall into based on existing research and data plus some thinking we’ll get to in just a moment.

They represent the most common types of people who come through your door and are generally separated by demographic or motivational differences.

A traditional retailer that focuses on business apparel in a major urban area may be more likely to section customer personas around need.

They could set their shop up so that you can quickly come in to find a tie, socks, belt, scarf, or a raincoat.

Personas give you guidelines for how to set up your digital store, from making it easy to complete the purchase to supporting browsing or even what goods to recommend and what incentives to offer.

They can also help you grow your brand by showing you how to develop your products in the future.

Whether you have one or 10 personas is really up to the information you’re able to glean and how targeted your marketing can be.

Start with data

The most important piece of creating a target persona is capturing data so you can actually understand who they are, where they come from, and how it relates to you.

There is a wide range of data sources that you’ll want to consider, but we’ll look at some of the most common.

Internal data

Use your company and ecommerce analytics to find information out about your customers. Google Analytics is a common tool and will help break down traffic regarding age, gender, keywords they use, and sometimes special characteristics.

Also, look for buying habits and trends in the purchases themselves.

With Metrilo’s customer behavior tracking you can see what every person does, how they interact with your site, what and how often they buy and so on.

If you’re just getting started or don’t have analytics on your site, don’t fret.

Customers will also provide you with information when they feel it improves their shopping experience or gives them a good deal. Consider adding a brief survey via email or on your site to learn more about targeted buyers.

Here are a few different items to consider asking about:

Where they live
Where they shop
Family size
Why they buy your product
Shopping goals
Shopping challenges they face
What makes it easy/difficult to get what they want
How can you help
Fears or values
What don’t they like about the customer experience
What are their core personal values
What are their favorite…
Blogs, news sites
Social platforms

Social data

If your brand is on social media (it must be) or if your customers use social channels to log in to the accounts your online store requires, you’ve got a trove of data at your fingertips.

Check the built-in analytics and see what your followers and customers look like. Each platform is a little different and provides different insights based on the relationship and your specific account.

There are also a variety of third-party tools that can automate the process to look at your friends and followers to see what they’re talking about and provide a best-guess at large-scale demographics.

Data to buy

If you still need a little more data, you can open your wallet and start getting industry-level trends and insights as well as targeted information.

Industry data and market research are readily available to buy online. They can give you specific insights into your industry or help you actually create personas — even if you’re a young brand that’s just starting to grow.

Now use your data

Creating target personas is really an exercise in grouping information together, and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy when you start. Sometimes it’s best to avoid anything complex and just start making a table in Excel or Word.

Your goal is to use what you’ve learned to seek out commonalities and then turn these groups into real people. Get some general groupings of data together and then start with questions like this for each of the common segments:

  1. Is my customer a man or a woman?
  2. How old are they?
  3. Where do they live?
  4. What’s their family like? (kids, single, married, divorced, etc.)
  5. What’s their income and education like?
  6. What do they do for work?
  7. What do they do for fun?
  8. What do you imagine a normal day is like for them?
  9. What are they afraid of?
  10. How does your product help them?

The goal is to write enough to start getting into the head of the customer, so you can imagine what they need and prefer.

Personas don’t have to be perfect right away. This process is just to get you started. Future A/B testing of deals and marketing lets you further refine personas.

Bring in your brand

After you’ve got some of the basics of the person, it’s time to get in their shopping mindset.

Ask why they buy your product, from choosing you to why they return. You want to look for a pain in their daily life that you help them avoid.

Sometimes it’ll be the product that alleviates a problem. Or, you could be offering better customer experience. Audiences tend to share pain points, so what you solve for one will often be what you solve for many.

Think about the problems that you could be solving.

Then go back and look through your site and company data to see if you can verify them — sometimes based on how often people buy from you, what they purchase, or if they always choose specific options like expedited shipping.

Expand for multiple personas

If your customers love you, they probably love you for different reasons.

Bring the pain points back to your common traits and considerations to see if you might have a few distinct groups looking to you for distinct types of help. Identify large groups as well as smaller subgroups – this is customer segmentation.

This creation process will help your marketing and keep campaigns interesting for potential new customers. You might find that you have customers at the very opposite ends of the spectrum.

On Black Friday 2017, for example, the people who shopped the most were those looking for the deepest discounts and people willing to spend more on luxury goods and personal experiences.

The two groups are very different and will respond very differently to a single marketing campaign. However, they had a unifying feature for their shopping in this case.

Your job is to look through your data and try to make sure you’re not grouping two distinct sets of people that just have one or two areas of overlap.

Create enough that people know you’re talking to them but not too many that you require a team of copywriters to create 30 versions of all your marketing materials.

Include a complainer

One last piece of advice for creating a buyer persona is to create someone you’d hate to buy from you.

This is the person who doesn’t fit your core and will probably return your products. They’ll also likely badmouth you on social media afterward.

This negative persona is the type of customer you don’t want to attract. It’s useful for narrowing your target market — especially when you use demographic filters on Facebook and other ad campaigns.

You must focus on your pain points to find this persona. Think about what does damage to your business and reputation so that you can avoid these high-risk customers. To protect your business and reputation, you may consider a reputation defender. You may also visit sites like to learn more about how you can protect your reputation.

Go forth and test

The last piece of the puzzle is to test your work with marketing and deals that speak specifically to the pain points you identified for the different personas.

Well-defined customer personas can improve your ability to get the sale.

They do this by making your brand more human and connected to individual shoppers, improving their experience on your website and how they feel about your relationship.

They’ll also engender a feeling of loyalty and boost your chance of getting a return customer. Personas give direction and meaning to your marketing at every level.

Good luck on your own persona journey!

This article has been contributed by

Jake Rheude

Jake Rheude is the Director of Business Development for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.


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