How to Create Customer Personas for an E-commerce Store

Sep 27, 2016 by Jesse Ness, Ecwid Team
How to Create Customer Personas for an E-commerce Store
Posted Sep 27, 2016 by Jesse Ness, Ecwid Team

Do you truly know who your buyers are? Do you understand their motivations for buying from you?

If the answer to these questions is “no”, there is a good chance you’re not exactly seeing the promised results from your marketing efforts.

You’re not the only one.

Thousands of e-commerce stores across the world struggle with their marketing and product development. And more often than not, this is because they can’t understand or define their target audience.

To solve this problem, you need to dig deep and gain a full understanding of your customers. This is where customer personas come into play. In fact, 71% of companies that exceed revenue and lead goals have documented customer personas.

Customer personas help you identify who your target customers are, what matters to them, and where to find them.

So how can you create customer personas for your store?

In this post, we’ll show you why customer personas matter and how to create them for your e-commerce store.

What is a customer persona?

In marketing speak, a customer persona is a fictional biography of your target customer(s).

Think of this as a brief document explaining the who, what, and why of your ideal customers.

An in-depth customer person will not only help you define your marketing strategy but will also help you when you’re developing new products or fine-tuning your customer service approach.

In most cases, the bigger the catalog of products you offer, the more personas you’ll have to target. An athletic wear store selling specialized clothing for powerlifters will likely have 2-3 customer personas.

A store like Amazon, on the other hand, might have hundreds, even thousands of target personas.

Broadly speaking, customer personas are based on two things:

1. Demographic data

Factual information about the customer that defines who your buyers are.

This includes data such as their:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Educational background and career
  • Technological use (favorite social media network, phone, laptop-use, etc.)

2. Psychographic data

If demographics explain “who” your buyer is, psychographics explain “why” they buy.

The information might include your buyer’s habits, hobbies, spending habits, and values.

What their lifestyle is like? What kind of opinions do they have? All this information falls under psychographics.

If you dig deeper, psychographic information can also include details like:

  • Preferred method of communication,
  • Motivations for using a product
  • Dreams and aspirations.

You must know this information to truly understand who’s buying what you’re selling.

That being said, there is a limit to understanding your customers.

All the information that you are collecting should be inclined to what you sell. For example, you don’t need to know what your buyers feed their dog unless you’re selling dog food.

Customer personas help you reach the right audience. If your target audience is middle aged female doctors, your outreach would be very different than if you were to sell to teenage male gamers.

Why develop customer personas?

There’s plenty of evidence to show that using customer personas can help you make more money and service your customers better.

According to HubSpot, using marketing personas makes websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use by targeted users.

Another study by Cintell found that businesses with documented personas frequently exceed their revenue goals.

To go into specifics, there are 4 reasons why you need to develop customer personas.

1. You get better conversions

This is pretty straightforward: if you know what interests your customers, you can send them content and offers that resonate with them.

This is as true for B2B businesses as it is for eCommerce stores. Targeted content and promotions can help you convert more visitors to subscribers, followers and customers.

For example, Skytap implemented a targeted content marketing strategy and saw 124% increased sales leads and 97% increase in online leads.

You can use information from buyer personas to send more personalised emails and direct messages which will in turn improve your lead quality and give you better customers.

2. It enhances product positioning development

Buyer personas can be extremely helpful in the development stage of the product. With the help of personas you can work with your customers and build the features that suit their needs.

They help you identify problems and challenges in the your niche that are not being addressed. You can then work on your product that solve these issues.

There is a good chance your customers will stay with you longer if your product and services stay inclined with their needs.

3. It makes you understand your customers needs and interests

Think about all the times you’ve gone out to buy a gift for your friend, mother or significant other.

There’s a good chance that you knew exactly what to get for people close to you. Something that suits their personality, the things they’d love.

Customer personas work the same way. By knowing what your customers want, their needs and trouble, you can curate content and offers that your audience finds valuable.

Forget about conversions for a second, such customer-focused service just makes sense.

4. It helps you understand where your customers are spending time

When you understand the background of each of your personas, it will help you understand where your customers spend most of their time online and what online channels do they use.

This, in turn, will help you optimize your marketing spend.

For example, if your data shows that your customers prefer Instagram over Twitter, you can shift your marketing spend to focus more on the former.

How to develop customer personas?

We’ve established how crucial customer personas are for any e-commerce store, but how exactly do you go about making one?

Understand that customer personas can be as basic or as complicated as you want. There are no hard and fast rules.

What’s matters more is how effective they are at creating a clear picture of what drives different types of customers to your services.

To start off, think about modelling personas based on your available qualitative and quantitative research focusing on:

  • Behavioral drivers: Customers’ goals, what they want to accomplish, how did they find you business.
  • Obstacles to purchasing: The hesitations and concerns your customers have.
  • Mindset: Take into account if the customers want bargains or more refined experience when they land on your website.

If this sounds like a handful, don’t worry, we’ll show you exactly how to get this data for developing your own personas.

Step #1: Conduct surveys to get customer insight

No one knows your customers better than themselves.

This is why the first step in creating customer personas is to conduct surveys.

In fact, in one survey of marketers (for B2B companies), surveys ranked as the third most important method for creating buyer personas.

Your objective here is to get inside the customer’s head to make sure personas are based on what real people think.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to segment your customers into three groups:

  • Group #1: Existing customers. You can divide them further into frequent and one-time customers.
  • Group #2: Customers who’ve landed on your site, but haven’t purchased anything yet (especially customers with abandoned carts)
  • Group #3: Customers who have never visited your site but fall within your target market

This will help you get more accurate responses and create detailed personas.

How to reach different customer segments

There are multiple ways to reach different customer segments identified above.

For existing customers, the best way to reach them is via email. You likely already have their email address on file. Just send them an email with a link to your survey, like this:

teespring

For site visitors, you can use a number of different tools to ask questions.

For example, you can create a pop-up survey using a tool like Qualaroo:

Qualaroo

Qualaroo allows you to have a single question pop up on your site at a designated time. It works especially well when you want to find out why your customers are not completing their purchase.

You can also use a “Hello Bar” at the top of your page to link to your survey, like this:

Facebook

For non-visitors, the best way to reach them is through Facebook.

To find such users, log into Facebook and go to Create Ads.

Here, go to “Audiences”.

Facebook

Next, click on “Create Audience” and select “Lookalike Audience”:

On the next pop-up, select your Facebook page and target country. You can drag the audience size slider around to increase/decrease your range.

Facebook

This will create a new custom audience that matches your existing Facebook fans. Since most of these aren’t familiar with your brand, you can send them a survey to understand what non-customers want.

You can then send them a link to a survey like this with an incentive to take part:

Facebook

How to create surveys

Fortunately, you have more choice than ever when it comes to creating surveys today. Here are a few options:

What questions to ask

This is the meat and potatoes of this section — the actual questions to ask in your survey.

The questions can range anywhere between 7 to 20. Design and categorize them in such a way that you insights based on their behavioural drivers, obstacles to purchasing and mindset.

The exact questions you ask may change from industry to industry, but the end goal remains the same — getting actionable information that serves your needs.

Here are some examples of questions that you may consider including in your survey:

Demographic questions:

These are the most basic questions that you should be asking your target customers, such as:

  • Are they married?
  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Do they have children? How many? What ages?
  • Which country/city did they grow up in?

Education questions:

Our early school and college education help us shape as adults. People usually tend to answer these questions more honestly.

  • What level of education did they complete?
  • Which schools did they attend? Public or Private?
  • What did they study?
  • Were they popular at school?
  • Which extra-curricular activities (if any) did they take part in?

Career questions:

Questions about the working life of your prospects reveals a lot of interesting details about them.

  • What industry do they work in?
  • What is their current job level?
  • What was their first full-time job?
  • How did they end up where they are today?
  • Has their career track been traditional or did they switch from another industry?

Financial questions:

Your customers finances will tell you what they can afford and how easily they make their purchasing decisions.

  • How often you buy high ticket items?
  • How much are they worth?
  • Are they responsible for making purchasing decision in the household?

Keep in mind that people tend to answer financial questions incorrectly, even in anonymous online surveys. Some might even construe this as an invasion of their privacy. Temper your results accordingly (usually by decreasing the stated average income).

Step #2. Interview customers to understand psychographics

Conducting one on one interviews can provide invaluable information into your prospect’s buying habits and what motivates them — information that’s easily missed with surveys.

This could be an expensive affair, but totally worth it. Not only will you develop better customer personas, but you’ll also get to understand your customers at a fundamental level.

Your existing customer base is the perfect place to start with the interviews because they have already purchased your product and know about your business.

To get better results, narrow down your interviewees into two groups:

  • “Good” customers who’ve bought from you multiple times
  • “Bad” customers who’ve bought from you once and left poor reviews/feedbacks.

Surprisingly, your “bad” customers will often tell you a lot more about your problems than your “good” customers.

Also, look for prospects, referrals and third party networks to get some interviewees on board.

How to email interviewees

As you reach out to potential interviewees, here are a few tips to recruit interviewees:

  • Offer incentive: It is almost always difficult to say no to a big store discount
  • Be clear this isn’t a sales call: No one likes to be bothered with sales calls
  • Make it easy for them to say yes: Let them choose a time and place

Here’s an example of an email Quora sent out to a frequent contributor:

Quora

Here’s another example of an email to your “bad” customers courtesy of GrooveHQ:

GrooveHD

While these examples might be from B2B businesses, you get the idea — be humble, honest and make the process easy to get interviewees onboard.

How to conduct better interviews

There are no fixed rules to conducting better interviews. In fact, the more rules you follow, the more “unnatural” your interviews will be.

Instead, treat them like conversations. Assume the persona of a founder just trying to run a better business. You’ll be surprised to know how many people will be happy to help when you reach out.

Nonetheless, here are a few tips you can follow in your interviews:

  • Before the interview: Email the interviewee an outline of 3-5 questions before you meet up.
  • Listen: You should be talking ⅙ to ¼ of the time. Understand that you are not there to sell, you are there to understand the problems of your prospects.
  • Make notes: The best practice is to have two people interview; first person can listen attentively while second one asks questions.
  • Focus on past behaviours: Avoid hypothetical and future problems until you feel there is a need. Keep your questions to actual situations and events.
  • Ask for quantities and range: Try to get them to put a number or an estimate range to get better understanding of their needs (say, what they expect product prices to be).
  • Don’t overstay: Wrap up the whole interview within time and give a quick feedback.
  • Follow up: Thank them for the interview and provide a detailed feedback summary. Ask them if they know someone you should speak to.

If you can do this, you’ll have a treasure trove of subjective data to understand your customers.

Step #3: Back up with analytics data

The final step is also the easiest: find data from your analytics tool to backup the findings from step #1 and #2.

There are two ways to do this:

Google Analytics

If you have Google Analytics, you can get quite a bit of data about your visitors’ location, age, technology usage, etc.

To find this data, log into Google Analytics. Then go to Audiences.

Here, you can find location, language and technology data. You can also get interests, age and gender data under “Demographics”.

GA

For example, here’s what your “Location” data might look like:

GA

Quantacast

Quantacast might not have data on your site, but there’s a good chance it has your competitors’ demographic data.

To find this data, go to Quantacast.com and click on “Explore”. Next, type in your competitor’s’ URL in the search box that pops up.

Quantacast

There’s a good chance Quantacast might have not quantified your competitor’s profile. If that happens, just move on to another competitor until you get a positive result.

For example, here’s the demographic data for TMZ.com:

Quantacast

Use this data to corroborate your findings from the earlier steps. For example, if your survey showed that 90% of your customers are married, your demographics data should reflect that your visitors are older (since 18-24 year olds have low marriage rates).

Step #4: Create customer persona

In this final step, you’ll use the data you’ve collected so far to create a rough sketch of 3-4 “ideal” customers.

You don’t have to go fancy with this — a simple Word doc will suffice. However, attaching a name and a personality to each customer persona (such as “Frugal Fred” for a budget customer) makes it easier to remember.

Use the persona creator tool at Xtensio to create a more “visual” persona.

Xtensio

After signing up, click on “User Persona” to get started.

Xtensio

Edit the template based on your data:

Xtensio

Your final result might look something like this:

Xtensio

Congratulations — you just created a customer persona for your e-commerce store!

Your Next Steps

Customer personas will help you identify your audience and solve their problems.

It is important to remember your personas will keep evolving and changing as you discover more information about your customers and what motivates them.

Don’t be surprised if you discover entirely new personas as your business grows.

Here are your next three steps:

  1. Create a survey and send it out to your existing customers
  2. Select 10 each of your best and worst customers and invite them for an interview
  3. Create a rough customer sketch based on findings from your interviews and survey.
About The Author
Jesse is the Marketing Manager at Ecwid and has been in e-commerce and internet marketing since 2006. He has experience with PPC, SEO, conversion optimization and loves to work with entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality.

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