Personas in eCommerce: Who are those that buy from my online store?
A basic prerequisite for the success of a company is that it knows its customers and their needs. This means that you need to know your target audience. How else are you supposed to address the preferences and expectations of your clientele when you communicate vital information about your product or service?
To identify your buyer personas (also known as “user personas”) you first need to work on creating user personas. To successfully sell to a user persona of yours, you have to be on the same page as them and paint a general picture that helps your team to understand them.
A popular tool for getting this picture of your customers is the so-called buyer personas (or also called user personas). Learn how to create them in this article.
User Personas – a Definition
The term “persona” essentially stands for the 'invented and generalized figures', which represent fictional characters and embody elements of certain parts of your real customers, as well as their personality, characteristics, and behavior. You can consider them to be some form of user archetypes – a stereotypical representation of your target users.
To build user personas, one uses as much information as possible, so as much real data as possible. This includes their approximate age, place of residence, life situation, interests, hobbies, worries and needs, and much more. You are trying to build a realistic character. More times than not, methods from psychology are also involved in the elaboration of user personas.
The result is a description of a fictitious person, a user persona created, that is as fitting as possible and represents a whole group of people within this one user persona.
What is the goal of user personas?
The goal in developing personas is to give a face to the people who buy from a company, and to be able to better put ourselves in their position. This helps to better understand the behaviors and attitudes, or user characteristics, of the most important user groups that purchase from your company.
It must be said, most companies do not have just one user persona as a customer, but need to develop several different personas. When you start creating personas, you will see that you have multiple personas that purchase from you. Each of these customer segments are their own personas and have different behavioral patterns.
This can be well illustrated by the example of a jewelry salesperson: Women's jewelry is not only bought by women, but also by men who are searching for a gift for their partners.
Differentiation between personas and target audience
In addition to personas, many companies work with target audiences, and while there is some overlap here, there are also clear differences in the function and thus purpose of these methods.
Target audiences are a quantitative model that involves dividing your own or potential buyers into customer segments by drawing on data and facts. Each of these segments then corresponds to a single, statistically relevant target audience.
User personas, on the other hand, are a qualitative approach. Here, the primary goal is not to segment data and statistics to define a purely technically correct target group. Instead, the individual user persona is meant to help make the perspective and needs of a real person or group of people tangible. It stems from the observation of real life and the valuable insights that are apparent here.
Of course, as with target groups, real data is used to derive characteristics when creating personas. But statistics are not the ultimate goal when creating a persona.
How do personas help companies?
A user persona puts a human face on a customer group to make it easier for team members in your company to empathize with them. It helps them understand each persona's perspective – their wants, needs, but also their pain points and much more.
This approach can be helpful in many situations. However, user personas are most commonly used in marketing, sales & product development.
Personas in Marketing & Sales
Your marketing and sales teams are in constant communication with your (potential) buyers – in direct conversation, but also through the advertising they run. Personas help you make the right decisions in terms of approach, content, and tone.
Personas in (Digital) Product Development & UX Design
Personas are also essential in the development of digital products, such as your website, online store or apps. They help make assumptions about the behavioral patterns of the users to design the user experience according to your expectations and needs.
So if you're planning to relaunch your website or store, be sure to include personas in your planning so that you can really develop a concept that will delight your visitors. This usually happens in the UX design phase of a project and massively improves your chances of better meeting your buyers' expectations.
Your UX designer or design team should have a good idea about the user needs of your target users. This will help them find the right design solutions and map out a user experience that your customer base will love.
(Even though we're talking about digital products here, i.e., websites, online stores and apps, a user persona concept of course also helps for the development of the products and services you ultimately want to sell. Because it is logical that also here you have to have the target group in mind, i.e., who is going to pay for them).
How do I approach creating user personas?
Now that you know the added value of personas, you'll surely want to start developing your own right away. But what's the best way of going about this?
Firstly, you should brainstorm very general outlines of user personas. As in the jewelry salesman example above, think about which customers buy your products, and then form rough groups in the process.
An illustrative example here would be a bicycle dealer. He could create the following rough personas for his company at the start:
- User Persona 1: Young people who enjoy mountain biking in their free time
- User Persona 2: Commuters who bike to work
- User Persona 3: Parents who buy a bike for their child
You then expand on these rough personas by elaborating on them and adding more detailed information about the personas. When doing this, try to imagine a single person and think about the following incredibly valuable topics:
Age: What is the approximate age of the persona?
Gender self-perception: Does the persona perceive herself predominantly as a classic woman, or a man, or is the ratio more diversely positioned?
Residence: Does this persona live in the city, or in the country? In a townhouse, or in a rented apartment?
Family: What is the persona's family situation? Is he married? Does he have children? What does his real life look like in terms of family status?
Education & profession: What did the persona learn? What school degree does he have? Where does he work?
Income: How much money does the persona have available, and what does he spend it on? (also consider the whole family here: is there a spouse who also earns money? How many children does this persona generally have?)
Persona & Interests
What interests and hobbies does the persona have? What goals does he pursue in life? Does he use the product, that you are trying to sell to him, to pursue his interests and hobbies?
What media does the persona use? Does he often sit in front of the television? Does he tend to surf the Internet? Which social media does he use?
Considerations when buying
Reason for purchase: Why is the customer buying your product?
Concerns: What is the customer afraid of when buying?
Depending on your individual case, it also makes sense to expand these dimensions to add or deepen other aspects that are important for your personas. There are no limits to your creativity here. So feel free to include additional factors and maybe even some fictional personal details, if they help you to further sharpen the picture.
An example of a finished user persona
This image is a visual representation of a well-prepared persona. (Disclaimer: The example shows a free template from the Figma for education team, who also hold the corresponding copyright). Download the template now by clicking on the link!
Where do I get the information I need for my personas?
If you have been in your industry for a long time, you can hopefully draw on a wealth of experience and existing information. For example, you can already draw some conclusions for your personas from customer conversations you or your support team had in the past.
The optimal way: user research
Of course, it's best if you have resilient data that you can draw on to create the personas. Analytics tools such as Google Analytics contain some information about your customers and are thus great to collect data for your user personas.
You may also have a Facebook group, or an Instagram account, and can take a look at your followers there.
Professionals also use user research methods, like regular customer surveys, as well as other scientific methods like user interviews and usability testing, to build market research data for elaborating personas.
Of course, if you're just getting started or are a small business, you won't have as much information and real users to question at your disposal. Nevertheless, you don't have to do without user personas.
A simpler and less expensive method
You don't necessarily need elaborate market research data or access to real users to create personas. As mentioned above, it is not about statistical relevance, but about drawing as good a picture as possible of the characteristics and attitudes of a persona.
You don't necessarily have to be able to clearly prove or answer all aspects of a persona. If necessary, you can make assumptions based on your gut feeling and thus complete the profiles.
Then it is only important that you try to prove these assumptions later, or adjust the personas as soon as you find out that one of your assumptions was wrong.
By the way, a small tip is to take a look at the competition. Maybe you can learn something about their personas from their customer communication and apply it to your personas?
Personas are a powerful tool for any company. If you go through all the steps mentioned here properly, then in the end you now have a good picture of your customers in your hands.
With this information, you can tailor your marketing exactly to your customers. However, please don't forget that your customers can also change, and new personas can be added. So, always keep an eye on possible changes.
By the way: we ourselves also use personas in the conception and development of websites, stores, or apps in our customer projects.
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Malte DietrichDigital Strategist & Co-Owner
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