Last month, we encouraged merchants to relook at the foundational elements of their digital presence and marketing, instead of getting caught up in the hype of new approaches and trendy channels. A key piece of that foundation is learning more about your target customers so that you can reach and engage them better, and tailor online shopping experiences to them.
Today, we wanted to dig into this important process further. But first, let’s cover the essentials.
What is an audience persona?
An audience persona (sometimes referred to as a “customer persona,” “marketing persona,” “user persona,” or “buyer persona”) is a detailed description of your ideal customer. Key data points and insights are blended to create a generalized characterization of the customer.
Personas come in varying shapes and sizes, but often include:
- Name, photograph and short background to help personalize the target customer
- Demographic data, like age range, average household income, relationship status, etc.
- Psychographic data, such as interests, hobbies and other things that get them out of the bed in the morning
- Behavioral data, like which social networks they are most likely to use, mobile vs. desktop usage or where they get their news online
- Top purchasing factors and pain point in the buying process
- Alignment around business goals
- Customer journey or path to purchase to describe how each persona behaves at the various stages leading up to and after their purchase
Why is an audience persona so important?
While many merchants have an inherent understanding of their customers, it’s not rooted in real data. Using data and industry research to define your target customers helps ensure that you’re reaching the right people with the right message at the right time. Data can also be used to validate any beliefs that you and your team have about customers. Rather than just assuming a theory, use it to truly understand who they are and what makes them tick.
How do I go about defining my audience personas?
Start with the data.
Use Google Analytics’ demographic reporting to learn more about who visits your website. Use Shopify or Bigcommerce customer data to identify who your most valuable customers are. Use Facebook Audience Insights for a wealth of demo- and psychographic information about the people that appreciate your company (but may not be actual customers). Use keyword data from Google Search Console, AdWords and on-site search to learn exactly out want customers are looking for when they land on your site, and continue to browse it. Use Google Trends data to learn how search interest in topics that are relevant to your business are trending over time. Review competitors to learn how they’re using digital channels to reach the same target audiences.
That’s the prep, then the fun part begins!
Cull through and analyze all that data to identify key points and anomalies that stand out. Tie this information together into a comprehensive story about the primary customer personas, and any additional supporting personas that can help to meet business objectives.
Another important piece of the audience persona is snapshot of the unique journey they take before and after their purchase. At each stage, define what their mindset is, what channels they’re using and what types of content and messaging are required to reach and engage them.
In today’s digital environment, it can be tough to predict a customer’s journey--they’re rarely linear and can include numerous stages and backtracking. To simplify the process, we typically focus on five key stages--Research, Awareness, Validation, Decision, and Advocacy.
How do I use audience personas to grow my business?
Audience personas are beneficial to everyone involved in growing your business, from the executives responsible for long-term vision to the customer service representative responsible for making sure each and every customer is happy.
Share these personas and journeys with sales, marketing, PR, operations, customer service, research and development, and merchandising. Aligning the entire company around who they are trying to reach can lead to on-site user experience improvements, better ad targeting and higher ROI, quicker complaint resolution for support tickets and more cost-efficient product rollouts.
You can’t expect to gain new customers without knowing who those customers are! In the new year, we encourage you to learn more about your customers and define audience personas to build the right foundation for growing your business throughout 2018 and beyond!