eCommerce buyer persona eCommerce buyer persona

The critical components of effective eCommerce buyer personas

There’s no debate that understanding your customer is the most crucial part of marketing an eCommerce store. The knowledge you gain about your customers should serve as a foundation for all of your marketing projects.

You may think you know your customer well, but there’s a good chance you’re missing critical data points that could support your marketing efforts. To organize your data and identify gaps in your knowledge, you should create buyer personas.

Buyer personas are fictional avatars of your ideal customers. They’re centralized documents that describe your customers’ needs, preferences, motivations, and just about anything else you know. The buyer personas you create will influence your website content, marketing campaigns, and even your products.

Buyer personas (and a careful understanding of your customer) are the foundation of a smart marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

Buyer personas are not based on intuition, gut feelings, or assumptions. Your data should come from quantitative sources (web analytics, shopping data, surveys, industry data, competitive research, etc.) and qualitative sources (interviews and conversations with customers, observations of online discussions, customer service questions, etc.).

So what type of information should you include in your buyer persona?

Ready to build your own buyer persona? Use this free template!

The nine essential parts of an eCommerce buyer persona

Let’s dive into the important aspects of every buyer persona. As you go through each section, jot some notes about your ideal customer. If you have multiple customer segments, make a persona for each one.

1. Basic information

It helps to think about your personas as real people with their own problems and needs, but that’s tough when your segments are labeled “Customer Group 1” or “Market Segment 3.”

To make your personas more human, give each a name and photo that match the customer. Then summarize the person in a few brief sentences to separate them from your other personas.

Example: Jake is a 25 year-old professional who lives in an urban area and works in the tech sector. He’s bored with his current job and aspires to start his own software startup.

2. Demographics

Demographics help you paint a broad picture of your customer. They don’t tell you everything, but they serve as a foundation for the rest of your buyer persona and help you refine your research.

For instance, a 45-year-old female executive in New York and a 60-year-old retired man in Tennessee probably have different needs, problems, and aspirations. This information doesn’t tell us everything, but it helps us make some reasonable assumptions.

Include these data points in your buyer persona demographics:

  • Job title / position
  • Work experience
  • Industry / business type
  • Location (a type of place is fine)
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Age
  • Family (number and type)
  • Income
  • Decision maker? (yes/no)

If you have Google Analytics set up for your store, you can create an audience report that will give you much of this information in an easy format.

eCommerce buyer persona

A lot of marketers make the mistake of limiting buyer personas to demographic information, but these facts aren’t enough to know your customer really well. The following sections will help you drill deeper into their heads.

3. Mindset

This section of your buyer persona helps you explain what goes on in your customer’s head; what they think about, how they feel, the problems they face, and the solutions they crave.

Answer these four questions as thoroughly as possible:

  • Problems/pain – What problems does this person experience?
  • Goals/dreams – What does this person want to achieve?
  • Solutions – In what ways does this person expect his/her problems to be solved?
  • Objections – Why wouldn’t this person accept/use/exploit a solution?

Your answers to those questions don’t have to relate specifically to your product. Document everything you learn about your customer that may help you understand them better.

4. Before and after

There’s an old marketing saying that’s still true today: “People don’t buy products. They buy better versions of themselves.”

As a marketer, it’s your job to help a customer transition from a before state to an after state, so you have to know what those two states look like. This will help you create copy, images, and offers that acknowledge your customer in their before state and entice them with the after.

eCommerce buyer persona

Answer each of the following questions twice: Once regarding your customer before they buy one of your products, and a second time regarding your customer after they buy a product.

  • What does the customer have right now? (e.g., Sore feet / relaxed feet)
  • How does the customer feel? (e.g., Pained, frustrated, and irritated / Calm, relaxed, and jovial)
  • What is the customer’s day like? (e.g., Snaps at people, breaks to sit / friendly, can walk all day)
  • What is the customer’s overall status? (e.g., Grumpy all day / pleasant all day)

5. Journey

Every eCommerce customer takes a journey. They pass through three distinct phases:

  • Awareness: They becomes aware of a need. (“I need a new keyboard.”)
  • Consideration: They consider potential products. (“Do I want a mechanical or membrane keyboard?”)
  • Decision: They decide on one product over others. (“I want the Corsair over the Logitech.”)

In some cases, the journey takes weeks or months as the customer learns about his or her needs and the products that could meet those needs. In other cases, the journey happens instantly, but it still happens.

By understanding your customers’ journey, you can craft copy, images, and offers that entice them at any point. Click To Tweet

6. Triggers

A trigger is an event that encourages a customer to start shopping or take additional steps in the buying process. It’s the motivator that sent them to your store in the first place. By understanding your customers’ triggers, you can respond to them and even influence them.

There are three types of triggers: Internal, external, and seasonal.

Internal triggers are your customer’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas that would cause them to take action.

Example of an internal trigger: “I’m putting on weight. I should start running, but I need running shoes.”

Internal triggers can also include…

  • Dreams and desires
  • Frequently made mistakes
  • Things they secretly wish were true
  • Things they avoid
  • Insecurities and discomforts
  • Stressors and frustrations
  • Seasons and events they look forward to or fear
  • Things that are too hard or expensive
  • Things that will take away power or control

External triggers are circumstances beyond the customer’s control that would force them to take action.

Example of an external trigger: “My bicycle broke. I need to buy a new one.”

External triggers can also include…

  • Tasks/projects assigned to the customer
  • Systems or tools that are likely to fail
  • Events, meetings, gatherings, or celebrations
  • Roadblocks that might pop up
  • Other people’s reactions, feelings, or comments
  • Changes to status quo

Seasonal triggers are predictable events that influence buying behavior.

Example of a seasonal trigger: “Summer is coming. I need a bathing suit.”

Seasonal triggers can also include…

  • Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries
  • Scheduled events, shows, presentations, meetings, etc.
  • Weddings, graduations, parties, etc.
  • Planned job changes
  • Industry-specific seasons (festival season, Comic-Con season, etc.)

7. Language

Your customers use words and phrases that are unique to their group, their goals, interests, and dreams, their status, and their feelings. You can connect with them by using these words in your marketing materials and throughout your eCommerce store.

Note anything unique about their language that would help you connect with their group. Here are some examples:

  • Stock market shorthand
  • Religious phrases
  • Emojis
  • Text abbreviations
  • Latin phrases
  • Memes
  • Industry shorthand
  • Popular quotes/sayings

8. Communities

The best place to engage with your customer is somewhere they feel comfortable and safe, surrounded by people like them. For instance, the best place to talk to dog owners is at a dog park, grooming shop, or a Facebook group about dogs.

By going to these places, you can learn more about your customer and establish yourself as an authority in the space.

Make a list of all the online and offline places where you’d find your customer, such as events, conferences, hangouts, social media groups (Facebook and LinkedIn, in particular), and even hashtags.

9. Other

The purpose of a buyer persona is to learn and document as much as you can about your customer, so don’t limit yourself to the sections listed above. Record anything you feel is relevant, especially if it sets your customer apart from non-customers.

Use this free template to quickly build your own buyer personas.

Buyer personas are work-in-progress documents

Once you’ve built a buyer persona, your work isn’t done. Buyer personas are evolving documents that should expand and change just as your business, products, and customers change.

Monitor your customers over time and adjust your personas as necessary. Use your quantitative and qualitative sources to validate what you know and incorporate new knowledge.

Over time, your detailed buyer personas will give you a clear, unfiltered understanding of your customer. Share your personas with your team and use them to empower your marketing.

Buyer personas are evolving documents that should grow and adapt to new information over time. Click To Tweet


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