Did you know that a whopping 93.5% of global internet users made online purchases in 2020? So whether you’re starting-off or scaling-up your online store, or want to stay ahead of the curve, this global internet user is your buyer. But is it enough to see your buyer as a demographic? Part of a broadly defined mass of people without any specific likes and dislikes? In a world of increasingly online businesses, your buyer cannot be people, a race, a country, or a culture anymore. They need to be seen as persons. And that’s what creates the term buyer persona (also called customer persona, user persona, audience persona or marketing persona).
Simply put, a buyer persona is a profile of your ideal audience. It is fictional or semi-fictional, often derived from factual observation. It describes details about them, the different market segments they belong to, where your product or service fits into their life, and so on.
Let’s understand this with an example. Say, you are scaling up your online jewellery store and want to do it with the help of persona marketing. You realise that while one buyer stocks up during a discount, the other is an impulsive splurging buyer. One may go for classic and functional jewellery, while the other prefers a more fullsome style. Each of these people do not stop at these behaviours. There are many more layers that make the discount diva who she is, and she is driven by an entirely different set of values as compared to the impulsive buyer. The classic jewellery lover may have an entirely different set of priorities compared to the fashionista. They all feel, think, speak, expect, plan, believe differently. These unique characteristics make them a persona.
Let’s delve a little deeper into why these personas are crucial to your business, across different stages.
Building stage: Product development
Product development teams gain immensely when building product roadmaps. At a time, when many firms struggle with how to understand shifting buying behaviors, and catch the consumer pulse, buyer persons throw light on who these people are. They help find out the situations that customers are faced with, how they change, and the goals they are trying to accomplish. By evaluating the goals and challenges of user personas, your team gets precise knowledge about what people need from a business. Consequently, product teams can identify and prioritize changes to a product based on what user personas need the most.
This exercise may even lead teams to identify opportunities to develop new products or services to solve other problems that you may never have thought of. Further, when it comes to expansion, user personas work as markers for companies entering new markets with limited knowledge of regional buying behaviors.
Selling stage: Strategy and Marketing
Buyer personas can help a great deal in building effective marketing strategies. Firstly, buyer personas provide a common language that brands can adopt while communicating, helping take the businesses closer to their marketing goals. They can be at the root of devising many go-to-market strategies and customer-acquisition plans, flowing seamlessly into strategic communication. Keyword curation for instance, helps in guiding brand messaging efforts.
Understanding how the personas go about purchasing something aid in planning where and when to get your message in front of them. For example, if a certain persona does a lot of online research before making a purchase-decision, you know how to reach them. Digging deeper into the online world, knowing where these personas spend time on the internet gives further insight into how to communicate with them. So as a career-counselling brand, you may reach a parent on LinkedIn and the student on Instagram. Consequently, the type of content you produce would differ, and so would the ways of promoting the messaging.
Growth stage: After-sales support
Businesses often grow not on their product and marketing alone, but by the strength of their customer support teams. Such teams can use buyer personas to better serve customers. These personas help understand the problems that customers are trying to solve with your product or offering. It helps after-sales teams understand the struggles of the customer when things don’t work out, with greater empathy – and resolve them with more compassion.
Promoting more or associated products also becomes simpler with user personas. Think email list segmentation. Segment your contacts based on personas, build content that is specific to specific personas and dash it off to them, right into their Inbox.
Crucial as they are to a business, these personas are not built overnight. It takes days and months of consistent observation, pointed research and insight mining to build the user personas of your brand.
However, let’s cut the learning curve a little shorter.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can build your customer personas and use them to boost your online business. Keep a paper and pen or a swipe-file handy and let’s begin:
Step 1: Make a note of different resources for your user persona research
Comb the internet for articles with insights about today’s customers. Run online surveys to ask your audience about their likes and dislikes, and their preferences. For example, for your jewellery business – you may ask open-ended questions like:
You have 5 mins to dress up for a meeting. What’s the most important jewellery you will put on?
Or you can ask close-ended questions like:
Whose iconic jewellery style do you most relate to?
Indian like Vidya Balan
Contemporary like Priyanka Chopra
Statement like Sonam Kapoor
Casual like Alia Bhatt
If you have a running business, speak to your sales reps or customer service personnel for some first-hand facts. If you already have a website, track analytics to see where visitors come from. Check out the social media channel that your users visit. Study social media analytics - they are a goldmine of information.
Step 2: Study competitive brands and their users – learn what works and what doesn’t
If business is a game, it pays to know the playground well. Studying the competitive landscape helps you in two ways – you will know what other brands are up to. You will also know their customers and how different or similar your buyers can be. List out what these brands are doing (and not doing) to reach their customers, and how their customers are responding. Make a note of their success stories and their pain points.
Find their goals, their aspirations, the solutions they seek. These critical insights will have powerful cues to help you understand the person behind the buyer, and address them better. For example, your personas’ goals may not relate directly to your product. But they may spark some lateral ideas for your next brand marketing campaign, or help create some innovation.
Step 3: Ask (a lot of) questions
With all that research done, you are in a great place to see how your product or service can fit in. This is also where you will need to think about your brand not as its owner, but as someone on the other end and consider your offerings from their point of view. To deduce how your offering is making your user’s life easier, you will need to dig deeper with questions and find their answers. Kick off with these three simple steps and see where they lead you:
A – assist your audience: Write a crisp one-liner on how you help your user Step into the shoes of your user and actually think like them. Forget for a moment that you own this business, and the value you bring to your user. Instead, imagine why the user would actually come to you and what need of theirs you fill. Now write your one-liner about the benefit from the user’s perspective.
B – break barriers: Identify your user’s buying barriers and how you can break them In spite of your product meeting a need of the user, why may the user not purchase it? This is a question worth pondering upon, to break down possible barriers. For instance, does the pricing not seem fair to the user? Is the competitive landscape luring them away? Is your product proposition not clear enough to them?
C – complete the curve: Find where your potential users are in their buying curve and how you can help complete the process
Sometimes, a user may be very far from making a decision – they need to gain more awareness and understanding of your product. Or they may be a step away, and they need one last push – nay, nudge – to take action. It is important what you can do to bring your potential customers to your side, or keep your existing customers on your side, no matter what.
Answering questions and questioning answers is at the heart of building a business. User personas help get many of these answers right. With the groundwork in place, you are now ready to actually build your user personas. In the second part of this series, you will learn how to put them to work on your Shoptimize run D2C eCommerce store.