How to Use Analytical Data to Create Better eCommerce Customer Personas

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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Those who work in online marketing and advertising are well aware of the value presented by customer personas.

Customer personas help to drive eCommerce marketing strategies, refine social media advertising efforts, accelerate SEO rankings, help to shape product offerings and much more.

The fact of the matter is that brands tend to produce better marketing and advertising results when they are capable of identifying their core customers, thereby customizing content and campaigns to resonate with these users.

However, without concrete data, creating useful customer personas can be rather tricky. After all, few things in marketing today are based on hunches. Most every business decision is data-driven. The reason for this is that if a company doesn’t successfully identify the correct type of consumer, its marketing efforts are likely to flop.

Therefore, leveraging shopper data is key for building out customer personas that will enable retailers to better serve both their audience and company.

There is a wide array of data that merchants can leverage to inform their various buyer personas. However, before getting into that, let’s take a look at what exactly a customer persona is and what it seeks to define.

What Is a Customer Persona?

A customer persona is an in-depth archetype or model of a company’s ideal customer. These blueprints provide sellers with the necessary details required to perfectly align a brand’s marketing, advertising, products and customer experience with the target audience’s wants and needs.

Through the use of customer personas, retailers can gain a better understanding of how these individuals are likely to feel, think and act online.

When all of these elements mix together, merchants can begin to cultivate marketing and advertising efforts that are designed to capture these users’ attention and drive them to act.

While this is all relatively common knowledge among marketers, there is another side to customer personas that is rarely discussed or acknowledged.

Enter: Negative personas.

What Are Negative Customer Personas?

Negative buyer personas, while often ignored, are equally as critical to understanding shoppers as the standard customer persona. As Forbes details when discussing negative customer personas and why they are important:

“Negative buyer personas help you understand which groups of individuals are the least likely to convert. Often these include individuals who you would consider not to be a good fit for your company… Spending time researching negative buyer personas sharpens your understanding of your ideal customers, prevents you from wasting valuable company resources, and allows you to refine your existing marketing strategy to best cater to your target audience.”

In a nutshell, customer personas inform a brand about whom they should target, whereas negative personas tell a tale of whom the company should avoid, due to their low potential for buying.

By building negative personas, retailers can weed out unqualified consumers from their ideal customer identification strategy.

The research process for both types of personas is the same. However, with negative personas, sellers will just want to keep an eye out for the traits common across customers that waste time and money.

With these two types of personas outlined, let’s dive into what goes into crafting a customer persona.

Creating Useful eCommerce Customer Personas

When it comes to creating a customer persona that will effectively guide marketing strategies that will improve a brand’s bottom line, there are five major components that will be necessary to document, which are:

  • Avatar and Name
  • Demographic information
  • Interests
  • Pain points and Goals
  • Purchase objections

When outlining this information, it is important to remember that assumptions and gut-feelings are virtually worthless. If sellers get this part wrong, their entire eCommerce marketing strategy will be thrown off and produce minimal results.

Instead, customer personas will be constructed using hard data.

creating customer personas graphic

The only thing here that won’t be based on definitive data (per se) is the avatar and name. Instead, these will be used to help bring the persona to life and enable retailers to think about their wants, needs, interests, behaviors and the fact that they are a real person.

Merchants should consider naming each persona with the core problem of each in mind to help make them easier to remember.

In order to lay the appropriate groundwork for customer personas, it is also necessary to know where the data will come from–no matter if it is qualitative or quantitative.

Some excellent sources for obtaining valuable information include:

Let’s start by looking at eCommerce market research.

Conduct Qualitative Research

When it comes to building data-driven customer personas, conducting eCommerce market research is essential as it gives merchants the opportunity to ask their customers questions directly.

During this stage of data collection, there are three methods that retailers can leverage, including:

conduct qualitative research graphic

Customer Surveys

Conducting customer surveys that feature open-ended questions is a vital strategy for understanding customers and how they frame their motivations and desires.

The aim here is to get inside the minds of customers to ensure that personas are based on the real thoughts of real individuals, as opposed to what merchants think a shopper’s thought process might be like.

Retailers should ask between seven and 10 questions about what drives a person’s behaviors, friction points in the buying process, their shopping mindset and similar inquiries.

Be sure not to make surveys too short, as this can result in too little information being harvested. However, it is also vital to not make surveys too long, as this can deter folks from answering the questions.

The end goal of this process is to collect actionable insights that will help to inform customer personas.

Some survey questions that can serve this end include:

  • When did you recognize you needed a product or service like the one our company offers?
  • What problem(s) does the product/service solve for you?
  • What doubts did you have before buying?

Customer surveys such as these are typically sent to a store’s customers via email.

To help collect as much data as possible, merchants might want to consider incentivizing recipients with a small coupon or gift card.

Phone and IRL Interviews

Actually, talking to buyers can help to provide valuable information into a shopper’s buying habits, motivations and the language they use to describe a business’s website and products or services.

However, conducting interviews can be an expensive and labor-intensive process. Moreover, many people are likely to be more inclined to answer email surveys that they can do in their own time.

For these reasons, while phone and in-person interviews can be valuable, merchants might want to favor email surveys.

Exit Surveys

Exit surveys are designed to have a single question pop up on a user’s screen right before they leave a seller’s site. These types of surveys can be particularly useful in capturing data about why a visitor did not complete a purchase.

The question(s) asked in exit surveys truly depends on the goals of the business and the type of information required. For instance, retailers can ask about how well the site’s products or services met the person’s needs or if there were friction points in the site that kept a shopper from buying.

Much like when developing an effective landing page, retailers should split test questions to see which garner the most responses and insights.

Employ Facebook Insights to Uncover Audience Demographics

Understanding the demographic makeup of the customer personas that a company creates will enable them to procure a more personal picture of their audience.

Factors such as age, education level, marital status and the like will significantly influence a brand’s marketing and advertising efforts. Therefore, having data-backed insights on an audience’s demography can help ensure campaigns that resonate.

Facebook Audience Insights is an excellent source for demographic data on an audience as it looks at the trends of Facebook users based on the content with which they engage. 

By leveraging this analytics tool, retailers can get a better feel for the breakdown of their audience based on gender, age, lifestyle, education, relationship status and tons of other important information.

facebook ads manager targeting

It is important to stress that Audience Insights is different from Page Insights as the former explores trends about current and potential customers, whereas Page Insights breaks down interactions with a Facebook page.

Don’t make the mistake of getting these data sources confused.

Explore Google Analytics to Reveal Interests and Insights

Harvesting data from Google Analytics can be a fantastic source for establishing the overall interests of an audience.

To unearth interest-based insights about a merchant’s audience via Google Analytics, simply navigate to Audiences > Interests > In-Market Segments. Here, retailers can see what in-market audience categories are applicable to the site’s traffic.

google ads in market segments

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

For those who are unaware, an in-market audience is a group of people who are “in-market” for a particular product or service. Google establishes these groupings based on an individual’s search behavior, the content that they consume on various websites, videos they watch on YouTube and other indicators that show a likelihood of purchasing a product or service.

Merchants can make the insights supplied here extremely relevant to their customer persona creation efforts by layering segments over the top of the data.

For instance, if retailers identified 18- to 24-year-old males as a key demographic from their Facebook Audience Insights analysis, that information can be utilized to zero-in on that particular group through the “+ Add Segment” option at the top of the page.

From there, select New Segment > Demographics and enter in the predefined target information.

After saving this segment, sellers can begin ranking in-market audiences by conversion rates, thereby uncovering relevant interest data for customer personas.

Discover Pain Points and Goals via Search Query Data

Knowing what the target audience is looking to achieve through purchasing specific products is integral to a great marketing campaign. However, this information is much more important than promotional purposes alone, as goals and pain points also influence key business aspects such as product management and customer service.

To effectively bring customer goals and pain points to light, sellers can utilize a multitude of sources such as Google Ads search query report, Ahrefs and Google Trends.

Google Trends is excellent for helping to examine the broader, macro-level trends, such as interest over time.

However, to really understand the target customer, the Google Ads search query report is the ideal tool as this report details the different queries that trigger a seller’s Google Ads campaigns.

This information is incredibly useful as it will enable retailers to identify definitive search queries which can then be aligned with specific pain points. That said, the downside to utilizing this report is that its usefulness is limited to how well a merchant’s Google Ads campaigns are structured.

Therefore, depending on how optimized (or not) the structure is, it could end up taking sellers a considerable amount of time to find search queries that focus on explicit pain points.

Another drawback of the search queries report is that it will only display data for ads served during a given period. Since this limitation exists, retailers might want to turn to tools for uncovering the right keywords, such as Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool.

ahrefs keyword explorer dashboard

Much like the search query report, Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool is focused on search data. However, the primary difference between this and the search query report in Google Ads is that the Keyword Explorer tool displays data from a much broader number of searches.

While that may seem like a bit of a drawback to some, the fact is that this data can not only be used as part of a brand’s customer personas, but it can also be leveraged for keyword research in campaigns that target shoppers on which the personas are based.

Leverage Google Analytics to Detect Objections and Friction Points

Finally, it is time to explore the different reasons as to why a shopper might not complete a purchase. Google Analytics is an ideal tool for this as there is a myriad of on-site barriers that could hinder conversions.

For example, sellers can analyze landing page performance by navigating to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. As was done when auditing audience interests, retailers will want to segment website visitors to align with the customer persona being created. This can be done by clicking the “+ Add Segment” button at the top of the page and entering the desired demographic information.

google analytics add segment

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

It is important to note that, unto itself, this data likely won’t reveal much in the way of customer objections or on-site friction points. However, if merchants take the extra step of creating a variety of eCommerce landing pages for the same product but feature different themes (social proof, emotional language, factual data, value, etc.), then retailers will be able to compare the performance of these pages and gain an idea of what works and what doesn’t, thus deducing potential objections to purchasing.

For example, if retailers create four different landing pages based on the themes listed above and find that the factual, evidence-oriented page performs the best, then it is safe to say that the target customer is most interested in proof that the item will do what the site claims.

Final Thoughts

Data-driven customer personas are incredibly valuable tools for eCommerce retailers as these profiles can help to direct a business in creating marketing and advertising campaigns that resonate with the intended audience. Moreover, customer personas can also help a brand to elevate its on-site experience, customer service, copy, products and more.

However, the key to deriving value from customer personas lies in obtaining both quantitative and qualitative data that can provide a clear picture of the target audience and how to reach them effectively.

That said, in undergoing this process, merchants might find that they are far from perfectly aligned with their target audience and, thus, quite a ways from optimizing revenue.

In such an instance, a complete commerce transformation might be the best course of action.

If your brand wants to optimize its potential online, then reach out to Visiture for a free consultation. We can help guide your business in our patented commerce transformation process, thus optimizing revenue and helping to build a future-forward vision for the company.


Image Credits

Source: ibrandify gallery/


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