Understanding your audience
As mentioned in an earlier blog post about getting your strategy right, when creating your overall website strategy it is important to understand your target audience. But, to make informed decisions you will need a much clearer understanding of your customers, which can be done by creating buyer personas.
Creating buyer personas involves investigating users and their requirements in order to add context and insight to your website design and marketing. Determining the demographic, psychographic, cultural, and behavioral characteristics of your customers is an invaluable step to optimise your website for conversions.
Grouping your users into useful personas not only helps to refine your overall marketing message, it can hone your approach for each group by allowing you to create a personalised experience across all touchpoints. This leads to everything from on-site content personalisation to persona-based paid marketing campaigns across Google and social media.
At Selesti we create buyer personas for eCommerce sites with an iterative approach, combining predictive modelling techniques with ongoing research in the following ways:
Understanding your audience
Using the data you’ve already gathered from analytics sets the groundwork for buyer personas. This data will help you to understand the basic demographic information of the customers, as well as highlighting their interests and habits online through affinity categories and in-market segments.
If you’ve followed our steps in your strategy planning, combining this data set with your own assumption about your customers will give you a rough sketch of your personas and help to narrow down your future research.
Interviewing your existing customers is the easiest way to understand how they view your brand, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the issue your product is solving for them. Consider the following questions in your survey:
- Why were they looking for the product?
- How did they research the product?
- What criteria helped them make their purchase?
- Which of your competitors’ sites did they also visit?
- Why did they choose your website?
- What was their experience like on your website
- What could have been improved?
These surveys can be sent over via email or on your website.
Social listening is monitoring social media for mentions or discussions around specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries. Understanding how different user groups are talking about you, your products, your competitors and themselves can lead to key insights into which groups are most receptive to your brand. This allows you to differentiate personas based on needs and identities rather than simply demographics.
There are a lot of powerful tools for social listening, such as BuzzSumo and Sprout Social. These tools allow you to see which content performs best within your target market, and help you to understand how to position yourself so that your customers will be engaged with your brand.
Talk to your team
Your sales and customer service teams have the best insight into your customers. They spend their days talking to them, answering their queries and understanding their problems. To get the very best out of your persona research, collaboration across all of your departments is a must.
Utilising market research when creating your personas can upscale your efforts. With a good understanding of who you want to target, ongoing market research into the wants and needs of these groups is helpful to stay on top of changing opinions and trends.
However, be careful when utilising third party market research. The findings from this can be helpful as a basis for your personas, but this information should be verified within your actual market by using the approaches listed above.
Knowing who your customer groups are is great, but you can’t stop there. Understanding how much they are worth to your business is a key step to growth. For example, one of your customer persona groups may interact with your brand regularly on social media but only purchase once a month. While another group may not engage with your social or email channels, but could make large purchases weekly. Understanding this, can help to refine which persona is most valuable to each of your marketing goals.
To do this, we utilise the predictive modelling technique RFM segmentation. This stands for recency, frequency and monetary:
- Recency: how recently the customer has purchased with you.
- Frequency: how frequently the customer makes purchases with you.
- Monetary: the average order value the customer makes with you.
If your online store is already up and running, and users are able to create an account, this information will be available within your database.
Using the ‘recency’ metric, we are able to outline 3 main customer types:
We can then further break down each of these customer types using frequency and monetary data:
Your highest frequency and monetary customers are your ‘premium’ customers, then you have ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ customers and your standard customers.
Plugging this data into your customer personas will pinpoint which of your personas is most valuable and allows you to group them together in your CRM.
Remember to review this data regularly to ensure your marketing efforts are pushing more users into the ‘premium’ group. If not, then it’s time to mix things up and reevaluate your strategy.
Another aspect in your buyer persona creation is to look at negative personas. A negative buyer persona is a person who may spend an extended period of time on your site or interacting with your brand, but is unlikely to convert.
Knowing who these people are will help you to avoid wasting your marketing budget promoting to these groups, and will save your marketing team time to focus on the high value customers.
Persona work doesn’t end there. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is for their research team to spend months creating personas in isolation, and ultimately revealing personas that aren’t useful for the wider team. And, unsurprisingly, nobody uses them. At Selesti, we use lightweight, continuous, and collaborative research techniques to carry out user persona creation.
Your customer persona project should be an ongoing piece of work that evolves as you learn more about your customers wants and needs, with the personas being adjusted as a response. One example of this includes where segmentation of a social campaign reveals a new persona interest or negative persona details. Don’t let this information get missed by the rest of your team, ensure your personas are constantly being revised.
Using this agile and collaborative approach can help to bridge the knowledge gap between the people who conducted the research and those who will be using the personas.
How to use your personas
Each area of your eCommerce business should be considered in your persona creation. Here are some ways in which different teams can utilise this data:
- Customer service team: Understand how to speak to different user groups can lead to higher customer satisfaction.
- Content marketers: Each piece of written content should have a target persona, and be written in away that engages them.
- Outreach and PR: Understanding what the other interests of your personas are helps to establish where they spend their time online, and the best way for you to appear in that space.
- Designers & UX: Getting to know how each group uses your site can help guide site personalisation, accessibility improvements and navigation usability.
- Email marketers: Outlining your personas inside your CRM means powerful email segmentation and personalised email creation.
Customer journey mapping
Once your customer personas have been fully researched and created it’s important to know how each group interacts with your brand. To do this, we look at customer journey maps. You’ll need to create a map for each of your personas, as each is likely to interact with different touchpoints at different times.
A customer journey map is a visual diagram that illustrates user flow through different touchpoints, across multiple channels. In doing this you are better able to understand where users are finding frustrations in their journey (pain points), and which areas of the site are instrumental in increasing conversions.
For eCommerce stores, there tends to be a high number of different touchpoints. Touchpoints are the different ways a customer can interact with a store, whether that’s on your online store, your social media accounts, emails, over the phone or in person. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated — but necessary — such a map becomes.
Here are the basic steps for creating your customer journey map:
- Capture all the touchpoints and channels customers go through when visiting your e-commerce website, and what happens during those interactions
- Understand how customers feel at every stage of their journey and what you can improve so they get less frustrated
- Indicate the pain-points of the journey and brainstorm solutions
- Discover moments of truth for your customer - the points in a customer journey when a key event occurs (eg, they either love or leave your brand)
A basic journey map for an eCommerce store looks like this:
Awareness > Consideration > Conversion > Loyalty
This is also referred to as your conversion funnel.
When you have all of this data, you can enter it into a customer journey template:
To get the full picture of your user journey you will need to combine all of your previous customer persona
research with quantitative data from analytics. At Selesti we use two key Google Analytics reports to
understand the picture of our customer journey: behaviour flow and top conversion paths.
Google Analytics Behaviour flow and conversion path
We use the Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics to better understand the typical paths people take on a site. From here we can see where users are dropping off of the site and which pages and paths lead to the most conversions.
The top conversion path report lets us look at which touchpoints (channels) users interact with before landing on your store.
Once you have your customer journeys mapped out you can analyse how users are currently interacting
across different touchpoints, understand the opportunities for improvement and test implementing changes.