What are buyer personas and how can they assist your business?
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Identifying retaining your ideal customer.
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas, sometimes called customer or marketing personas, are fictional characters personifying your ideal customer. They represent the habits, hopes, desires, interests, concerns, challenges of your target audience and are a synthesis of data collected via market research, surveys, face to face and telephonic interviews, sales staff interactions, POS information, social media and website analytics. Buyer personas are valuable in that they put a ‘human face’ (and name!) on abstract data. Creating a buyer persona helps you identify and understand your target customer which is essential to tailor your products and services to their needs. They are fundamental in effective sales and marketing campaigns to create the correct message, content and offers that differentiate your brand from the others. Ultimately this will maximise your return on investment (ROI).
It is well worth the six to eight weeks it will take to build a comprehensive buyer persona depicting your primary target customers and their requirements - one to five personas to begin with which can be expanded as and when necessary. These personas will evolve as your understanding of your customers increases, integrating new insights along the way.
Just as its important to identify and understand your target customers it is also useful to identify negative customers such as those who are time wasters unlikely in the end to purchase or those that frequently buy and return items (often damaged/worn so not resalable) This reduces profitability and detracts from serving your ideal customer.
The negative persona, also called an exclusionary persona, can be kept in mind in marketing campaigns to discourage them using your business.
How do I build a Buyer persona?
There are four basic steps in building a persona.
1. Identify broad groups of buyers
Use your existing purchase data to eliminate wholesalers where applicable and base your persona on what you know of your end customers.
Then examine your products and services. Who is making the purchases? Is it for themselves or others? Does your stock sell more around certain holidays? Is it sold to a certain demographic? If your products are sold as gifts it may be beneficial to build a persona for the recipient as well as the purchaser so as to develop a campaign around the purchasers to close the sale and the recipients so they request your product.
2. Identify key information
Once you have distinguished broad customer groups you will need to identify the information required to create more detailed personas. To achieve this, the following is a list of possible questions needing answers:
Location: Where do people from this persona live?
Excluding Location: Where don’t people from this persona live?
Age: What is the age range of this persona?
Gender: What is their gender?
Relationship Status: What is their relationship status? Do they have children?
Language: What languages do people in this persona speak?
Education Level: What is their education level?
Professional information: What fields do your customers work in? What is their job title?
Goals and challenges: What are their personal/career goals/challenges?
Income Level: What is the income range of this buyer?
Hobbies & Interests: Do they play sports? Camp? Have hobbies? Do they belong to any associations? What do they read?
Favourite Websites: What websites do people in this persona frequent? What social media platforms do they use?
Buying Motivation: What are this persona’s reasons for buying your product?
Concerns: What are this customers concerns when buying your product
Every retail business is different and therefore some of the above criteria may not apply to your customer base. You may need to adapt/extend the list of questions in order to define your customers more accurately.
Now that you have defined the information required to build your personas the next step is to gather data. You may already have valuable data regarding your customers through account setups, competitions, newsletter submissions, in-store surveys - use this information to flesh out your buyer personas.
Additional information may be obtained from interviewing a selection of past customers, current loyal customers and even lost customers. These interviews may be made in person, over the phone, via email, through your website or in-store.
If preferred, send out questionnaires or conduct an online survey using a tool such as SurveyMonkey to pose questions and collect responses.
Valuable customer demographics may be obtained by combing website and social media analytics.
Sales staff can provide insight through their interactions with customers on the shop floor and through in-store promotions/surveys.
Using a spectrum of mediums will enable you to reach a broader range of customers and enhance your persona(s)
In all methods be sure to incentivise customers to participate if necessary and reward their valuable time/contribution with a gift card or discount.
4. Build your persona
This abundance of information can now be coalesced to build comprehensive personifications of your ideal customers. Be as specific as possible. Give them a name and a face which will identify certain characteristics of your persona and create empathy.
Retailers and their customer base vary greatly however the following are examples of how your personas may look according to “12 Buyer Personas for Online Retail Shoppers” from Artifacia.
HubSpot has also published an article titled “What Does a Great Buyer Persona Look Like?” which may be helpful.
The process is not a static one. Continue to monitor your customer base over time and alter your personas and marketing plans accordingly. In the research piece “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing,” IBM advises “Periodically conduct more interviews to refine what you’ve developed and keep customer focus at the forefront. At every planning meeting, ask yourself and your coworkers, “What would our buyer want?” or “What does our research indicate that we should do?”
Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, in fact anything relating to customer acquisition and retention. By creating detailed personifications of your ideal customers you will be able to best align your business/marketing strategy to your customers requirements thereby increasing ROI.
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