Buyer personas have long been important to ecommerce, ensuring that they understand the behavior and motivations behind the buying decision. With virtually every company and organization shifting more of its marketing and sales to a digital format, buyer personas are now a tool that all marketers need. They are critical to people-focused UX design, helping create engaging websites that are influenced by your customers’ needs, preferences and motivations. And personas’ ability to flip the script from what we want to what our customers are looking for, means that we can also uncover accessibility needs, and areas where our messaging isn’t connecting.
How to Build Buyer Personas
To begin building a persona, look to the data you already have and use on your ecommerce site: analytics, industry reports and audience research. This will form the foundation of your persona. Then layer on the information that you would gather to create a delightful UX design: surveys, focus groups, interviews with actual customers. Using your industry and audience knowledge, you then develop a full picture of the people using your ecommerce site.
There are many ways to format a buyer persona, but we find the simplest way to get started is to think about three sections: Description, Think & Feel, Concerns & Questions.
While we’ll talk about this section first, and it usually appears at the top of a persona document, you may not be able to get this detailed when you begin developing your buyer persona. To begin, imagine your perfect buyer or customer and describe them, knowing that you’ll probably come back to this section later, to tighten it up. Give your persona a name and select a photograph early in the process, to help you think about your ecommerce site being used by people, not by “users”. For an example of how we’ve used buyer personas to guide website design as well as branding design, check out the work we did with University College. Depending on your product or service, your persona will be more developed in some of these areas of the description:
- Job title and industry
- Location: local, regional, national, international
- Identifies as gender
- Social and family connections
- Stage of customer journey with your industry, service or product: awareness, consideration, decision
- A quote in their voice and tone: what would this person say about their reason for visiting your site?
Think & Feel
This section is where you look at your product, service and website design from your customer’s point of view. A few questions you should be sure to think about and answer as you develop your buyer persona:
- What is this persona thinking about your product or service?
- Why is she thinking about your product or service (what’s the situation she’s in, how does she feel about it, is she happy, upset, mad)?
- When she thinks of you, how does she feel about your product or service?
- When she visits your website, what is her frame of mind?
- How will your product or service changes things for this persona? What problems do you solve? Does your product or service create new challenges for her?
- FINALLY, how can your ecommerce website acknowledge what she’s thinking and feeling through UX design, images, infographics and copy?
Concerns & Questions
In this section of your buyer persona, you’ll develop the actual questions your target customer (let’s call her Sheila) might have. You can then use your website to answer those questions. A few examples:
- What is Sheila still wondering about at this stage of her customer journey with you?
- How can you give Sheila what she needs to know to make a decision?
- Is there another way to share information that will answer her questions more clearly?
- Where can you engage with her more deeply to help her in her process?
- What barriers are there to Sheila making a purchase? How can you remove those barriers through descriptions, testimonials, or delightful UX design?
Successfully using buyer personas
In conclusion, the process of developing buyer personas is very valuable, but using them is where the wins come from. Make a commitment to keep them updated, revising as you find new information and gather more research. Create several personas so that you can more deeply understand each segment of your audience. Make them real, with names, photos, and quotes that use words they would say, not your industry jargon. Most importantly, incorporate them into the marketing and sales discussions that happen every day, by asking “Would Sheila respond to this?” .