Understand Buyer Personas: 5 Steps to Targeting Online Shoppers

February 18, 2021 by Stefanini

As 2021 continues, most retail businesses are still reeling from losses sustained in 2020. Leverage buyer personas for effective marketing and increased sales!

2021 is all about resilience and recovery. And no other industry was hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 than retail. As many brick-and-mortar stores were forced to close due to local and federal mandates, many retail companies had to redefine the ways they did business with their audience. At the same time, however, the retail industry had to reckon with the fact that consumer behavior was changing.

While some companies were able to pivot to this new reality quickly, a greater number are still trying to redefine their target audience’s wants and needs.

The first step? Understanding buyer personas.

What is a Buyer Persona?

According to Hootsuite, a buyer persona is a detailed description of someone who represents your target customers. While buyer personas are created from customer-based data, the buyer persona itself does not represent a real person – instead, it paints a picture of a fictional person who embodies the personal characteristics of a business’ best customers. This includes demographic details, interests, and behavioral traits, well as goals, buying patterns, and pain points.

What is buyer persona? A definition

With a buyer persona, you can craft tailored marketing messages to these specific types of customers ( a great boost to content marketing!). Once you create your buyer personas, they will be used to guide everything from your brand’s voice to product development to the social channels you use and invest in.

How to Create a Buyer Persona

It’s easy enough to plan to incorporate buyer personas into your 2021 marketing strategy, but how does the process actually work? To compile a marketing persona, follow these steps:

How to create a buyer persona?

1.      Conduct thorough audience research

Any buyer persona you construct needs to be based upon actual research, not assumptions. And research is a broad term – for instance, are you studying your social media channels to compile data? How are you studying current customers’ buying habits? Can you identify the demographics (i.e. age, location, interests, etc.) of your existing customers? What about social listening (studying what people say about your brand online by monitoring keywords and hashtags)? When conducting your audience research, you need to know how your customers behave on whichever channel through which they interact with your brand, understand how your product or service impacts your audience’s life, identify your customer’s main purchasing barriers, the different stages of the buying journey, and how to create content that attracts your audience members.

2.      Identify your audience’s pain points

By engaging in social listening and social media sentiment analysis (the attitude and feelings people have about your brand on social media), you can identify any hassles your potential customers are trying to solve. Why is this step important? Well, if you know which barriers are keeping your ideal customers from reaching their goals, you can learn why buyers love your products and which parts of the customer experience aren’t working. To get a real time look into what people are saying about you online, set up streams to monitor any mentions of your brand, products, and competitors. You should also meet with your customer service team to see the kinds of questions they get most. With this information, you can start to identify patterns that exist among specific groups, as well as the types of challenges they tend to face.

3.      Pinpoint customer goals

Once pain points have been identified, you can expand your research into the goals or aspirations your customers want to achieve. By getting to know this aspect of your customers, you can start to match customers to features or benefits of your product that help them reach their goals. And even if your personas’ goals don’t relate to your products specifically, they can still be used to inform your marketing’s tone or approach. Further, you can also gather this type of information from your sales team, who have a deep understanding of what customers are trying to achieve with your brand’s products or services.

4.      Understand how your brand can help

Don’t just think about your brand in terms of its features – analyze the benefits you offer to customers. Think of it this way – a “feature” is what your product does. A “benefit” is how your product or service makes your customer’s life better or easier. Once you’ve identified pain points and goals, ask these three questions to better understand your customers: How can your brand help? What are the main purchasing barriers your audience encounters? And finally, at what stage are your followers at on their buying journey?

5.      Creating the buyer persona

After you’ve gathered your research, identify common characteristics. As these characteristics are grouped together, your unique customer personas will emerge. Name each one, give it a job title, and other defining characteristics (including the pain points and goals!) that make it seem like a real person. Of course, the persona will not match an actual customer exactly. However, this persona allows you to think about your customers in a human way instead of a list of data points.

Types of Buyer Personas

When a retailer builds a persona, how should they begin? While your buyer personas will likely look different from the buyer persona templates listed below, this list can give you a head-start in crafting the buyer personas your brand typically encounters:

Types of buyer persona

1.      Impatient Isabel

a.      Background: Married with two college-aged children, Isabel has worked at the same company for 20 years, moving up from an entry level position to middle management.  

b.      Demographics: This persona skews female and includes suburban women aged 35 to 50.

c.      Identifiers: Isabel is easily frustrated and will complain on social media channels when she experiences an inconvenience while doing business with your brand. She mainly shops on digital channels, but will also make an in-store appearance.

d.      Challenges: She wants her purchases quickly, at a reasonable price, and conveniently.

e.      Goals: She hopes to encounter desired products on the channels she usually browses. She wants a simple purchasing process and guaranteed fast shipping that is transparent when delays occur.

f.       How Your Brand Can Help: By consistently providing excellent service across every channel, you should resolve Isabel’s complaints quickly while also being innovative with your multi-channel marketing strategy.

2.      Discount Deborah

a.      Background: A single woman who is active in the dating scene, Deborah works at a start-up, a position she has been at for less than a year. She frequently job hops in order to secure the best salary and benefits possible.  

b.      Demographics: This persona skews female and includes urban women aged 18 to 35.

c.      Identifiers: Deborah loves scoring a bargain. She will regularly compare prices between brands and also shop both online and in-store. She rarely makes purchases at full price and is most responsive to messages that offer deals and discounts.

d.      Challenges: Deborah is very budget conscious and while she enjoys shopping, can’t afford to shop frivolously.

e.      Goals: Eventually, Deborah would like to earn enough money to shop as she pleases. However, she will always prioritize discounted items over items that are full-price.

f.       How Your Brand Can Help: use your customer data to tailor your products, services, and communications to Deborah’s needs. Also, consider targeting Deborah when you need to unload unwanted stock.

3.      Researcher Rick

a.      Background: Married for twenty years, Rick is a family man who wants to purchase the best products for his family while also sticking to a budget.

b.      Demographics: This persona skews male and includes suburban men aged 35 to 55.

c.      Identifiers: Rick thoroughly researches every aspect of a product on the internet and also spends time speaking with sales staff. He reacts slowly to new products and is always on the hunt for the best price, making in-store visits along with his online research. Name brand items are not important to him.

d.      Challenges: Rick wants to be efficient in his research, but often does not find all of the answers to his questions online.

e.      Goals: Rick would like to skip the in-store visit and be able to conduct his research exclusively online.

f.       How Your Brand Can Help: Make sure your online product listings are thorough and up-to-date; you can also encourage customers to leave reviews to help Rick with his research.

4.      Returning Robert

a.      Background: Married for five years to his second wife, Robert has two children from his first marriage and has two step children from his second marriage. He loves when new products drop, but tends to buy them before actually figuring out what he wants.

b.      Demographics: This persona can skew both male and female, and includes suburban dwellers aged 30 to 50.

c.      Identifiers: Robert is picky – he has a high volume of products with a high volume of returns as well. He shops both online and in-store. Due to his tendency to return most products, Returning Robert is not as valuable as other customer personas.

d.      Challenges: Robert wants what he wants, but unfortunately, he isn’t sure what he wants.

e.      Goals: Robert wants brands to tell him what he needs.

f.       How Your Brand Can Help: First, analyze this buyer persona’s group data to track its profitability. Then, understand why this group leans toward a high volume of returns – is it a quality issue? Or the customer’s own indecisiveness? To curb this high volume of returns, work with staff to offer more support during the purchasing process.

Stefanini’s Solutions for the Retail Industry

Today's retail landscape is focused on personalized experiences and an omnichannel approach. That’s why we use data-driven insights to help you improve the customer experience. By analyzing user behavior on the overarching customer journey, we can help you find new opportunities for improvement while tweaking your buyer personas.

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