Understanding Ecommerce Personas in the Digital Ecosystem

Understanding Ecommerce Personas in the Digital Ecosystem

As online shoppers, we have come to expect more from digital experiences: personalization and relevant product recommendations; marketing tailored to our motivations, needs, and behaviors; rich and meaningful content and information; and features and functionality that empower and enable us to achieve our goals. While these expectations are lofty, they are achievable and reasonable.

It’s no surprise that we have recently seen dramatic shifts in the number and types of people shopping online. We have also seen shifts in how customers behave online and what they expect from our products and services. 

A key component of meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations – both online and offline – is a solid understanding of who those customers are. Creating new digital commerce personas, or reviewing your existing ones, can help you ensure that your users and customers will enjoy your brand and find success in your digital ecosystem. 

What are Personas?

Personas are fictional characters that are constructed as representations of your actual or target users. While they are typically presented as single characters, each is meant to be a summary of the data and research that you have collected about your customers. For marketers, personas should also exist within any customer segments that you have defined. 

Since personas should reflect your customer or user base, it’s important to gather thorough information about who your customers are in order to ensure accuracy and appropriate representation of different kinds of users across personas. While it is possible to create “proto-personas”, or quick personas based largely on assumptions, it is important to use data to validate them. 

Examples of information or data sources that can be useful for constructing digital personas include:

  • Quantitative (measurable) data: customer surveys, social listening, website analytics & search data, marketing profiles, order histories
  • Qualitative (anecdotal) data: customer interviews, brand & product reviews, social media post content, or employee insights (customer service transcripts, retail associate experiences)

Different Kinds of Personas

There are a variety of different kinds of personas that you may develop and use, depending on the types of products or services you offer, and how your customers or users interact with them. You may have different personas for different purposes: your marketing personas may look different from your website personas, which may look different from your retail personas.

Segments and personas can be developed to reflect your: 

  • Buyers: those who make purchasing decisions or who will be the ones to actually buy your product or service
  • End users: those who interact with or use your product. These people may never come to the website at all or make a purchasing decision (e.g. gift recipients). 
  • Customers: those who are looking to make a purchase from your brand. Customers are not necessarily limited to the website, and occasionally, are not the buyers (i.e. may make product selections but need to enlist a buyer, as is the case with minors, individuals working with designers, etc.)
  • Exclusionary personas: these individuals are people that you do not currently have or seek as customers, buyers, or users. They may be too expensive to acquire or maintain, have intentions to take advantage of your brand or services, or may fall outside of an age range or demographic that is appropriate for your offerings. Whatever the reason is, understanding who you don’t plan to target or design for can help you better focus on those you do prioritize.

In many cases, your customers, users, and buyers overlap, and there are further ways to differentiate them based on their behaviors, values, roles, etc. 

For example, rather than creating a single “customer” persona to represent all customers of a cross-channel brand, it may make sense to distinguish between online customers, in-store customers, and cross-channel customers. 

What Information Should be Included in a Persona?

The information included and communicated through customer personas can (and should) be unique to each brand or company, and should focus on the characteristics that may inform or influence how a customer or user may interact with your product. 

Common types of data or information represented through personas include: 

  • Name and image: For personas to be salient and easy to recall, it’s important that they feel like real people. To make personas more memorable, they are often given an image and descriptive, alliterative name like “Bargain-Hunter Bethany” or “Loyal Leroy”
  • Demographics & background: age, gender identity, education level, income, marital status, family structure, employment, etc.
  • Quote: a quote serves as a concise way to give the persona a voice. A short, impactful quote can summarize who the persona is, what matters to them, and how they might feel about or interact with your brand or product
  • Biography: A short paragraph summary describing who the persona is, how they discovered the company or brand, what makes them unique, what’s important to them, or other key information that helps paint a picture of what kind of persona they are
  • Goals: what they are hoping to accomplish, the tasks they are looking to complete, or how they define success
  • Pain points: what things frustrate them, create friction for them, or make it harder for them to accomplish their goals? 
  • Attribute scales: these scales are used to plot common key characteristics or descriptors of a persona. Giving value to these characteristics makes it easier to evaluate and compare personas across the attributes. The options for these scales are limitless, but some to consider include brand awareness, price sensitivity, tech-savviness or aptitude, likeliness to purchase, or motivations.

Other information that may sometimes be relevant and useful for personas include habits, values, brand preferences, motivators, personality traits, tools or technologies they use, and more.

Ecommerce Personas

How Can Personas Be Used? 

One of the main benefits of personas is that they allow teams to build empathy around specific characters, and enable us to have objective discussions through the lens of individuals that have been identified as the core archetypes of the target audiences. Once you have personas that resonate with your team, you’ll find yourself having conversations referencing them or asking questions like “How could we make this easier for Loyal Leroy?” or “What kind of information would Bargain-Hunter Bethany want about this promotion?” 

There are many different ways that personas can be used as part of your marketing or digital strategy in order to help you deliver a web experience and marketing communications that hit the mark with your customers. Personas can be used to:

  • Evaluate potential new features, promotions, or technologies to determine how valuable they might be
  • Identify and prioritize website enhancements based on what personas need or would benefit from them
  • Ensure that your values align with those of your customers/users and are well-communicated
  • Determine where users or customers may need additional information or support
  • Select priority customer types in order to help guide targeting and marketing efforts
  • Make sure that the terminology and language you’re using can be understood by – and will be meaningful for – your primary users/customers
  • Tailor content, product recommendations, and personalization
  • Develop relevant and specific marketing campaigns and communications

Develop Custom Ecommerce Personas with Help from CQL

As the ways people interact with brands and websites continue to change, it will be important to maintain a strong understanding of who your users and customers are (and who they aren’t!) to ensure that you are providing them with the tools, information, and features that they need in order to be successful and satisfied with your digital experience. 

Creating robust personas can help you establish an understanding of your current and target customers. Once you have personas, periodically reviewing and revising them as you collect more data or see shifts in your customer base can help you validate that your understanding of your customers is accurate and current. 

If you’re looking to create new personas review & validate your existing ones, our UX and Strategy teams can help.