There’s an open secret to increasing your ecommerce sales.
I say an open secret because, even though most people know about it, very few actually take action.
The secret? That increasing sales is all about offering your customers something they want, need, and can benefit from.
Instead of aligning marketing to the user’s desires, too many brands focus on sexy tactics like Facebook ads, remarketing, and social commerce.
These tactics can help, but only if you know how to tailor them to the customer. And to do that, you have to have built detailed buyer personas.
What is a Buyer Persona (and Why do You Need Them)?
A buyer persona is an in-depth blueprint of your ideal customer. This blueprint gives you all the necessary details you need to make every bit of marketing, advertising, and customer experience perfectly suited to them.
A buyer persona helps you understand what your ideal customer is thinking and how they’re feeling. It outlines their concerns, hopes, and beliefs.
But most importantly, they tell you what your customers expect when it comes to their shopping experience.
When combined, these elements are the key to creating marketing they can’t ignore.
This is all common knowledge in the marketing world. However, there’s another side to buyer personas that’s rarely examined.
A side which is just as important as your regular personas because it helps you understand who not to target. I’m talking about negative personas.
What are Negative Personas?
Negative personas are just as important as buyer personas. They’re the other side to the same coin.
Where buyer personas tell you who to target, negative personas outline who to avoid because they have no intention to buy, or a low possibility of buying.
You know, they’re the tire kickers. The ones who will ask a million questions about your return policy, if you can hold things for them, etc. but will never turn into a paying customer.
Building a negative buyer persona helps you to weed out unengaged tire kickers from your ideal customer.
The research process is the same, you’re just also keeping an eye out for the traits you find in customers who waste your time and money.
Now, let’s get into the process you need to follow to build great buyer and negative buyer personas.
How to build your buyer persona is 3 easy steps
Start with the data you already have
Current prospects are an excellent place to start because you already have their information. You may be sitting on a goldmine of powerful customer data and not even know it.
When you generated these leads you should have collected relevant information like customer location (country), local address, gender, profession, and more.
With that, you’ve got everything you need to get started. Your email list or CRM should be your first port of call.
You’ll want to first segment your database by those who have already purchased, and prioritize them based on their value as customers.
Ideally you want to focus on customers who have a long term investment in your brand and a high LTV. These are the customers who keep coming back time and again to buy more from you.
To attract more of these customers is the goal so you want to build your marketing machine in a way that attracts these users.
Once you’ve segmented your list you’ll be left with a segment of your most valuable customers.
From there, you’ll want to analyze these users for common traits. There’s more detail on these traits throughout the article, however, as a quick overview here you might want to look at:
- Demographic information (age, gender, location etc)
- Career information
- Marital status
- Income band
- General interests
- If you have information or feedback on why they bought and the problems they faced then this will be incredibly useful.
Pull as much information as you can from your existing users. You’ll soon discover the common traits, themes, and needs.
You’ll then use these to inform your marketing going forward.
By tailoring your marketing to the segment that’s already buying from you you should quickly be able to attract more similar shoppers which will massively increase revenue.
Once you’ve used your current customer data to get a head start, you’ll want to flesh it out with more general data from your Google Analytics account (there’s a full section on this coming up)
Not only is GA a tool for measuring traffic, building funnels, and tracking sales, it’s an indispensable tool for learning about your customers.
These are just a few examples and ideas of where to find data. Where you’re storing your customer data, be it your CRM, Messenger tool, ESP, or eCommerce analytics service, isn’t important. What is important is that you jump into it fully to get the best understanding of your audience.
But what if you’ve just started your business?
If you’ve just started your eCommerce journey or are planning to start soon, fear not. There are still plenty of ways for you to get a better understanding of your target audience.
I’d also recommend people with their own data try some of these to flesh out the details of the data they have.
Whatever your situation, let’s first look at some of the tools available that will help you gather or flesh out data for your persona. After these, I’ll detail how to use that data.
Best Tools to Build Your Buyer Persona
Traffic and visibility
- SEMrush – One of the best tools out there for technical SEO audits, tracking positions, and getting a good idea of what your competitors are ranking for.
For buyer personas, this is a great tool to get an understanding of what it is your competitors are ranking for and the keywords they’re bidding on.
There’s no hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, the terms they’ve been paying a lot for over a prolonged period are often the most profitable.
They wouldn’t keep paying for them if they weren’t making them money.
- Ahrefs – The gold standard of backlink checking tools. There’s a lot of overlap with SEMrush and many consider Ahrefs as an overall superior tool for organic search.
The real benefit here is to see which of your competitors’ product pages are attracting the most amount of backlinks.
Pages with a greater number of backlinks rank higher in search. However, they also show you what products or information is viewed as more valuable by the industry which will help you understand what people want.
- Again,SEMrush and Ahrefs for the reasons listed above.
- Moz – Another great tool that will give you an insight into the kind of content and keywords your competitors are targeting.
Any of these tools are great to identify which keywords are providing traffic for your competitors.
As a general rule, you want to try and focus on the terms that are low competition and high cost. Low competition means there’s less competition, and the high price means they have high commercial intent.
Content type (video, text, images etc)
BuzzSumo – BuzzSumo will help you identify the kind of content that’s being shared most on a site. This is especially useful as it’s a direct indicator of how interesting the user finds the content.
By filtering the content type you can figure out whether you should be focusing on video, images, or text-based content for maximum impact.
Checking current Facebook ads:
Head to your competitor’s main Facebook page and click on the Info and Ads menu item at the bottom to see which ads they’re currently running.
Check this every few days. If an ad has been running for a while it’s a good indicator that it converts well. Find the ads your competitors run consistently and pick apart the copy, images, and general flow to see how they attract their audience.
Facebook Audience Insights tool
Checking the followers with Facebook Audience Insights. Facebook Insights is another underutilized tools when it comes to customer profiling. With Audience insights, you can get a pretty comprehensive breakdown of just about any page audience.
Analyzing Current Visitors with Google Analytics
As mentioned earlier in the article, Google Analytics can give you pretty good insights as to your ideal buyer persona. Head over to the Audience tab in the navigation menu to find things like demographics, age, gender, interests, and more.
In this image, we can see that although the demographic 25-34 visits the site more, the demographic between the ages of 35-44 convert better (they buy more).
Careful analysis of demographics can help you make more informed marketing decisions and target more people who buy more frequently.
In this image, you can see the application of a secondary dimension, Gender. This gives you more granular data not only about the age groups who visit the most and purchase, but also their gender.
After applying the secondary dimension, we can see that overall best converting segments are:
- Male (25-44)
- Male (45-54)
- Female (35-44)
You can now use this new information to create a new segment as shown in the image below.
Now to see where your users are coming from, head down to the Geo submenu.
Under Geo, you should see Language. This data shows you which language (dialect) is the best converting on your site. In this image, we can see that English speaking users from the US are the best converting.
With this new information, edit your current buyer persona and enter the language as EN-US.
From the image above, we can see that the most traffic comes from the US. Take this new information and update your buyer persona.
You can even get more granular with this information by seeing which specific city in the US drives the most buyers to your site.
PRO TIP: To save money, exclude the worst converting location (Chicago as demonstrated in this example) from your PPC ads. This helps you save money and put the money you save into areas that provide a better ROI.
Conversific makes checking your customer personas a breeze. Here’s an example of a customer persona dashboard. You can see important information front and center like gender, age range, revenue brought in, conversion rate, and average order value.
Another cool thing is being able to see how much money a particular customer persona has brought in over a period of time. This figure is displayed in a percentage and colored in Green (positive growth) or Red (negative growth).
Use this information to update the user persona:
Checking the Interest of the Persona:
Continue to stack the customer persona by checking the Interests submenu. As you can see in the image, Lifestyle & Hobbies/Business Professionals is at the top followed by Banking & Finance Buffs, Travel/Business Travelers, Sports & Fitness Buffs, and Travel Buffs.
Checking where they come from:
The Acquisition menu helps you find out which channels these people are coming from. We can see above that referrals are driving the most conversions.
Checking the referrals
In the Acquisition menu, head to the All Traffic submenu. Under All Traffic, you’ll see Channels. This is where you can find out exactly which pages are referring users to your site. From the image above, you can see that gdeals.googleplex.com accounts for a 19% conversion rate! There’s your gold mine.
Setting up Facebook Ads with your Buyer Persona Data:
Now that you’ve gathered up all of that data, it’s time to put it to work via Facebook Ads. Here’s the information you would include:
- Male: 35-44
- Language: en
- Country: US
- City: Mountain View, New York, San Jose, Palo Alto
- Travel/Business Travelers,
- Sports & Fitness/Health & Fitness Buffs
- Banking & Finance/Avid Investors
- Lifestyles & Hobbies/Business Professionals
Remember that the Conversific Analytics personalized segmentations & customer profiles makes finding out any customer details a breeze. Here’s a snapshot of a loyal customer with all the information you need and then some:
Talk to Your Customers and Use Surveys to Uncover Insights
Surveys are one of the best ways to uncover customer insights. Why? Because you’re hearing it directly from the customers. No amount of research or fancy tools can compare to customers answering questions when it comes to their preferences, wants, needs, etc.
What you want to know from surveys:
Before and after
There’s a marketing adage that says “People don’t buy products. They buy better versions of themselves.” This is 100% true.
Customers generally don’t care about your product features. They care about how those features will make their lives better, easier, more pleasant, etc.
Let’s say you were running a monthly subscription clothing eCommerce store. Here are some questions you’d want to include in your surveys:
- What does the customer have right now? ( For example: trendy clothes, comfortable clothes/ out of fashion wardrobe, low quality clothes)
- How does the customer feel? (For example: content, fulfilled/irritated, feel like they’re missing out, jealous)
- What’s their day like? (For example: comfortable all day, gets compliments regularly on style/uncomfortable, unsatisfied with style)
- How are they like overall throughout the day? ( For example: generally happy and confident/ lack of confidence, grumpy)
Each customer goes through their own distinct eCommerce journey. Sometimes it involves 3 steps, sometimes its 10-15 steps before they make a purchase. However, the general flow of their journey can be summarized in 3 phases. These are:
- Awareness: They become aware of a need (For example: “I need new shoes”
- Interest: They consider various products (For example: “Do I want classic, flat Vans or do I want the chunky, but fashionable New Balance 574s?”)
- Desire : They decide on one product over others. (“I want the New Balance 574 instead of the Vans”)
A trigger is an event that encourages a customer to start shopping or take additional steps in the buying process. It’s that initial motivation that catalyzes their buying journey. By understanding your customers’ triggers, you can respond to them and even better yet, influence them.
There are three types of triggers: Internal, external, and seasonal.
Internal triggers. Internal triggers are your customer’s feelings, ideas, and thoughts that would push them to action. For example, “I need to gain more muscle mass. I’m gonna buy protein for my workouts”. Other internal triggers include dreams, desires, frequently made mistakes, things they wish were secretly true, things they avoid, insecurities, and discomforts.
External triggers are circumstances that are beyond the customer’s control that would force them to take action. For example “ I broke my skateboard, I need to buy a new one.” Other external features can include: events, meetings, gatherings, celebrations, other people’s reactions or feelings, and changes to the status quo.
Seasonal triggers are predictable events that influence buying behaviour. For example, “Christmas is coming up, I need to shop for gifts”. Other seasonal triggers include festivals, birthdays, scheduled shows, presentations, and graduations.
Think of the best brands in the world and how they influence these triggers in their audiences. Why is it that Apple always gets people lined up around the block when a new iPhone comes out? It’s because they know how to create FOMO (fear of missing out) and desire in their customers.
Same thing goes for brands like Supreme and Fenty Beauty. You can use their techniques of manufacturing these desires amongst a host of other triggers to improve your conversions.
Once you’ve gathered up all the possible data of your customer buyer persona, you’ll want to have a place to put all of that in so you can constantly refer back to it. I’ve included a sample “Final Product” Buyer Persona below for you to get inspired:
In this article, we’ve covered how you can build a strong buyer persona. You learned why having one is important for your marketing, sales, and overall success of your store. You discovered the various tools you can use to spy on your competitor’s content and ad strategy to find new opportunities to drive customers to your site.
You learned how Google Analytics and Conversific can empower you in giving you granular data about your ideal customer. Lastly, you learned what the finished version of your buyer persona should look like. Keep in mind that eCommerce is ever-evolving, industries transform, and customers change.
Keep making changes as necessary and nimble enough to try different customer acquisition and retention strategies.
About the author
Steve is the CEO and Head of Analytics of the Shopify app Conversific. They found that there’s a direct correlation between trying to understand data 🤔 and being sad 😫. That’s why the team behind Conversific wants to change the world of ecommerce analytics upside down, and make it mainstream to every Shopify store.