Marketing

Profiling and Personalization in eCommerce: How Many Personas Do You Need

Over 50 ecommerce experts share how they handle profiling and personalization for their online businesses.

Masooma Memon Masooma Memon on March 17, 2022 (last modified on May 24, 2022) • 19 minute read

Who doesn’t love a personalized shopping experience? On-point product recommendations and emails packed with heart-winning discounts, for example.

Not only does such a ecommerce product personalization benefit businesses, it’s also something customers appreciate.

Consider this:

And on the customer front:

  • 36% of buyers agree retailers need to offer more personalized shopping experiences.

But here’s the catch, almost double the shoppers – 64% to be exact, say retailers don’t know them well enough.

This means there’s a lot that you can do to personalize customers’ shopping experience. So where do you start? With better profiling your buyers.

In this guide, let’s walk you through ecommerce profiling and personalizing. As is the drill, we come bearing examples of personalization in ecommerce sourced from experts from the field.

Here’s a rundown of what we’ll cover:

ga_ecommerce_dashboard_template_databox

What Is Ecommerce Personalization?

Ecommerce personalization involves using data from customer interactions (technically, behavioral data) on your site to display content most relevant to the visitor.

According to our research, eCommerce businesses understand the importance and the value of personas. In fact, the majority (60.40%) of them have between 3-5 personas. They update them every 1 to 4 years, and the top-ranked reason for revising personas is changes to the user base (think: composition, demographic data, etc.).

How many personas does your online business have?

Ecommerce businesses have their own ways of developing these personas but most of our respondents are creating personas fully based on data and using them primarily for marketing/advertising purposes.

Ecommerce businesses mostly create personals based on data and update then when needed

For example, looking at location data, e-commerce businesses can inform the visitor about if they offer free delivery. But this data can be used in different ways. For example, Glossier, a skincare and beauty product company, looks at this data to tell readers they don’t deliver to them.

ecommerce personalization example

Impressive ecommerce personalization isn’t limited to using on-the-spot behavioral data though. You can personalize shopping experiences based on more data such as previous purchases, browsing history, preferences, and also device usage.

Importance of Personalization in Ecommerce

So why exactly should you focus on profiling and personalizing?

  • Improved sales. Effective profiling and personalization in ecommerce make your product recommendations hyper-relevant to customers. Not to mention, by offering discount on the correct products, you can also encourage on the fence customers to buy from you. You can collaborate with sites like Don’t Pay Full to get better brand exposure and increase sales by offering the best deals to your target audience.
  • Better brand marketing and engagement. Not only does ecommerce personalization prompt your target buyers to interact with your brand but it also grows word of mouth. After all, impressed (and happy) customers are always likely to help spread the word.
  • Customer loyalty. There’s no better way to retain customers – even turn them into your loyal customers and brand advocates – then by offering them exactly what they’re looking for. Naturally, this isn’t possible without a personalized shopping strategy that elevates shoppers experience with your brand.
  • Competitive edge. Accurate profiling and personalization in ecommerce assists you in understanding your target customers inside out. This, in turn, helps you refine products as per their preference – giving you a strong competitive edge. Not to mention, the personalized experience, marketing, and more allows you to win over the competition.

Types of Personalization in Ecommerce

Now for a look at the types of ecommerce personalization you can try:

  • Personalized product recommendations. This is a powerful example of personalization in ecommerce. You can offer anything from curating a personalized list of product recommendations, making “you might also like” recommendations, and suggesting products for cross-selling.
  • Website personalization. This involves altering the website based on who’s viewing it. An easy example would be a referral popup showing up only to site visitors who have previously bought from you.
  • Personalized email experiences. This varies from messaging people to remind them of the products left in their cart, announcing insider deals, and more.
  • Social proof-based personalization.For example, adding a “most popular” or “in-demand” tag on products. Similarly, including product testimonials beside the relevant product.

Best Practices and Tips for Creating Ecommerce Personas

With the basics out of the way, let’s dive into expert tactics on accurately profiling and personalization in ecommerce.

Here’s a quick look, followed by the details:

  1. Start with identifying the pain point
  2. Use both quantitative and qualitative research
  3. Understand what customers don’t like (in addition to what they do)
  4. Use the right tools to gather customer data
  5. Never limit your persona to one data point
  6. Always be realistic
  7. Keep refining personas with time

1. Start with identifying the pain point

“I have seen many eCommerce personas, and they are all different,” comments Krittin Kalra of Writecream.

“However, I believe that it is important to create a persona that is a reflection of the customer that you want to target,” Kalra continues. “It is important to understand the customer’s needs and desires, and then find out how you can best cater to them.”

To this end, “the first step is to identify your customer’s pain point.”

Too many times, store owners go in without market research or understanding their target audience’s pain point. This results in creating products that don’t have any demand.

Nolah Mattress is an inspiring example of how to avoid this mistake and identify customers’ pain point.

“At Nolah,” Stephen Light shares “the most useful thing we did to define our unique, fictionalized ideal customer was to start with the research of specific pain points.”

Here’s how they did it: “Using data from our existing customer base and the mattress industry market, we uncovered that side sleepers weren’t being specifically catered to, and we knew we could easily fill that void.

That pain point gave us a strong jumping-off point, and from there we were able to define our solution, continue our research, and build a unique buyer persona that continues to serve us and our audience today.”

“Because our product line is so specific, we’ve found that we don’t need more than two deeply researched buyer personas to best serve our consumers and our marketing objectives,” Light explains further.  

“For other companies that target multiple industries or offer quite a breadth of product types, more buyer personas might be necessary – as long as they’re careful not to dilute their focus by dividing their audience into too small segments.”

Once you’re clear on the pain point though, “create a persona for the customer. The persona should be based on a combination of the customer’s demographics, previous experiences, and the current situation.”  

Kalra explains, “This persona will be the foundation for all of your content, messaging, and design.”

To refine your persona though, you need to focus on one another thing besides the pain point: the customer journey.

“The customer journey should be mapped out in detail,” highlights Kalra. Ask yourself:

  • What is the customer’s experience with the company?
  • What are the customer’s pain points?
  • What are the customer’s expectations?
  • What are the customer’s frustrations?
  • What are the customer’s motivations?
  • What are the customer’s goals?
  • What is the customer’s desired outcome?
  • What are the customer’s obstacles?
  • What are the customer’s triggers?
  • What are the customer’s triggers for turning to the competition?
  • What are the customer’s triggers for not buying?
  • What is the customer’s motivation to buy?”

Having thorough answers to these questions will help you create a complete persona, assisting you in personalizing the experience throughout the customer journey.

2. Use both quantitative and qualitative research

“The best advice I can give to eCommerce companies on how to create a user buyer persona is to forget about the buyer personas with a cute acronym name, a gender, and an age,” says Adrienne Barnes from Best Buyer Persona. “Mark the Maker doesn’t exist.”

So what should you be doing? Barnes advises: “Instead of segmenting your customers by demographics, segment by pain point, or job to be done, or another way that makes sense for your business.”

More importantly, “create a persona you can use by researching your own customers.” Put another way, when you’re starting to create personas, ban guesswork and assumptions. Instead, talk to your customers.

Want an example of how to put all this theory into action? Take a page from Barnes’ persona building book: “At Best Buyer Persona, we use 4 types of research to fully understand the customer. Here’s how an eCommerce company can use our process to create their buyer personas:

  • Have customer chats with the intent of not selling or fixing, only learning their experience.
  • Use surveys to answer simple multiple questions.
  • Listen on social media. Learn their common words, questions, how they engage with content.
  • Use digital intelligence tools to help learn what communities they participate in, who influences their buying decisions, what platforms they most participate in.

All of that information turns into the persona that answers: customers’ pain points, frustrations, aspirations, roles, relationships, rituals, responsibilities, buying triggers, job to be done and more,” writes Barnes.

In addition to one-on-one chats for profiling and personalization in ecommerce, conduct customer surveys.

Lupilon’s Angus Chang also recommends surveying customers, “As an eCommerce business owner, I recommend conducting a customer survey for creating the best ecommerce personas.”

“An effective way to gather information from real people is to conduct a survey (or multiple surveys). Survey tools and marketing firms are useful to create a survey,” Chang goes on.

“For the best results, segment your target consumers into existing customers, consumers into your target market, site visitors to create the ecommerce personas.”

Convert.com’s Trina Moitra, however, points out, it’s essential you ask the right questions in the correct way when surveying customers.

“Ask questions that don’t rely on people describing what they need (most folks aren’t clear on this),” Moitra says. “Instead focus on objective quantification. What aspects of products do they find desirable? What exact jobs do these aspects/features help get done? Where did they hear about the brand/product?”

In short, “Research, qualitative and quantitative, is the foundation of personas.”

Elaborating on this, MellowPine’s Gian Moore writes, “While creating a strategy for a persona, I ask myself these questions:

  • User Motivation. What your users want to accomplish? What drives your users’ behaviors?
  • User Mindset. What do your users think? What are their expectations? What will make them buy?
  • Friction. What could be their reasons for hesitation? What could be their hindrances?”

“To develop personas that can give you insights as deep as finding answers to the above questions, and a few more tough ones, we advise you to use [both] qualitative research and perform competitor analysis,” Moore sums up.

3. Understand what customers don’t like (in addition to what they do)

This is uber-important. Although your buyers appreciate personalized shopping experiences, they hesitant sharing their information.

The solution? We’ve two. One, gain your audience’s trust. Instead of taking a sales-first approach, take the value-first approach.

Build a community focused on offering value. For example. Chewy, a pet food, and supply store, hosts expert AMA sessions, and quizzes on their Instagram.

This shows customers you’re invested in their success, helping them trust you better.

Two, “understand and address friction,” recommends Ryan Gould from Elevation Marketing. “Annoying a target audience is never a good idea.”

So find out:

  • “What are the expectations of the audience in terms of communications, privacy, and being left alone?
  • When they want to be communicated with and how?”

Says Gould: “Your potential customers will evolve during the phases of the purchasing process. Your personas should reflect the evolution that occurs from awareness through consideration, purchase, and evaluation.”

At the same time, Gould also advises getting specific. “Don’t be afraid to get nitty gritty with the details, including why someone would object to your products or services.”

“Generalized marketing plans just aren’t as effective as those developed with a deep understanding of your target audience(s),” explains Gould.

“For example, triggers. How well you know and understand the triggers that drive interest, intent or purchase—and those that are deal-breakers—will dramatically impact how you approach marketing to specific personas.”

4. Use the right tools to gather customer data

Effective profiling and personalization in ecommerce isn’t possible without the right tools.

In this regard, Tihana Drumev from Best Response Media recommends Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. “These are great tools to help you get the data you need to create e-commerce personas. To help you set the demographics, locations, languages, and some interests.”

Verta.ai’s Michael Butt commends Google Analytics too “to learn more about the demographics of your visitors.”

“Patterns and clusters of information begin to emerge when you have a large amount of data,” Butt points out. “You may fine-tune your characters by looking for commonalities and patterns. A persona’s age, gender, income, and other characteristics can all be gleaned through this phase. You can also learn about the habits, hobbies, and online behaviors of your users.”

“But, the real catch is to capture the customer’s pain points, what their challenges are, and why they buy the product,” Drumev adds.

The solution? Talking to your target customer and social listening as Barnes advised above. But there’s more that Drumev shares based on what’s worked for them: “Using customer reviews and social comments combined with data gave me a complete insight into creating e-commerce personas.”

“To read a real-life problem and apply it to data, gives the persona more credibility. If you want to get close, you have to read the reviews,” Drumev suggests.

“If you don’t have your own product reviews, find a competitor that does. You can also search for reviews on Amazon. Read comments on social channels. Find what customers write and what they react to. You can also find influencers in the niche and read what people ask them.”

So you know what to do, right?

Related: 7 Ways to Use Customer Data for More Efficient Marketing

5. Never limit your persona to one data point

Ronni Kenoian from Coffee Hour Marketing talks about demographics in particular. “Don’t base your persona off of demographics. These are good data points, but they are not personas.”

“You want to base it off of use cases,” Kenoian outlines. “For instance, I used to work in travel insurance. In 2016, we made personas around age brackets.

As we marketed to them, however, we realized people in these brackets are tragically different from one another. Some cruise, some go on safaris, some pay for luxury vacations to sit on a beach all day. You can’t talk the same to each of these people.”

Sasha Matviienko from BestLife4Pets makes a similar point. “Except for looking at the demographic criteria, we also like to consider the stage of the funnel that a prospect is in.” Again, this translates into not limiting yourself to any one point.

“This way having 3 main demographics we target, we also multiplied these by three stages of the funnel that we target the most in our internet marketing – prospects, existing customers and past customers,” Matviienko explains further.

“If you have the volume to have 6-9 audiences on your site, we highly recommend approaching it this way and developing separate messaging for each one of the audiences.”

Ian Sells of RebateKey agrees. “If you have a large customer base and you’ve identified several distinct groups of customers, make sure that your customer base is well represented. Don’t be restricted with just one or a few personas.”

In fact, this is a surefire recipe for ensuring all customer segments are enjoying a personalized shopping experience no matter which stage of the customer journey they are in.

And while you’re at it, make sure you’re creating these customer profiles based on multiple sources. In Sells’ words: “Build the most accurate eCommerce persona by using multiple sources (e.g. information from your CRM, Google Analytics, and direct feedback from customers) and use them to create distinct personas.

6. Always be realistic

“When creating eCommerce personas, it is important to be realistic,” point out ViscoSoft’s Gabriel Dungan. “Each persona has to be based in some truth and realism, or else you’re just creating personas for fun.”

It’s also when you aren’t realistic that you end up with personas that teams rarely use.

So “to create useful, accurate buyer personas, eCommerce leaders need to be taking current customer data and behavior into consideration,” advises Dungan.

It’s what the ViscoSoft team does too.  Shares Dungan: “At ViscoSoft, we take actual customer feedback very seriously. We use customer testimonials for marketing strategies, product advertisements, and, most importantly, for research related to buyer personas.”

Trina Moitra from Convert.com is of the same view. “Frame personas aligned with reality and not just a ‘story’ dreamed up by the brand.”

Want to create realistic and useful personas for profiling and personalizing? Follow what Dungan and Moitra suggest.  

“Try encouraging more product reviews from current consumers,” Dungan says. “Or take it a step further and invest some time in creating customer persona surveys that you can send out to your current customer base, so you can receive specific, useful information directly from the source.”

“By asking your current customer base for information regarding their demographic, their background, their objections to related products and other persona-related queries, you will have a much easier time building those personas,” adds Dungan.  

And here’s a bonus tip: “If you’re having a hard time finding consumers to fill out these surveys, try offering a discount code or small gift card as an incentive.”

On other hand, Moitra recommends the following two tips:

  • “Explore Dark Social. In case you don’t have existing customers, start out by joining communities where your ideal buyers hang out. Even watching popular YouTube videos can help like you won’t believe possible.

The comments sections are a gold mine. From what prospective customers feel when they are frantically looking for a solution to how they feel once they know the solution. It’s all laid out in their own words, using the lingo of the space. Dark social is where demand breeds and crystallizes. This is true for Ecommerce as well.

  • Run A/B tests. Experiment with offers and messaging. Copy angles that have a direct impact on Checkout, abandonment, AOV, revenue add facts to your persona. You can say with a fair degree of certainty that there is causation at play (once you’ve tested), and not just bias-riddled correlation.”

Related: How to Run Effective A/B Tests According to 28 Marketing Experts

7. Keep refining personas with time

“The best advice I can offer when creating eCommerce personas is to not be afraid to shift those personas as time goes on,” highlights Natalie Slyman from Benchmark Email.

“Who you were once targeting may change as your eCommerce business scales and focuses on other products or offers. Being flexible is key and will help you better understand who your products speak to and why.”

The question now is: how can you tell when it’s time to update your buyer profiles? “A process that works is routinely surveying your customers to see what their main interests, needs, and pain points are,” Slyman suggests.

“Also, tapping into a CRM can offer you tons of data on your most engaged and active customers, helping you build more accurate and robust customer personas,” Slyman adds.

One another tactic that helps: building genuine relationships with your customers. Use social media and email marketing for this. You can also create a community to keep in touch and source regular feedback from customers. Facebook Groups, for example, are a great way to do just that.

ga_ecommerce_dashboard_template_databox

Monitor Your Online Store’s Performance with Databox 

Ready to level up with profiling and personalization in eCommerce?

Remember, it’s crucial you create realistic buyer personas. It’s the only way to ensure your customer profiles are usable enough for guiding both your marketing and sales.

It’s also essential you source data from multiple sources and use both quantitative and qualitative research for creating buyer personas.

One last tip: ensure you track all website data correctly. This way, you’re more likely to see patterns in behavioral activity.

Tracking your store’s performance, however, becomes tricky if you have to source data from a ton of tools. The solution? Create a central dashboard with Databox featuring all the essential store metrics in one place.

This will help you understand your store’s performance at a glance while not having to worry about updating the metrics yourself. Simply plug in the data source into Databox and the board will auto-update, leaving little work on your plate.

So who’s ready to grow their online sales? Start with trying Databox for free today.

About the author
Masooma Memon
Masooma Memon Masooma is a freelance writer for SaaS and a lover to-do lists. When she's not writing, she usually has her head buried in a business book or fantasy novel.
You may also like...
Read more

Increasing Inbound to MQL Conversion by 20 Percent

Learn how AJ Alonzo (Director of Marketing at demandDrive) improved their inbound lead to marketing qualified lead (MQL) percentage by over 20%.

Metrics & Chill Podcast   |  Oct 5

Read more

Growing Organic Visitors by 299%

Learn how Emilia Korczynska (Head of Marketing at UserPilot) grew organic visitors by 299% & conversions from organic content by 59%.

Metrics & Chill Podcast   |  Sep 28

Read more

6 Best Practices for Effective Ecommerce PPC Management

Dive into these expert-recommended tips for eCommerce PPC management to grow your sales and maximize ad spend.

Marketing   |  Sep 26