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The key to creating buyer personas that are actually useful

guide for how to build buyer personas

This post was last updated on November 21, 2022.

Your customers don't want to be anonymous to your brand.

On the contrary, more than half of consumers (56%) say they want all offers from businesses to be personalized. And two-thirds expect companies to understand—and even anticipate—their needs, according to Salesforce's 5th State of The Connected Customer survey.

So, how can companies like yours achieve this deep level of personalization? It starts with having a clear understanding of your customers. It requires being able to clearly articulate their needs, wants, and motivations.

Enter: buyer personas, a core ingredient of a strong eCommerce marketing strategy.

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What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a model of your ideal customer, created by studying your current customers and developing a composite sketch of their needs, wants, values, and behavior patterns.

If you’ve ever heard a marketing or sales team refer to Marketer Mary or Freelancer Fred, then they’re likely referring to their personas. But aside from having cheeky names, buyer personas are intended to help brands tailor their messaging and approach to each buyer type.

They let you “put a face” to the shoppers you want to attract, and humanize the marketing journey. In other words, you’re no longer marketing with the masses in mind, but with real-life individuals in mind.

Why are buyer personas important in eCommerce?

Personas are an oft-talked about subject in the B2B space, but they’re no less valuable to B2C merchants. In a nutshell, buyer personas allow you to:

  • Connect with customers emotionally and intellectually

  • Tailor your product recommendations, services, and offers to each persona

  • Target your ads, emails, and other communications more accurately

  • Create consistent messaging

  • Identify gaps in your customer experience

  • Discover new customer segments to target

  • Equip your whole team with up-to-date information on your customers’ wants, needs, and motivations

Pro tip: Create negative personas to further finetune your targeting. As the name suggests, these are shoppers similar to your buyer personas, but do not translate into sales. Excluding negative personas from your targeted audience can further increase the accuracy of your marketing campaigns.

Buyer persona examples

Let’s say you own a sneaker brand. While your shoppers may share a common interest in sneakers, they come from a variety backgrounds with a range of shopping habits, interests, and more that may include:

  • Working class/blue collar men living in cities

  • Suburban teens interested in sports

  • Millennial women who love to travel

You know that each customer segment will engage with your marketing content differently. So, you decide to create personas using all the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data you have on hand.

Note: The examples below only include a small sampling of information. Your buyer personas can (and likely should) go far beyond the attributes listed here.

Persona 1: City Dweller Mike

Demographics: Male, 38 years old, single, construction worker

Location: New York, NY

Interests: biking, outdoors, chess

Motivations: price, durability

Personality: competitive, cerebral

Mike's a hard worker driven by the satisfaction of a job well done. He's active and often bikes to work, if not trek a few miles across the city to get to his job site. When it comes to sneakers, he cares about their durability and versatility. He’s likely to pick up a new pair whenever there’s a good deal, and appreciates being able to buy online and pick up in store.

Persona 2: Sporty Sarah

Demographics: Female,18 years old, single, student

Location: Boston, MA

Interests: running, basketball, tennis, hiking

Motivations: comfort, performance

Personality: competitive, creative

Sarah is a bright-eyed college student whose days are filled with classes, club sports, and the occasional hiking or camping trip on the weekends. Her closet is packed with shoes for every sport and occasion. She's always on the lookout for comfortable, high-performing sneakers that are also unique and stylish. She's happy to buy online, as long as she can get free shipping and free returns.

Persona 3: Travel-Junky Jill

Demographics: Female, 28 years old, single, marketing professional

Location: San Francisco, CA

Interests: technology, politics, travel

Motivations: status, convenience, sustainability

Personality: analytical

Jill is a young professional who likes to stay on top of the latest trends in her field. She's interested in politics and current affairs, and she enjoys traveling to new places for work and leisure. She appreciates being able to buy online and have her purchases delivered quickly, and doesn’t mind paying for shipping if it’s something she wants (she tends to spend weeks comparing products before purchasing them). When it comes to sneakers, she prefers luxury brands that reflect her successful image.

How to create a buyer persona: 5 crucial steps

No matter the size of your business, buyer personas can help to steer your team in the right direction. They can guide everything from your advertising messages to your branding efforts, your customer support to your product development. With this in mind, here are five steps to get you started.

01. Research your customers

Research your customers thoroughly, honing in on the most important segments. If you’re not sure where to start, focus on your highest-value customers first. Alternatively, study your customers by product category or shopping destination (e.g., in-person buyers vs. online buyers).

Compile information—not just from internal sources, but from external sources too. For example:

  • Dig through your analytics. Basic data points about your customers (e.g., age, gender, location, average spend) can be found in most CRM systems. If you use Wix for eCommerce, you can access this data, as well as behavioral data, through your Store Analytics.

wix analytics showing traffic and customer data

  • Sift through product reviews. Analyze both positive and negative reviews to better understand your customer’s pain points, values, and experience with your products. This data can also shine light on your brand’s differentiators from your customers’ point of view.

  • Consult your sales and customer support teams. Talk with the people on your team who interact with your customers every day. Learn what questions your customers often ask, the frustrations they face, their favorite product features, and how they actually use your products (among other things).

  • Talk with your existing customers. Validate or debunk any assumptions you have about your audience by speaking directly with your customers. Create a survey, send an email requesting a product review, or schedule a personal phone interview.

  • Scour social media. Track what customers and prospects are saying about your brand and/or similar brands online. Take a look at what your competitors are saying, too—gleaning evidence into the customer research they’ve already done.

  • Evaluate competitors' websites. Observe the types of buyers your competitors tailor their messaging, prices, and other content to. Read customer reviews and check out who’s purchasing their best-selling products.

02. Identify patterns in your data

Now that you have your data, look for patterns or shared traits that set certain customers apart from others. In the examples from earlier, we decided to group our customers by lifestyle.

However, you might find that other traits—such as location, profession, or personality—are the most significant. You could develop multiple personas from the get-go. Or, just start with one primary persona before branching out.

03. Create a buyer persona template

Decide on a persona template that helps you organize and display your research in one place. Insert the attributes that are most important to your business. For instance, if your online store caters to other businesses (targets a B2B audience), your persona should probably include things like job title, decision-making power, and company-related goals. Meanwhile, a B2C persona may include personal goals, household income, and relationship status.

example of a buyer persona

Common elements include:

  • Age

  • Profession

  • Education

  • Relationship status

  • Income

  • Location

  • Interest/hobbies

  • Values

  • Motivations/goals

  • Challenges

  • Fears

  • Personality traits

  • Shopping behaviors

  • Favorite devices or channels

04. Create a plan of attack

Use your personas to inform your eCommerce personalization strategy across various channels. This data-driven approach can result in higher-quality content that emotionally resonates with shoppers, builds customer loyalty, and generates more engagement.

Here are several examples of how you can leverage buyer personas to deliver relevant, personalized content to your customers:

  • Website design and content - Audit your product pages and make sure that they speak to the right personas. Consider how your “sales” page might focus on a different persona than your “new releases” page, as another example. You can decide which persona(s) to prioritize by looking at additional factors like website traffic, conversion rate, and average order value.

  • Product recommendations and collections - Your personas can be instrumental in shaping the shopping experience to meet your customers’ expectations. If you’re a fashion retailer, for example, you can create filters and product collections that speak to your various buyer personas (e.g., the fashionista versus the on-the-go student).

  • Ad targeting - Narrow down your targeting according to your personas’ demographics, interests, and purchase behaviors. Test new ad messaging and formats, referring back to your personas for insight into what values or goals they care about most.

  • Email marketing - With personalization comes relevancy, and email is the perfect platform to deliver targeted content. You can segment your list by customer persona and tailor your messaging or promotions to their preferences, pain points, and more.

  • In-store experience - If you have brick-and-mortar locations, understanding your customer’s journey helps you design a store layout that’s easy to navigate. It also helps you staff your store with employees who can provide the best experience possible.

  • Sales channels - Think: Where do your target customers shop? Are there other channels that you should be selling on (e.g., Amazon, eBay, or Wish) that can connect you with those buyers? Use Wix’s multichannel tools to automatically import your store products to select channels.

05. Measure and optimize

Remember, buyer personas are living documents. As your business grows and trends change, your customer preferences and makeup will also evolve. Take care to monitor the success of your marketing, and update your personas over time.

Pro tip: If you have a larger marketing budget, consider creating focus groups and A/B testing your marketing and content ideas. You'll gain some deep insight into what each audience is after and get real-time feedback with this hands-on approach. You may find some of your initial marketing ideas don’t work or that certain content attracts one buyer persona yet deters another.

The bottom line

Creating personas for every type of customer you encounter is a hefty task and takes time to accurately define. The most important thing is to begin the process. Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll quickly see the benefits.

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Geraldine Feehily

Marketing Writer, Wix for eCommerce

Geraldine is a marketing writer for Wix. She uses her broad experience in journalism, publishing, public relations and marketing to create compelling content and loves hearing user success stories.

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Allison Lee Editor, Wix for eCommerce

Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.

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