Refinery Blog Buyer Persona

How to Create Buyer Personas to Better Understand Your Customers

Joe Bencar headshot
Joe Bencar
Marketing Director

If you’re selling products or promoting services you offer online, you likely have a good idea who your customers are. This article isn’t so much about learning who your customers are, but how to get a deeper understanding of them so you can improve their experience, your communication with them, and how you meet their needs. Customers who feel valued by the companies they choose to do business with are far more likely to return for future purchases and turn into brand advocates, referring others in their circle of friends or colleagues.

Even if you feel like you have a deep understanding of your customers, performing the exercises below may still be able to provide you with small insights into how you can continue to make small tweaks to your website, communication, checkout process and more to give those customers an even better experience.

1.) Ask Questions & Engage to Gain Customer Insights

Although it’s not always evident, customers appreciate when companies take the time to listen to them, their concerns and their feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers questions, whether it’s on the phone, through web chat functionality, or on your social media accounts.

When your business engages with customers, it’s helpful to focus on specifics, whether that’s finding an answer to a question or solving a problem. Doing so will provide you with better actionable insights compared to just having generic comments. For example, if a customer can’t find information they are looking for on your website, don’t just send them in the right direction. Ask them how they went about searching for that information so far, why they are looking for that specific information, and how it would’ve been easier to find.

It’s very important (and difficult at times) to be unbiased when engaging with your customers. Put yourself in your customer’s position and look at things from their perspective. Here are some ideas you can use when trying to gain useful insights from your customers.

If Customers Usually Call

Teach customer service reps to ask different questions in casual conversation like other online buying experiences they’ve had (positive or negative), if they had issues using your website, or why they made the decision to call. These notes can provide your website and marketing teams with valuable data which can later be used to make informed decisions regarding your website improvements.

Webchat

If you’re currently using web chat, or implementing web chat is an option, you can use it to proactively communicate with users on certain pages of your website or during certain moments throughout your customer’s journey. For example, prompting users who are visiting educational pages on your website is a great way to see if they are finding all of the information they’re looking for or if they have any questions you could help them with. If you find that there are similarities where people can’t find certain information, that insight should be noted. Now your team has an actionable task to add that information to the page or make sure that it’s displayed more prominently.

You can also use web chat to engage with customers during the checkout process. If it seems to be taking them longer to check out, reaching out through web chat might uncover an obstacle that can be improved within your checkout process, thus improving your customer experience.

Social Media

People commonly use social media to praise businesses as well as share negative experiences they’ve recently had. When a customer shares a negative experience, acting quickly and using the right strategy can actually give you great customer information and show others how much your company cares about customers. For example, if you notice a customer posting about a bad experience they had with your company, reach out to them and let them know you understand. This commonly leads to a productive conversation, and if the right questions are asked, some great customer insight.

Instead of defending your company, ask the customer to explain what happened and how things could have been improved. Doing this will not only help turn a bad situation into a much better one, but all the customer’s connections will see how well the situation was handled, improving your brand’s reputation.

Don’t hesitate to engage with non-negative posts or mentions, too! Ask customers what they liked most about their experience and if there was anything they would change. Simple questions like these can lead to improvements to your overall customer experience through valuable insights.

Surveys

Surveys are an excellent way to get specific feedback and information that is useful to your business. Surveys can be created within social media posts (Facebook has a great poll option) or done through free services such as Survey Monkey. You can use a giveaway or a promotion to get more people to fill surveys out, thus getting for customer information and insights. Once your surveys are completed, the data and answers collected can be analyzed and used to create actionable tasks to improve your customer experience.

2.) Use Analytics & Data to Create Informed Insights

It’s important to remember that the more accurate your data is, the better insights about your customers you’ll get. In order to get accurate data, you need to ensure that tracking is set up properly and that you’re collecting it from multiple sources where your target audience frequents. Analyze data from numerous sources like your website (Google Analytics or other similar programs), social media, online advertising, email campaigns and customer data from your CRM.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the best free resources available that every ecommerce website manager should consider implementing on their website. Setting up ecommerce tracking through Analytics is fairly simple. Doing so will allow you to see how visitors used your website, including the pages they landed on, where they came from (search engines, referring websites, social media, online ads, etc.) and the paths they took before they made a purchase. Here is a guide with more information about how to set up ecommerce tracking.

With the proper tracking elements in place, you can gain useful insights about your customers’ purchase paths and if there are any issues in your checkout process (for example, if numerous customers are dropping off on a specific step in your shopping cart).

Bounce rate and time on page are also useful metrics to look at when analyzing content on your webpages, especially your landing pages. A high bounce rate or low average time on a page might indicate that potential customers are not finding the information they are looking for in order to continue their journey in making a purchase.

To get insights regarding user actions that are important to your business, use events and goals to track those actions, such as clicking a CTA button on a landing page or watching a video. For example, if you’re tracking video plays, you might find that customers are more likely to convert after they watch a video about a product or service. This insight gives you the evidence you need to make videos more prominent on your homepage or product pages and also to prioritize using videos in social media ads or posts.

The last useful feature in Google Analytics I’ll review is internal site search tracking (here is a guide to setting up site search for your website). This is easy to implement, and when it’s been set up, you will be able to view the phrases that users searched for within your internal search bar. If you start noticing similar search terms, you can assume the information users are looking for is important to your customers. Your actionable goal would be to make this information more prominent and easier to find on your website to improve your customer experience.

Social Media Channels

All your business profiles on social media will have some sort of insights or data available to analyze. Some examples of this data include likes, shares, comments, video plays and clicks on links. You can use this information to see what type of messaging or verbage your target audience prefers and what connects with them. Getting these insights will give you the information you need to shape the content on your website so that it personally connects with potential customers more often. Some social media platforms give business owners more detailed information about their followers, such as the user’s age range, gender and location. This information can also be used when tailoring your website’s messaging and content.

Email Marketing Campaigns

Email campaigns are great tools for testing various styles of messaging so you can understand your customers’ preferences on a deeper level. Metrics to analyze include subject lines (which emails had higher open rates), as well as the type of content in the email copy that had higher CTRs. Use this information to optimize your webpage content for a better customer experience as well as to create more customized ads that personally connect with your audience.

Online Advertising

Online ads, both traditional and on social platforms, give businesses the opportunity to A/B test headlines, copy and content, and show the effects that different wording or featured elements have on CTR. In addition to testing ads, you can also test landing page performance. For example, you can create landing pages and funnels specific for each ad campaign and run additional A/B tests to see which landing page variation performs best. With these insights, you can implement the same tactics across your other webpages because you have a better understanding of your customer’s preferences.

Social media ad campaigns allow you to target your audience in different ways compared to traditional online advertising like Google Ads. Implementing social ads on platforms like Facebook will give you more information about the customers themselves, including who they are, what interests they have, and where they’re located. This data can give you additional information to help you craft the best story for your brand, allowing you to connect with your audience on a more personal level.

3.) Use Gathered Data to Create Fluid Buyer Personas

One you have data and insights gathered from the multiple sources above, it’s time to start “connecting the dots”. The goal is to create buyer personas that represent your target customers. You should use the personas while writing new content or blog posts, when you’re creating social media posts, and in any other method you’re planning on using to communicate with customers.

One important thing to keep in mind is that these personas should be fluid. It’s good to make changes or add to them as you get new information or insights. Remember, the more accurate your personas are, the better you’ll be able to understand and connect with your customers.

4.) Personas Allow You to Create a Better Customer Journey

Once your buyer personas have been created, go back through the journey your customers take on your website. Are there areas that can be improved with the new information you have? Does the messaging on your website and social channels connect with your audience? Make a list of changes to make, then prioritize the items by importance and potential impact. This is a great exercise to perform on a yearly basis, especially if you've collected new insights about your customers.

In Summary

Analyzing data and developing accurate buyer personas takes time, but it’s well worth it in the end. You will be able to understand your customers on a much deeper level and to connect with them personally through your content, stories and messaging. The more customers you can turn into brand advocates, the more growth you should see in your online sales.

If you have any questions about this process or how to use personas to give your customers a better online experience, please reach out to us! We’re always happy to chat. If you want to learn more about generating more sales on your e-commerce website, definitely check out our guide: How to Increase Your E-commerce Conversions & Sales.