Know Your Customers: How to Build Buyer Personas for Your Retail Store

How to build a buyer persona | Shopify Retail blog

When it comes to running a successful retail business, one of the key components is being aware of your ideal customer. What audience are you targeting with your products?

This is precisely why your retail business could benefit from developing a buyer persona. If you’re marketing to consumers and looking to better understand your customers, then buyer personas are one of the best ways to ensure that your efforts contain the right message and are reaching the right people.

So, what is a buyer persona exactly? Generally, these are fictionalized characters that epitomize your ideal market. They’re regularly used to give marketers and sales professionals better understand their core customer group. When it comes to sales and marketing, knowing your audience is crucial to be effective. Familiarizing yourself with your buyers allows you to maximize the return on investment (ROI) on your sales and marketing activities.

While there are external marketing companies that can help you build these personas and run your campaigns, with a little time and effort you can build your own buyer personas. In the article “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing,” IBM suggests, “A buyer persona development process will typically take about six to eight weeks to complete. Doing a thorough job will ensure you’re able to build comprehensive personas and provide a firm go-to-market foundation for your marketing campaigns.”

Now, let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to follow to create this crucial tool for your retail store.

Identify Groups of Buyers

To start off defining your buyer personas, you’ll need to identify the broad groups of consumers that you have. Use your purchase data to weed out wholesalers and bulk buyers (if that’s applicable) — the best data for developing your buyer personas is what you know about your end customers.

Then it’s time to take a look at your product(s) and think broadly about who is making purchases — are most consumers buying for themselves or are your items typically purchased as gifts for others? Is your stock sold mostly around certain holidays? Are some items specific to certain demographics, like baby products, maternity gear, or bridal party gifts?

A note about products that are given as gifts: If you sell products that are largely given as gifts to others, you may find it beneficial to create buyer personas for those making the purchase, as well as you those receiving the gift. With this information you can create marketing campaigns that target the gift-givers to complete the sale, and separate campaigns that target the receivers so that they request the product on their wishlist.

Buyer persona for gift givers | Shopify Retail blog

Identify Key Information

After defining your customers into broad categories, you’ll need to identify what more granular information you’ll need to create the personas. Responsive Inbound Marketing outlines the following as the major questions you’ll need to answer to move forward:

  • Location: Where do people from this persona live?
  • Excluding Location: Where do people from this persona not live?
  • Age: What is the age range of this persona?
  • Gender: What is the gender of people in this persona?
  • Interests: What are the interests of people in this persona?
  • Education Level: What is the education level of this persona?
  • Job Title: What field of work do your customer work in, and what types of job titles do they carry?
  • Income Level: What is the income range of this buyer persona?
  • Relationship Status: What is the relationship status of this buyer persona?
  • Language: What languages do people in this persona speak?
  • Favorite Websites: Why type of websites do people in this persona frequent?
  • Buying Motivation: What are this persona’s reasons for buying your product?
  • Buying Concerns: What are this persona’s concerns when buying your product?

As you go through the process, you may find that some of these criteria are not relevant to your customer base, or that there’s some additional questions that will help you define your buyers more effectively. Each retail business is unique, so be sure to do what makes the most sense for your retail store and your marketing initiatives.

Gather Information

Now that you’ve identified the information that you’ll need to build your buyer personas, you’ll need to start gathering data and intel. Start with the information you already have about your customers. If you’ve collected customer data from account setups, contest submissions, or newsletter subscriptions, use this valuable information to help build the buyer personas.

For those using Shopify POS, you can access this data in customer profiles. Scrolling through customer data as well as their order history can be enlightening when crafting your buyer personas, so take some time to peruse the area in your point-of-sale system.

If you haven’t used customer accounts before, consider utilizing this important tool in the future to save customer information and track order histories.

TRY SHOPIFY POS: Want to give Shopify's point of sale systems a test run? Start a free Shopify POS trial today.

For all other information that you need to gather, you should select a subsection of past consumers, loyal customers, and lost customers (if possible) to interview. You can incentivize these interviewees with a discount code or contest if you’re having trouble getting participants to respond. They’re giving you some of their time — show you value their contribution with a gift card, promo, or discount.

You can conduct these interviews over the phone, through email, on your website with a prompt, or in store — each method will reach different customers or potential customers so it’s not a bad idea to conduct a variety of interviews across mediums. If you prefer using an online questionnaire, use a tool like SurveyMonkey to create and distribute your questions then collect responses.

In addition to combing through customer data and conducting interviews, retailers can also use tools like Google Analytics Audience reports to nail down the demographics of shoppers visiting your ecommerce site. If you have branded social media channels, use the corresponding metrics tools to define the core group interacting with your accounts (i.e. Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, etc.).

From there, you can start compiling this wealth of info into a comprehensive look at your ideal customer.

Examples of Buyer Personas

No two retailers are exactly the same, so your buyer persona may look completely different from the following examples. However, we’ve curated a few ideas to guide you through the process of compiling all your data into a successful personification of your core customer group.

For a sampling of what your completed buyer personas could look like, check out “12 Buyer Personas for Online Retail Shoppers” from Artifacia.

Artifcacia sample buyer persona | Shopify Retail blog

Referral SaaSquatch also offers a robust sample buyer for B2B-focused businesses:

Referral SaaSquatch sample buyer persona | Shopify Retail blog

The Buyer Persona Institute also offers a robust example that includes all the basic demographic information as well as perceived barriers, decision criteria, and a breakdown of the buyer’s journey:

Buyer Persona Institute Sample | Shopify Retail blog

Continue to Monitor and Adapt

Now that you’ve built your detailed buyer personas, your work isn’t done. Your inventory will continue to grow and change, and as the market reacts to your products and brand, your buyers and their personas will change as well. Continue to monitor your customer base over time and alter your personas and marketing plans accordingly. In the research piece “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing,” IBM advises “Periodically conduct more interviews to refine what you’ve developed and keep customer focus at the forefront. At every planning meeting, ask yourself and your coworkers, “What would our buyer want?” or “What does our research indicate that we should do?””

If you need a little help with niche marketing campaigns after you’ve built your buyer personas, check out our post on How to Use Niche Marketing to Build a Business from the Ground Up.

How Will You Use Your Buyer Persona?

Once you’ve developed and tested your retail store’s buyer personas, let us know how you use this information in your marketing campaigns. Did you see a bump in the ROI of your campaigns? Let us know in the comments section how buyer personas have helped your engage with your customers.