Understanding your customer is a critical component of any successful marketing effort. But how do you understand a customer in an online environment?
Web analytics do a great job of quantifying the big picture of visitors and their activity, but often don’t provide much insight into how unique groups of users are interacting with your site. What does each customer group want? How are they trying to achieve their goals? These questions can be difficult to answer when relying on analytics data alone.
The Digital Marketing System (or DMS) from Sitecore helps demystify the user and their intent through the use of personas and user profiling. These tools add a layer of user information on top of basic analytics data that can help you better understand the needs and patterns of similar groups of users.
Online vs. Offline Personas
While many organizations have an idea of their customer personas from a marketing standpoint, these personas often won’t meet all of the needs for the web. Marketing personas are usually broader and less defined than an online persona. For instance, an amateur photographer shopping in a retail store would most likely look in the section that carries Digital SLR style cameras, since there’s most likely only one place in the store that has these items. However, online that same customer might go to a section of your site dedicated to amateur photographers interested specifically in architectural photography. In this way, personas can be set up to track very specific interests or behaviors by users that can’t be accurately measured in an offline environment.
Additionally, traditional marketing personas are often created for end customers only, when there may be other non-customer personas you want to measure online. It may be useful to develop online personas for groups like job seekers, distributors or even competitors.
Creating Your Personas
To begin outlining your personas, it’s often helpful to host a workshop where all of the site’s stakeholders can weigh in on their various user groups. To prepare, each team should outline their main website user types. This might include who the user is, what their relationship with the company is, what their needs are for the site and any other information that might inform or influence their purchase decisions. The personas don’t only include information relevant to the website, but include some personal information as well. This helps marketers get inside the user’s head and think like the user. Personal information also helps identify the unique needs of each persona by illustrating some of their unique interests and tastes. Once the personas are created, it will also help to develop a list of content pages that would be most relevant to users from each persona. This will speed up the process of actually assigning the new personas to content pages during implementation.
How Personas Work in Sitecore
Within Sitecore, personas are created in the marketing center. During set up, you will define a min and max scoring range for users associated with each persona. Then, when a persona is assigned to a piece of content, you can set a persona score for that specific item. When users visit that content item, they will be assigned the persona’s value. So, if a user visits one page with a persona called “Tim”, they may receive 5 points. But if a user visits three pages associated with the “Tim” persona they might receive 17 points. If the minimum scoring range for a user to be qualified as a “Tim” persona is 15 points, the user won’t be associated with the group until they have accumulated enough “Tim” points to meet the minimum scoring threshold. In this way, users self-select which personas they’re associated with by simply using the site as they would normally and demonstrating which content is most relevant and engaging to them.
How Personas Create Value
Every website caters to multiple user types with different needs and goals. Using personas to categorize users allows you to target their unique interests at a more granular level. Understanding users by persona allows you to optimize your site to better meet the needs of diverse groups, creating increased engagement and an improved experience for all users. Furthermore, being able to track the performance of individual groups will help your organization better understand which users are creating the most value for the organization, so you can focus on your most profitable segments. Ultimately, user personas will increase your conversion rates as you create targeted content and heightened engagement with users by better understanding their unique needs and behaviors.
If you’re considering implementing personas as part of your DMS toolset, it is critical that you approach the project strategically. At Aware, we often recommend conducting a discovery workshop with stakeholders to gain a better understanding of their needs prior to implementing any features of DMS. With this information you can create a prioritized plan for implementation that will best meet the needs of your organization and have the most positive impact.