Using Personas to Guide E-commerce Marketing

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Personas Guide Ecommerce Marketing

One of the most useful tools that a marketing strategist can use when planning a digital marketing strategy are personas. Using personas is nothing new, however many people involved in online marketing still don’t use them.

So let’s take another look at this marketing tool and see how we can put personas to use when marketing on the internet.

What are personas?

A persona is simply an imaginary person who represents one of the typical types of customer or client for your business. They help you envisage what motivates your customers and how they behave.

An expansive explanation of personas is available on Wikipedia here.

Most businesses that use personas to guide their marketing will create anywhere from several to a dozen. The number usually depends on the range of customer types that they can distinguish, usually by analysing their customer relationship management (CRM) database.

Defining e-commerce customer types

When your business offers e-commerce transactions you can create very specific persona types based on buying behaviour.

Here are just some of the e-commerce factors that you can use to define personas:

  • How customers choose to pay (credit card, debit card, bank transfer, PayPal, etc.).
  • What time of day they choose to shop.
  • Average order value.
  • Responsiveness to up-sell and cross-sell promotions.
  • Frequency and recency prior to purchase.
  • Repeat purchase rate.

You can think of many more I’m sure, but you don’t need to be too precise. Otherwise, you will end up with too many personas and probably even less sure of who to target than when you started!

When you create personas you need to document them. Everyone involved in your marketing, both online and offline, should be familiar with them.

Also, make sure that the documentation that lists all of the personas is easily accessible. Your marketers need to be kept in the loop if and when they change.

Personas, budget and profitability

One of the great benefits of using personas in an e-commerce setting is that we can get an idea as to the cost per conversion for each persona type. This is very useful information when deciding where to spend your online marketing budget.

Cost per conversion leads us to another important metricROAS or return on ad spend.

For example, if we know that a given persona will return on average, $50 for every $10 we spend on advertising, it is easy to then work out if spending some of our budget on that persona will be profitable.

If our ROAS is in good shape we can confidently set spend limits on channels such as PPC advertising, social media advertising and so-on.

Converting personas into audiences

When we use advertising tools such as Google Adwords or Facebook advertising we can take advantage of what they call audiences. An audience is a persona by another name, complete with targetable traits and demographic information.

I like to take personas and replicate them as closely as possible using the audience options made available on each advertising platform. This allows me to create very effective online advertising campaigns for clients in my role as a digital marketing consultant.

When using Google Adwords together with Google Analytics we can create highly customised audiences. Experienced consultants can easily target the personas created in the planning phase thanks to this tight integration.


While personas themselves are not a new concept, their usefulness in online marketing is often overlooked.

In the digital marketing world we can implement personas in numerous and creative ways, opening the door to new opportunities. Your (offline) marketing team may have already created personas that you can use as a starting point for creating online customer personas.

Share your personas with everyone in your organisation. They give excellent insight into your customers and clients and help your staff identify key customer types as and when they are dealing with them. The customer experience is undoubtedly improved with this enhanced knowledge of the customer.

Not sure where to start? Simply Google for persona creation tools and see what’s available. You’ll be up and running in no time.