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Do You Actually Need Consumer Personas? We Asked the Experts.

Read on to learn more...

By Miva | March 3, 2022

consumer persona experts

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Consumer personas are often considered a marketing must-have. But the question is: do you need them for your online business? 

The short answer is that, yes, consumer personas can be invaluable for helping your business understand your target consumers. But formalized personas, while valuable, are not always feasible to create, especially in a short amount of time. Whether you are in the middle of creating personas or are simply looking to expand your reach, you may want consider some alternative strategies for better understanding your customers. We spoke with Miva’s experts and a few of our agency partners to get their take on consumer personas. 

Not All Sellers Have Formal Personas 

Some online merchants may not have a need for formalized consumer personas. During your initial planning phases, you may discover that your knowledge of your customers is complete enough that it doesn’t need a formal process. Leslie Kirk of Leslie Kirk shares a recent experience that illustrates this:  

“During a rebranding meeting with a client and the SEO team...it was clear the store owner understood who his prime demographic [is] and most of the key elements of their customer base, but it was never pulled together in the form of a consumer persona.”  

It takes a great deal of research, analysis, and data gathering to create comprehensive consumer personas. Even then, if your research was not conducted thoroughly, you may be left with inaccurate personas that don’t provide value to your business. 

Weigh the cost of building formal personas carefully against your current need and your existing customer knowledge to determine if full personas are essential. 

Building Personas Into Your Marketing Plan 

Before you build out any consumer personas, you need to first create a roadmap for your online store that details your audience and how you will promote your business. 

“When we take on a client, we usually start with a marketing blueprint,” says Nathan Tayloe of Tayloe/Gray. “This process identifies key marketing challenges, goals, and customer personas, along with a lot more useful information in order to provide a marketing plan.” 

A detailed marketing plan helps you hone in on goals, determine priorities, and execute strategies for your business. This not only is useful when you’re ready to create personas, but this also gives you a strong foundation for attracting the right customers. “We use the analogy of spear fishing instead of net fishing,” explained Tayloe. “This can also help save you money on your marketing efforts.” 

For your ecommerce marketing plan, consider the people that you want to target, the problem that you want to solve for them, how you plan to reach them, and what success looks like for your business.  

Using Archetypes As Stand-Ins for Personas 

If you’re on a time or budget crunch for creating personas, consider using general archetypes instead. While these may not be as detailed and personalized as fully fleshed-out consumer personas, they can help you understand customer behavior and determine your messaging for each archetype. For example, if you're a jewelry seller, you may use a “bargain hunter” archetype and a “gift giver” archetype to determine which content and tactics to use for each customer. 

“​​Typically the work-around [to a full consumer persona] involves competitive research supported by the industry's general landscape combined with client customer testimonials,” said Kursti Martinsen of Switchback Digital. “Mix all that together and you get a picture partially supported by data.” 

When paired with a detailed marketing plan, archetypes can still go a long way toward helping you understand your customers and deliver a more personalized experience—exactly what today's shoppers are looking for.  

Work With a Partner to Develop Personas 

If you don’t have the bandwidth to create your own consumer personas (or aren’t sure where to start) consider working with an experienced partner who specializes in analyzing consumer data and turning real-world observations into archetypal insights. 

“Buyer personas can take a tremendous amount of effort and can require months to complete”, says Michael Foltzer, Director of User Experience at Miva. “I recently created Miva’s process for helping our merchant customers create consumer personas with a focus on understanding consumers through existing analytics and intel.” 

Michael and his team start by collecting and organizing the data merchants already have to inform their persona development. 

“Once the data is collected it’s time to learn from the customers. There are many ways to gather insight from customers but a good place to start is with post-purchase surveys, reviews, and interacting with customer success teams to find out everything the customers have been raving about.”

One of Michael’s primary goals in creating Miva’s persona-building process was to be able to craft personas for our merchants in an efficient and budget-friendly manner.   

“In the end we were able to get our consumer personas development down from a several-months-endeavor to an accelerated, streamlined process that can work for a variety of businesses. Consumer personas are extremely valuable and sometimes—even though you may think you know everything there is to know about your customers—it’s not until everything is laid out in front of you that you get that ‘aha’ moment.” 

A partner who has a well-defined process for gathering relevant consumer data and using it to build consumer personas can help inform and streamline your persona-building process. For some online sellers, this can be the fastest and most accurate way to produce informative consumer personas. 

Next Steps 

While a marketing plan and consumer archetypes aren’t designed to be substitutes for real buyer personas, your business can leverage them to enhance your marketing. A strong foundation helps you market to the right customers with the right message at the right time. 

When you’re ready to create your own complete consumer personas, download our free, step-by-step guide: 

Free Guide: How to Create Effective Consumer Personas for Your Online Store

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Miva offers a flexible and adaptable ecommerce platform that evolves with businesses and allows them to drive sales, maximize average order value, cut overhead costs, and increase revenue. Miva has been helping businesses realize their ecommerce potential for over 20 years and empowering retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer sellers across all industries to transform their business through ecommerce.

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