Building Customer Personas with Google Analytics

building customer personas using google analytics

The cautionary tale of Ron Johnson and JC Penny remind us of why it’s so important to understand who your customers are and what they value. Following the trend set by Apple, Johnson convinced JC Penny to completely replace their coupon-based system in exchange for a “fair and square”, transparent pricing model. While most consumers prefer transparency, JC Penny’s loyal customers had long-standing expectations to see discounts. Despite the fact that prices were uniformly lower, resulting in the same cost to the customer, ultimately the customers lost what they perceived saw as the value of shopping with JC Penny.

It’s no secret that understanding what your customers want positively impacts the bottom line. According to IBM’s Think Marketing Blog, 63% of consumers say they would think more positively about a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting, or relevant. While the customer has come first for a long-time, customer-centricity has taken on a new meaning and new importance as innovative companies like Apple and Amazon continue to set the bar for the experience consumers expect. The first step in understanding your customers experience is to understand who your customers are.

Why use Customer Personas?

By developing customer personas that represent large groups of similar customers based primarily on their buying intent and demographic characteristics, you can quickly adjust your strategy and tactics to maximize your organizations efficiency. Personas are a detailed profile representing a particular member of your audience who represents a much larger distinct group of people. They are the figurehead for a larger segment of your target market based on validated commonalities, not assumptions, that allow you to take meaningful action in improving and differentiating your customer’s experiences. Persona’s are not stereotypes, they are functional representations grounded in facts and behavior far more than demographic data.

Customer personas must contain a Profile, which describes your ideal customer in demographic and psychographic information, and purchase process intelligence, which reveals what makes the customer decide to do business with your company. Purchase process intelligence covers your customers’ expectations, emotions, and motivations for every part of their life that your product or service will impact, starting with the moment they discover your company exists.

In this article, we show how you can build preliminary personas based on quantative data as a starting point for companies just getting started with customer personas. While no substitute for qualitative data that can only be gained through real interviews with your customers, this is a great starting point for understanding where and how you should be communicating with your audience.

Building Your Customer Personas using Google Analytics

  1. In your Google Analytics account go to [Audiences > Demographics > Overview]
  2. Click on “Age” then on “Secondary Dimension”. Search for “Affinity” and click on the category to add. Google Analytics uses different types of signals such as browsing history to associate users with ready-made profiles such as “Shoppers”, “Foodies”, “Music Lovers”, etc. You should now see your audience broken down by age and interests.
  3. Within the secondary dimension drop-down, now search for “In-Market Segment” to see what other products or services your company is interested in.
  4. If you sell in multiple markets, head over to [Audience > Geo > Language] as well as [Audience > Geo > Location] to see where you audience is visiting from and what languages they’re speaking.
  5. To understand how your audience accesses your site, click on [Audience > Mobile > Devices] to see the exact brand of phone, operating system, and service provider they’re using. In addition to understanding which systems and platforms deserve the lion’s share of your attention, use this report to understand if your audience are die-hard Apple fans, prefer windows, or are a good mix of both.
  6. Now open a new tab and step out of Google Analytics to gather even more details for your customer personas based on the zip codes of your actual customers. Use Claritas360 free tool located for additional insights by demographic, psychographics, investment behavior, and technology usage.
  7. You’re now ready to construct some preliminary personas! How many personas do you need? It depends on what you found in your analysis above.

Remember, personas represent distinct groups of customers and allow you to make actionable decisions based off the needs, goals, and pains of each unique persona. If the entire customer journey, your processes, and your messaging are all identical for two customers, then chances are they doesn’t warrant separate personas regardless of demographic differences. The biggest differences between customer groups lie within what goals they have, what pains they have, how they prefer to interact with your company, and what the product does for the customer. As Harvard professor Theodore Levitt suggested, products themselves have no intrinsic value- customers use products for problem-solving activities. “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter inch hole.” Use customer personas to take this age-old idiom to the next level by understanding what your customers want that quarter inch hole for.

What to do after you’ve built your Customer Personas

Make sure to document your personas and share it companywide. Whether you print and post it in your offices, feature it in your online company portal, add them to your Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), or even just share them by email. Do whatever works best for your company, because keeping your Customer Personas top of mind reminds your team who they are trying to engage, facilitates teammember-led customer experience innovations, and ultimately impacts your bottom line.

Not enough data in your google analytics account to build customer personas that actually provide meaningful insights? Don’t worry, we’ll be releasing a post on crafting detailed customer personas using interviews and surveys soon. Subscribe to our blog to get updated!

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