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Creating the perfect online shopping persona

When it comes to selling online, there are many things that businesses will want to do. Of course, the maximum number of sales at the best possible cost-per-acquisition (CPA) is top of the list, but so is the skill of understanding their audience


If a business can get a handle on who visits their site, and who converts when they are there,  then they are in a far better position to build online shopping buyer personas and this could be the difference between repeat business or not. Succeed in your profiling and you can generate further sales and even increase the possibility of higher spend.

Unpicking the psychology of why people buy online is something that we have covered previously, as is understanding your audience. The reason we cover it in detail is that it is a proven method in terms of boosting digital sales.

Types of persona

Google has split the personas for those looking to conduct online shopping into four distinctive groups. Their behaviour was assessed and it was determined that the following traits were reflected in nearly every user. Online customers, wherever they are in the world, are said to be competitive, methodical, spontaneous or humanistic.

If we are to fully understand these groups we have to look at the ‘checkboxes’ that user follows in terms of the way they search. The first group is the competitive buyer.

Shoppers in this category are usually looking for a logical and fast-paced experience. They want to be able to get to the buying stage quickly and that they are able to see the buying call to actions (CTAs) quickly and clearly.

Competitive buyers want to understand things fast and are best marketed to with facts. They tend to scans headers, bullet lists, icons, and read only a few words. They are the ultimate speed buyer and the risk of losing a customer with this buyer trait increases if they get frustrated by bugs or lack of clarity on your site.

The methodical buyer, on the other hand, is almost the polar opposite. They like to take their time with things and prefer for the process to be logical and slow-paced. These buyers want to make an informed choice, using research as their primary tool.

When conducting research on what makes someone a methodical buyer it is common to see someone who scrolls through the whole page.  They aren’t fazed by long paragraphs in small font sizes and are happy to evaluate and compare. One of the primary facets of their research is that they like authority, reputation and trust – something we have looked at a lot thanks to the Google EAT update – methodical buyers trusts experts, reviews, and articles and won’t be rushed on a decision, so be careful using countdowns and contests on your site if these users form the core of your audience.

The spontaneous buyer is a curious persona for those in marketing to work out. These individuals are unpredictable and businesses can have great difficulty assessing if they buy the first time that they see something or if they have seen something advertised many times and then just go ahead with the impulsive purchase.

Spontaneous online shoppers are emotionally invested in products and need them quickly for fulfilment. They operate in a fast paced environment, tend to convert on mobile devices and   decisions are usually influenced by feelings.

One of the best things about these types of customer is that they tend to follows brands and trends to create a lifestyle, meaning that not only are they loyal (they like being retargeted too) but they are also willing recipients of promotions.

Some of the key traits of spontaneous buyers are:

  • They prefer images to small text or long paragraphs
  • They respond well to persuasion techniques. Eg. countdowns and influencers
  • They’re happy to uses shortcuts to understand the world. Eg. high price equals high quality

One thing to be wary of however, is that when you market to people in this group you must take into account that they can be Impatient and easily distracted during the purchase process, slow loading speed and popups can put a purchase at risk.

The last type of persona is the humanistic buyer. These individuals tend to be more emotionally involved in making their purchases and do so at a slower pace.

In order to get the most from their buyer’s journey, those who adhere to the humanistic way of shopping online tend to be influenced by creativity, storytelling and social belonging – they want to be part of a club and if targeted correctly will show endless loyalty. These buyers also trust the opinions of friends and user reviews and are influential in building a community. If there is a product that relates to a cause such as a charity or environmental issue for example they are more likely to convert, the same can be said if you use emotive images, especially if they show people’s emotions.

Inbound marketing also tends to be popular with this group as they are loyal to sales people and brand interactions they like.

So what’s the best outcome? Well, having a customer base that fits into one of these groups is like owning a unicorn… it’ll never happen. Brands need to focus on drilling down on the types of visitor that they have and adjust the weighting of their marketing strategy accordingly.

In the same vein, marketer’s need to think how they can work with businesses to make sure that they can really develop the perfect audience mix and boost their online performance.

Adjusting your strategy

If your mix consists of competitive buyers you will want to include a search function so they can go straight to what they’re looking for. Clear navigation is a must and the need to signpost your top categories and key benefits is critical, especially as they won’t spend much time reading through your site. Google suggest that for these buyers there is a need to add your value proposition (eg. “free shipping & express delivery”) to the top of each page in the funnel to constantly remind users why they should buy from you.

If you seem to attract more methodical buyers then it is business critical to add lots of facts and figures, and maybe clear and well-laid out comparison tables so that they can see the value of buying from you and not your competitors. Another thing to make sure you include is ‘read more’ links and ‘expert guides’. Finally you could include a FAQs page where shoppers can delve into the detail of your site. This will no doubt boost user experience (UX).

A business who finds themselves with a large number of spontaneous buyers will do well to make sure that the site has plenty of lifestyle-focused imagery. Another way of leading the buyer to the conversion is to add a ‘most popular’ section, as they won’t have the patience to read lots of reviews and make comparisons.  Experts at Google have also indicated in their research that some influencer-related content included on a site with an audience heavily weighted towards spontaneous buyers will resonate with their lifestyle goals.

Humanistic buyers are very similar to the spontaneous buyers and in truth a business which has a blend of these buyers often find it easier to adapt their strategy. Users in this demographic will be drawn to aspirational lifestyle imagery and influencer-style content. Customer quotes are also a powerful tool here, especially where past users talk passionately about their experience, rather than just scoring it out of ten.


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