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January 6, 2017

Brands and retailers are trying harder than ever to get into the minds of their consumers and answer the ever elusive question with every customer click What does the consumer want? . While deciding upon market segments for our businesses we tend to fall into the comfort zone of popular categories created by various psychographic and behavioral studies Millennials, Gen Y, Soccer Moms, exercise enthusiasts, etc. Brands love to put a label on their customers and categorize them into buckets that make the most sense to them. The problem is, these customer labels and characteristics change with time, often daily, and traditional segmentation can be unwieldy to change. Because of its static nature, traditional segmentation can paint a very deceptive picture of your customers. Especially, in the digital age.

We as consumers buy very differently based on product categories and our day-in-lives have a huge influence on how we shop and experience a brand. Let us take the example of a Busy Beth, a working mother with two school going kids who has to manage a very tight schedule through the weekdays. She will prefer a low touch, fast check-out express format experience when it comes to buying groceries during the week, but she may want more engagement with retail associates on the weekends while shopping for fashion clothing & apparel.

Thats where understanding buyer personas and its dynamic relation with respect to products become important. Dynamic buyer personas enable marketers to define the identity of their target customer base in a much more comprehensive and agile manner. Previously, persona definition was based on focus group interviews with archetypes, but now with the advent of data science and increasing physical-digital integration, buyer personas can be augmented with consumer behavior insights from buying behavior and real time interaction events, making them more dynamica critical capability in the digital world. Data analysis enabled algorithms can sift through massive amounts of customer behavior data and underscore unique persona traits, supporting the creation of more agile buyer personas at an individual customer level enabling finer targeting. These digital personas based on qualitative and quantitative data and in depth analysis are taking over traditional methods of customer segmentation and making them obsolete.

For todays retailers creating digital personas based on people who exist in the real world is fundamental to a successful omnichannel strategy. Digital personas help brands create a personalized customer journey that is unique to each customer and boost real time engagement by delivering useful, contextual experiences. A store that caters to runners, for example, may provide product advice to a long distance running enthusiast due for a new pair of running shoes. They might also provide information about hydrating drinks that are best suited for long distance running and regional weather conditions while that runner is training for the next half marathon in their city. Similarly, a camera store may use digital personas to discover that a photo enthusiast is researching a specific camera on line. That store can provide the address of the nearest camera store so the shopper can try out a specific camera and connect to photography experts for more tips and feedback. Digital personas, provide an accurate status of prospective customers in the sales funnel, allowing retailers to target them with relevant, personalized marketing campaigns.

According to Gartner, by 2018 organizations that excel in personalization will outsell companies that don’t by 20%. Todays digitally connected and intelligent consumers expect personalized experiences and services, and companies that do not cater to those expectations will experience a decline in sales and reputation.

In the end, it is not just about creating discrete personalized experiences for customersit is about connecting the dots and delivering ongoing value across the end-to-end customer journey, embedding the brand as part of their day-in-life. For brands, it is essential to understand how these experiences and customer touch points are intertwined and how they impact customer engagement and decision making. Moving from traditional segmentation to digital personas is the first step to delivering superior experiences across the hyper-connected customer journey.

In the next post, we will discuss customer journey mapping influenced by digital personas.

Suman Mahalanabis is the Director, Product Management at TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group and is passionate in bringing science to the art of business decisions through analytics and new age data infrastructure. Suman is leading change through creating next generation analytics platform for enterprises as they are pursuing their strategies in experience based differentiation, wallet share growth and improving operational efficiencies. With over 13 years in various roles of consulting, solution development and program delivery across clients from Telecom, Manufacturing and Banking, Suman brings deep range of experience in architecting technology and process solutions to complex business problems. He is also a member of tele-management forum, speaker at TMW, B/OSS conference and Gartner CRM summits. Suman has a Masters of Business Administration from Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management and Master of Technology from University of Calcutta.


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