What Most Ecommerce Businesses Get Wrong About Customer Profiles


If you have an ecommerce business or are thinking about starting one, you must know how to target the right people. Customer profiles can help you do that. 

A customer profile is a detailed description of a made-up individual who represents at least one segment of people who currently buy from you. It could include details like the person’s age, job, pain points and the products of yours that they usually purchase. Having customer profiles helps you make strategic decisions about how to keep your site profitable. 

However, many people from ecommerce businesses make mistakes with customer profiles. Here are some and how you can avoid them. 

Failing to Create Customer Profiles That Account for Online Shopping

Customer profiles can feature a wide range of details that illustrate what makes a person shop at a particular place versus elsewhere. However, when creating them, some people forget to focus on the aspects that make a person more interested in shopping online versus through other channels. 

You might dig into the data associated with your company’s ecommerce company and find that a large segment of people are young parents or people who don’t own cars. Having youngsters to care for at home and not being a car owner are two factors that could make people realize they’d rather shop online than go to stores. 

The price is another factor that could compel them to shop online versus in person. Perhaps your site frequently has sales or generally offers certain products at lower prices than brick-and-mortar stores. 

When making a customer profile, try to focus on the specific aspects that make the person represented in your profile willing to shop online rather than through other options. That’ll make the finished customer profile as relevant to ecommerce as possible. 

Forgetting to Choose a Purpose for Your Customer Profiles

People at some ecommerce companies get quite excited and motivated about creating customer profiles. However, they stop short of determining the specific things the associated data will help them do. 

For example, customer profiles can help you learn the best ways to market to certain groups. They could also make it easier to create ad copy that resonates with the people who’re most likely to buy or to create an actionable content marketing plan. 

Ensuring you have a clear idea of how you’ll apply the insights from the customer profiles will help everyone at the ecommerce company feel more motivated. Being purposeful with your approach also minimizes the possibility of creating customer profiles that you only use for a month or two before setting aside.

Relying Too Much on Irrelevant Demographic Groups

Breaking your ecommerce customers down by demographics can help you get off to a strong start when making profiles. You may also be surprised by what this process reveals. For example, statistics show that more women use social media than men. That finding could help you use the right platforms for marketing. 

However, you don’t want to waste time making customer profiles with demographics that are too broad for the groups your ecommerce company targets. For example, maybe your site only sells ultra-luxury items geared towards people with a lot of disposable income. In that case, it may be virtually pointless to create customer profiles based on people who earn less. That’s because most customers are probably at or above a particularly high earnings threshold. 

Similarly, you may know that most of your customers primarily speak English and you have no plans to expand internationally. Then, you’ll want to avoid getting too bogged down by creating profiles of non-English speakers. You undoubtedly have some, but it may not be worthwhile to create a specific customer profile for them because they still only make up such a small minority. 

Overlooking User Experience Preferences in a Customer Profile

Since you’re creating customer profiles specifically for ecommerce sites, it’s important to focus on the user experience elements that are solely for people visiting your website. More specifically, when people navigate your site, how do they typically do that and how do those behaviors impact what they ultimately buy?

One option is to split your site visitors into three groups titled searchers, browsers and discoverers. The person identified as a searcher on a customer profile is an individual who’s already in a very transactional mindset and near the end of their buying journey. Then, the people who are browsers are those that know they want something from a particular product category but haven’t narrowed it down further yet. 

For example, a browser might need a pair of pants for work but want some inspiration to help them get more specific about which items will go on their shortlist. Finally, a discoverer is someone who’s showing a general curiosity about a product or brand but is not ready to purchase just yet. One of their driving questions might be something like, “I wonder what colors of apparel are trending for spring?” 

Recognize how the people in each of these groups have varying priorities. Next, examine what you could do so that your website is as easy to use and enjoyable for them. That approach should help you figure out the best ways to keep the individuals represented by each profile interested and eager to spend time on your website. 

Ignoring the Available Data

Customer profiles for your ecommerce site are not resources to make with assumptions. Instead, they involve looking at data to learn what caused successful past conversions. You can then use that information to shape future efforts intended to drive sales. 

You might have statistics that confirm the majority of people who made purchases of over $100 at your site were also those who subscribed to a newsletter. You could then drill down further regarding that fact and aim to make a customer profile of someone who received a newsletter offer that encouraged them to buy. 

If your business already has reliable and well-organized data available to use, that’s great. However, if you have not historically understood the importance of dependable data, make a change in that regard before creating customer profiles. 

Take the time to clean and prepare your data, checking for any duplicate records that could give inaccurate results. You may also want to consider investing in a data analysis tool that can help you draw conclusions faster. 

When you build customer profiles backed with data from your ecommerce site and its sales records, it’ll be easier to feel confident about using those resources and using them to grow or strengthen your business operations.

Start Building Effective Customer Profiles Today

Knowing about these mistakes and some actionable steps to avoid or correct the issues will help you make customer profiles that genuinely reflect the people who have shopped at your ecommerce site. Then, you’ll be able to use them to make positive changes that will drive conversions and keep your website successful.


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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.

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