Consumers want immediate, dynamic and personalized service, and companies must meet those standards in every interaction to keep current customers and acquire new ones. As the user experience increasingly serves to influence people’s perceptions of brands, human-centered design has become core to building a highly effective marketing strategy.

For a time, brands have accepted that user personas are the key to human-centered design. People and personas, however, aren’t interchangeable. We live in the age of personalization, and real people can give us the information we need to customize our brands’ messaging, offerings, and strategy.

What Goes Into a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas provide useful starting points for getting to know your customers. A well-developed persona includes demographic information such as age, gender, income bracket, marital status, and location, as well as customers’ motivations for buying your products. While these personas are vital to understanding your customers, they often lead to generalizations.

For instance, an arcade owner should take his typical client’s age into account when designing advertising. But if he looks only at age and gender without humanizing his customers, he’ll miss key information — such as  trends in their social media engagement, for example. By drawing on all the available data about his customers, including how often they engage with his website and mobile app, he can tailor the content and delivery of his ad campaigns to their individual personalities.

Mobile: Brands’ Best Friend for Creating Personal Experiences

As more and more consumer data becomes available, it’s increasingly evident that personas alone won’t cut it when it comes to defining and targeting an audience. You can’t rely on a singular image to fuel your design; you need to dig deeper to find out who your customers are if you want to create a standout user experience with your brand.

Mobile devices, which constantly collect user data, allow us to derive the information we need to shape creative ideas and drive design and content decisions. Mobile devices can tell you everything from where your customers had lunch to whether they worked out that day to which stores they visited on the way home from work. This data will help you shape the personalized experiences your customers crave.

Brands That Do Personas Right

The most successful brands leverage this extensive mobile data to deliver personalized services and experiences through their design, content, and marketing campaigns. For example, Uber does this through its local blogs by speaking to unique communities throughout the world. These blogs, focused on individual communities’ voices and interests, enable Uber to test different strategies and promotions on the groups of users who may find them the most beneficial.

Similarly, Chipotle began shifting its digital marketing to focus on mobile. Noting that its users rely heavily on their mobile phones, this fast-casual restaurant chain launched an app to enable ordering from a phone or an Apple Watch. The app tunes into its users’ needs by saving favorite orders, locating the nearest Chipotle restaurant and counting down the minutes until orders are ready. This customer-minded app now accounts for nearly seven percent of Chipotle’s orders.

How to Get Up Close and Personalized

Uber, Chipotle, and other like-minded innovative companies don’t rely on vague personas to create content for their communities. By learning everything they can about how their customers think and shop, they evolve their strategies to meet their audiences’ unique needs. Focusing on real people enables brands to make their technology feel more human and connect with people on a personal level.

Great design, after all, relies on data. Build your buyer personas to get started with your design and marketing; then, allow the data to dictate where you go next. You want to go beyond demographics to find out what customers’ priorities are, where they’re investing time and money, and which barriers might prevent them from buying. Then, you can create effective experiences that build genuine trust and break down those identified barriers.

Here’s how:

  • Track mobile engagement. Mobile sites and apps provide powerful real-time insights into how your customers think and shop. Record how customers interact with your brand (e.g., how often they visit different pages or access certain app features). Then, offer helpful suggestions or notifications that are in line with their usage patterns.
  • Listen through social media. People use social media to air their grievances, talk up products they love, and crowdsource solutions to their problems. These conversations are full of valuable insights into what makes your customers tick and how you can best serve them. These perspectives take you well beyond broad demographics and help address customers’ needs through your design, marketing and user experience. Today, there are a number of top ranking social intelligence tools to choose from – such as Attensity, Brandwatch, Converseon, – that help you gather these insights.
  • Design for the day-to-day. A corporate website, ad campaign, and fiscal footprint will only get you so far. You need to become part of customers’ daily experiences. Personalized push notifications help you stay top of mind, and reward programs give people a reason to keep coming back to your brand. For example, a simple check-in enticing a customer to sneak out of the office and indulge in her favorite drink from your juice bar is a great way to connect and make her feel like you’ve got her back on a hectic workday.
  • Build your target audience around real people. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is developing a profile of their ideal buyers based on abstractions rather than actual people. Don’t just slap a stock photo on a vague persona and design for a phantom customer who doesn’t exist. Nothing is more valuable than raw user feedback.

For example, one of our clients recently brought in 10 people to test prototypes for new   products it was developing. Their responses dramatically influenced product development   and how our client designed for and marketed to its audience. Without that input, the   company would’ve missed significant opportunities to connect with customers.

  • Embrace the intimacy of mobile.Embrace the intimacy of mobile. At any given moment, you’re in bed with your customers, joining them on a cross-country drive, or tagging along for an outdoor adventure with friends. The nature of mobile apps and responsive sites is such that you can reach your customers at any time and provide value to them at intimate moments in their lives. Take advantage of this technology by using their interactions to gather information that helps you serve and support them all the time.

By building social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, into your app’s create account function, you can gather basic user information, like gender, age, and location. Go further with a built-in software development kit to track actions and behaviors.

Buyer personas provide the general framework for understanding your audience. But mobile and social data fills in the profile, giving you a nuanced look at your customers. By using this information to get up close and personal with your customers, they’ll invite you into their everyday lives to provide them with value, entertainment, and surprise. Your customers tell you who they are every day. Make sure you’re listening.

Hathway Announces New Chief Creative Officer
Hathway Austin opens alongside new CRM / Loyalty practice

Interested in working together? Let's chat.