Research Concerning: Are Personas Done? Evaluating their usefulness in the age of digital analytics

In research led by Joni Salminen, we conceptually examine the use of personas in an age of large-scale online analytics data.

Based on the criticism and benefits outlined in prior work and by practitioners working with online data, we formulate the major arguments for and against the use of personas given real-time online analytics data about customers, analyze these arguments, and demonstrate areas for the productive employment of data-driven personas by leveraging online analytics data in their creation.

Our key tenet is that data-driven personas are located between aggregated and individual customer statistics.

At their best, digital data-driven personas capture the coverage of the customer base attributed to aggregated data representations while retaining the interpretability of individual-level analytics; they benefit from powerful computational techniques and novel data sources.

We discuss how digital data-driven personas can draw from technological advancements to remedy the notable concerns voiced by scholars and practitioners, including persona validation, inconsistency problem, and long development times.

Finally, we outline areas of future research of personas in the context of online analytics. We argue that to survive in the rapidly developing online customer analytics industry, personas must evolve by adopting new practices.

Salminen, J., Kwak, H., An, J., Jung, S.G., and Jansen, B. J. (2018) Are personas done? Evaluating their usefulness in the age of digital analytics. Persona Studies. 4, 2, 47-65.

How to use a persona?

Here are some of the many ways to use a persona:

  • Brand Discovery: Uncover how your core customers feel about your product or service and how they rationalize the purchase decision.
  • Channel and Offering Alignment: Align every piece of offerings and marketing activity to a persona and purchase stage, identifying new channels and needs where opportunities exist.
  • Communication: Personas are also great for communication among team members and across departments. Personas are GREAT for meetings! They keep folks focused on the BIG picture.
  • Content Creators: Content creators can leverage personas for the delivery of content that will be most relevant and useful to their audience. When planning for content, we might ask “Would Bridget understand this?” or “Would Bridget be attracted by this?”
  • Executives: can keep personas in mind while making strategic decisions. In fact, a persona can become a “silent member in the boardroom”.
  • Experimentation and Optimization: Carry out well-thought experiments to produce statistically significant business insights and apply the results to optimize performance.
  • Journey Mapping: Plot the stages and paths of the persona lifecycle, documenting each persona’s unique state of mind, needs, and concerns at each stage
  • Marketing: When you understand where your core customers spend their time online, you are able to focus your marketing spend on these channels.
  • Persona Discovery: Document the individuals involved in the purchase process in a way that allows decision makers to empathize with them in a consistent way.
  • Product Managers: can use the information to design a product that meets the needs or desires of core customers, and marketing can use personas to craft messages that resonate.
  • Product Offerings: Personas can be extremely helpful in product development. With the help of personas, you can more easily build the features that suit your customers’ needs. Forrester Research reports a 20% productivity improvement with teams that use personas.
  • Reporting and Feedback: Report and review data and insights to drive strategic decisions, as well as provide information to the organization as a whole.
  • Sales: Targeted offerings can help you convert more potential customers to subscribers, followers, and customers. You can also use persona description to tailor lead generation which is likely to improve your lead quality and satisfaction.

What is a data-driven persona?

A data-driven persona is derived from verifiable facts about the represented segment of the target population in sufficient amount for quantitative analysis.

An ideal persona is a proxy for a person. The person is the targeted user group, audience, or customer segment. An ideal persona is both describes a segment and predicts the segment behavior.

Data-driven personas come the closest to the ideal persona.

What is a persona profile?

A persona profile is the end product of the persona creation process. A common layout of a persona profile that is usually 1 page containing a textual description and typically one photo. The textual description will include, along with humanizing elements such as name, demographic information (e.g., education, job, age, etc.) and behavioral information (e.g., interests, goals, purchases, etc.).

Below is an example of a persona profile.

a persona profile
This is one example of a persona profile

How to create a persona?

Creating a persona involves five steps, which are:

  • Step 1 Identify: Categorize the population of customers, users, or audience members
  • Step 2 Collect: Gather data about the Identified populations specifically concerning behaviors (or goals, pain points, etc.) and demographics.
  • Step 3 Segment: Group the population into unique segments based on unique behaviors, goals, pain points, etc.
  • Step 4 Generate: Produce identifiable complete segments with combined behavioral and demographic data
  • Step 5 Enrich: Augment each complete segment with individual characteristics, such as photo, name, etc. to create a complete persona profile for each segment. The set of persona profiles that represents the population is the end product of the process.

What is a persona?

A persona is an imaginary person that represents a segment of users, audience members, or customers. A persona is typically presented in a persona profile that presents characteristics of the persona such as a photo, name, and other attributes.

There are many domains that can employ a persona, including system design, marketing, content creation, and advertising. There are many notable benefits for an organization that uses personas.

Is More Better?: Research Concerning the Impact of Multiple Photos on Perception of Persona Profiles

Background: We investigate if and how more photos than a single headshot can heighten the level of information provided by persona profiles. We conduct eye-tracking experiments and qualitative interviews with variations in the photos: a single headshot, a headshot and images of the persona in different contexts, and a headshot with pictures of different people representing key persona attributes. We conduct the within-subject experimental study with 29 participants. The participants were selected to reflect the staff working with news content on a daily basis and formed a diverse pool of individuals originating from 19 different countries (e.g., Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Syria, UK, USA, etc.). Continue reading “Is More Better?: Research Concerning the Impact of Multiple Photos on Perception of Persona Profiles”