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Customer Research for Ecommerce Acquisition

Posted by Dan Wallace-Brewster on October 3, 2017

The first step in developing a highly relevant ecommerce experience is understanding buyer personas, or the portrait of the types of customers who purchase products from your ecommerce store. While marketers may have a basic understanding of their customer demographics, digital media provides insight into the cross-channel and cross-device paths they took to that purchase, commonly called the buyer journey.  

Further value can be gained by knowing what goes into the decisions along their journey. There are many methodologies a marketer can employ:

  • Customer interviews

  • Feedback loops with salespeople and customer service personnel

  • Mining customer data

Ultimately, each customer record should be considered a log of a company's relationship and "conversations" with the customer through each brand engagement.

An Example

If a branded manufacturer sells denim, it would make sense for the marketing team to want to give special treatment to their top customers. Through simple data mining, the top 10 customers are identified.

Top 10 Customers for an anonymous denim brand

At first glance, one might think these customers should get a VIP trip to fashion week.  But, looking deeper, these may not be the customers a brand wants to aggressively market to.  39 orders in 24 months? 1 order with 42 pairs of jeans? These customers are more likely institutional buyers than core customers. By breaking the customer list into larger groups (quartiles or even deciles), an analyst can spot predictive trends that 

One of the best ways to sort out buyer intention is to ask.

  • How important is price in the purchase decision?

  • Do you think denim is appropriate for a special occasion?

  • Do you ever buy denim for someone else?

  • How important is the brand name?

  • How long do you think a pair of jeans should last?

  • Do you research whether your clothes are ethically manufactured?

These are a random sampling of questions that over the course of many engagments could give marketers a very detailed understanding of how their customers evaluate their product prior to purchase.

Questions to Ask Customers

Once a merchant has divided their customers by segment, they can create a quantifiable profile of them using existing purchase data, ranking them by customer lifetime value. With that, more detail can be gathered to use in targeting prospects who look like the ideal customers within the brand's existing customer base. Beyond basic demographics, critical behavioral patterns may be found in syndicated data, like Simmons or Hitwise. Assembling a panel and distributing surveys is another way to 

While your customer service database is a helpful source of data, you can also interview customers directly. Continuing with the example of the ecommerce store that sells office supplies. You want to ask customers questions about their wants and needs or you can hire a marketing agency to do the research for you. Here are some examples:

1. What kind of organization do you purchase office supplies for?

2. Do you get a better pricing structure when you shop online?

3. Do you have a tax-exempt status?

4. Do you tend to buy supplies in bulk and store them on-site or buy just enough supplies to give individuals exactly what they need?

5. Would you shop at different times of the year in response to special offers (i.e. coupons)?

6. Would you buy more than just office supplies here if they were offered (i.e. coffee products, bottled water, office equipment)? 

7. What is your acceptable turnaround time for receiving orders from our online store?

8. Why did you stop using the last website or vendor of office products?

9. How long do you spend preparing for and placing an order on our site?

Moving Forward

Experience teaches us that targeted marketing research drives the development of more effective website content. We are happy to help our client companies conduct research into the needs and wants of target audiences. This kind of research can help us improve any company's buyer personas. While multiple customers may find your company through the same PPC ad or inbound link, they may not have the same wants or needs. They may engage in different browsing and spending patterns while at your store. You must move from the patterns identified from inbound traffic to the patterns of their actual spending. Our goal is to help you develop content that informs the people along the most popular buyer journeys, thereby maximizing sales and growing your brand. 

For more, download Onestop's newest ebook, "Tribulations of Trial: New Strategies for Acquiring New Customers" 

New Strategies for Acquiring New Customers

Topics: research, Customer acquisition, Big data

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