Customer persona and scenario analysis


A thumbnail summary of the characteristics, needs, motivations and environment of typical web site users.

Customer scenarios (user journeys)

Alternative tasks or outcomes required by a visitor to a web site. Typically accomplished in a series of stages of different tasks involving different information needs or experiences.

Creating personas for typical site visitors is a powerful technique for influencing the planning of online campaigns and the usability and customer centricity of a web site.

Personas are essentially a 'thumbnail' description of a type of person. They have been used for a long time in research for segmentation and advertising, but in recent years have also proved effective for improving web site design by companies that have applied the technique.

Customer scenarios are developed for different personas. Patricia Seybold, in her book with Ronni Marshak, The Customer Revolution (2001), explains them as follows:

A customer scenario is a set of tasks that a particular customer wants or needs to do in order to accomplish his or her desired outcome.

You will see that scenarios can be developed for each persona. For an online bank, scenarios might include:

1 New customer - opening online account

2 Existing customer - transferring an account online

3 Existing customer - finding an additional product.

Each scenario is split up into a series of steps or tasks before the scenario is completed. These steps can be best thought of as a series of questions a visitor asks. By identifying questions web site designers identify the different information needs of different customer types at different stages in the buying process.

The use of scenarios is a simple, but very powerful, web design technique that is still relatively rare in web site design. They can also be used when benchmarking competitor sites as part of situation analysis.

Here are two simple examples of a commercial bank offering business services which show an experienced user (persona 1) and less experienced user (persona 2).

Online banking persona 1 - Switcher

Chris Barber owns a top-quality restaurant, and in the long term would like to build up a small chain of country hotels and restaurants. As the owner-manager, Chris currently uses a competitor (Barclays) for his business banking. He is thinking of moving to business Internet banking since he has used Barclays Internet banking for his personal banking. He will use the Internet to select the best offering for his needs. His main interest is to minimise bank charges by switching. Chris has been using the Internet for five years.

Online banking persona 2 - Start-up

John Smith has just registered Gifts-R-Us as a new business. The company will be a wholesale gift supplier, selling a range of imported gift products, such as candles and decorations to small shops and stores. He has worked as a marketing director in a similar business previously, but is now seeking to start up his own business with the operations manager of the other company as his partner. John is selecting a business bank, but is not sure whether to use Internet banking or not. He wants to assess the benefits. He has no preferences for a business bank - he wants to review all the options and find the easiest to use. He also wants one with favourable banking rates. He is not an experienced Internet user since previously his secretary accessed the Internet for him.

Primary persona

A representation of the typical site user.

The customer persona/scenario approach has the following benefits:

• Fostering customer-centricity;

• Identifies detailed information needs and steps required by customers;

• Can be used to both test existing web site designs or prototypes and to devise new designs;

• Can be used to compare and test the strength and clarity of communication of proposition on different web sites;

• Can be linked to specific marketing outcomes required by site owners.

These are some guidelines and ideas on what can be included when developing a persona. The start or end point is to give each persona a name. The detailed stages are:

1 Build personal attributes into personas:

• Demographic: Age, sex, education, occupation and, for B2B, company size, position in buying unit;

• Psychographic: Goals, tasks, motivation;

• Webographics: Web experience (months), usage location (home or work), usage platform (dial-up, broadband), usage frequency, favourite sites.

2 Remember that personas are only models of characteristics and environment:

• 3 or 4 usually suffice to improve general usability, but more needed for specific behaviours;

• Choose one primary persona whom, if satisfied means others are likely to be satisfied.

3 Different scenarios can be developed for each persona as explained further below. Write 3 or 4, for example:

• Information-seeking scenario (leads to site registration);

• Purchase scenario - new customer (leads to sale);

• Purchase scenario - existing customer (leads to sale).

Once different personas have been developed that are representative of key site-visitor types or customer types, a primary persona is sometimes identified. Wodtke (2002) says:

Your primary persona needs to be a common user type who is both important to the business success of the product and needy from a design point of view - in other words, a beginner user or a technologically challenged one.

She also says that secondary personas can also be developed, such as super-users or complete novices. Complementary personas are those that don't fit into the main categories and which display unusual behaviour. Such complementary personas help 'out-of-box thinking' and offer choices or content that may appeal to all users.

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