Traditional marketers are used to identifying market segments and organizing those segments by personas in order to better target products and marketing messages appropriately. For more on market segmentation, see this Wikipedia article.
Digital marketers, and more specifically, User Experience professionals need to not only incorporate the broad market segment personas, but also further divide up target users into user personas.
How do user personas differ from market personas in a digital environment?
If your target market (persona) is “Sally,” a 40+ female, works full-time, has a family, is a DIYer when it comes to her home, and loves being the one “in the know” about home decorating ideas, this is a great start at understanding your market.
But Sally’s needs are vastly different when you factor in her needs as a user visiting a website, kiosk, or using a mobile device and her stage in the shopping process — all of which require a much more granular level of understanding than her market persona. This is where Sally needs to be categorized into one or more user personas.
Examples of user personas
In the scenario above, “Sally” (our market persona) could be purchasing new flooring for her home. If she’s just getting started on her shopping journey, and she’s never purchased flooring before, her needs are completely different than another “Sally,” who fits the same market segment profile, but has purchased flooring within the last year and has spent the last 4 weeks researching and comparison shopping.
The user personas of these two individuals require very different approaches to their needs at their stage in the journey — one’s virtually an expert, the other is a novice. Misaligning a digital experience so the expert’s intelligence is insulted and the novice gets intimidated is not an outcome you want with the user experience; hence the need for identifying user personas within a digital experience so the correct information and experience gets delivered.
There can be many user personas…
Depending on the complexity of the product or service you’re offering, there can be many user personas because information needs change throughout the journey. If your shopping process is lengthy (i.e. days, weeks, or even months), the understanding and proper handling of these needs is also important to ensure the optimal user experience.
Service Design can help
In a previous post, I wrote about Service Design — the essence of Service Design is the design considerations made around the user persona you’re trying to meet the needs of. One caveat to Service Design is that it doesn’t address how to speak to a user — this is where market segment personas come into play (in addition to brand positioning and brand language).
Market Segment Personas and User Personas, while they sound similar, are very different in practice. There’s a lot of science that goes into the identification of the various personas, but it’s also just as much an art to successfully design and build an experience that aligns with the personas.