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Understanding Your Target Market

 by zack on 12 Oct 2013 |
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One of the most oft repeated caveats in any ecommerce business plan, is to understand and engage with a target audience. This certainly sounds like common sense. Any self-respecting hunter has to understand the behavior of their prey. A fisherman needs to be able to differentiate between a marlin and a guppy, because they need a completely different set of equipment for each. So how is it any different when you're trying to sell your products online? The short answer is it’s not. The long answer is that it’s infinitely more complicated to convince a human being than it is to catch a fish or shoot a deer.

Today, we’ll be talking about some of the key segments that a marketer should be targeting in a marketing campaign of any type, as well as some of the best practices to gather the necessary data to do your market analysis.

First things first, let’s dispel some misconceptions. Targeting is about more than just demographic data. Demographics certainly have their place, but they’re only a part of the bigger picture. In addition to demographic data, aka who the people in your target audience actually are, you’ll need to know their browsing habits. You need to know their favorite sites to visit, which times of day they’re most active online, and what they spend most of their time doing. Gathering this information will inform you of the best ways, times, locations, and methods to use in your advertising approach.

So let’s start with the basics: who is your audience? You need to know how old they are, what their marital status is, and their interests. Of the three qualifiers just listed, interests are by far the most important.

Targeting Your Audience

People have a funny way of regularly defying expectations. So rather than expecting a 45 year old married woman to be a soap opera fan, it’s important to look into her browsing habits. Once you do, you may just find out that she’s a huge NASCAR fan, and spends a great deal of time searching for Dale Earnhardt memorabilia. If you’re selling antique tea kettles, you now know to leave her out of your segment.

The object of performing any amount of target market research is to keep yourself from making assumptions. Ideally, you want to have hard data backing up your hypotheses. This way you can more confidently push your products, and gain more conversions because you’ve targeted effectively.

But how do you actually gather some of this data to build these target profiles? If you have a well-established site that attracts thousands of unique daily visitors, then you can just check your analytics, and gain a great deal of insight that way. If you’re just starting out though, you might need to get a bit more creative. There are several resources that can help you gain an immensely comprehensive picture of your target market.
  •  Web analytics
    • This is your first stop for target market information. These are the people who are actually visiting your site. Find out who they are, how many are regulars, which pages they’re spending the most time on, and what they’re buying. This data can also inform your web design and conversion optimization efforts. For more information on how to use your analytics check out some of the other Ashop Blog posts on interpreting and analyzing metrics.
  • Cookies
    • Cookies are an excellent resource for tracking customer behavior, not just on your site, but all over the internet. By incorporating cookies into your market strategy, you can find out what your target market members do on other sites, what their likes/dislikes may be, their interests, political or religious leanings, age, sex, and marital status, etc. Cookies work by automatically storing an encrypted text file on your visitor’s device or browser whenever they land on a web page. This essentially creates a record of their online activities that you can analyze and learn from.
  • Social media
    • Social media represents a more direct way of learning about your target audiences. While there are specific ways set up for merchants to learn about their audiences on major social platforms, you also have the opportunity to directly engage with your audience in conversations. You can actually request feedback, and ask how you can improve your website, products, and services.
  • Surveys
    • Surveys are a fun and easy method of data gathering. You can easily create surveys with online services such as Constant Contact or Survey Monkey. You can then promote these surveys with your newsletters, email marketing, social media posts or tweets, and so on. Use these surveys to gather demographic information about your audience, along with product preferences, and more subjective data.
  • Quantcast
    • Quantcast is an awesome website that lets you build a profile of the average visitors to any site around the web. Quantcast builds a comprehensive demographics report for the site's visitors that can be highly valuable to marketers. Use this website to check out your what kind of customers your competitors are attracting, and compare their optimization methods with your own.
  • Google Display Planner
    • What list of data gathering tools would be complete without Google making an appearance? Display Planner helps you target specific audiences in your brand’s campaigns by determining the best placements for your ads with demographic information that can be segmented by a number of filters such as age, gender, keywords, and topics.

Build a Customer Profile

Once you’ve gathered all of your relevant data, it’s time to build an ideal customer profile. Use the demographic information to determine the age, sex, income, and education level of your ideal customer. Narrow the profile down further with geographical information like location, climate, and whether they live in urban or rural environments.

Take a look at this infographic describing the statistical averages amongst users of the Merry Maids Pet Service:
 

See how they’ve broken down all of the relevant categories of their target market? They know exactly who spends the most on the service they offer, and therefore: who to target.

After determining the basic biographical information about your customers, find out what kind of technology they’re using to browse and purchase online. What browsers are they using? Are they surfing from a PC, a Mac, or a mobile device? It’s important that your site be compatible with your ideal customer’s method of choice for online shopping.

Finally, try to determine what kind of potential for growth your brand has within the context of this ideal customer profile. How can you cross promote your products to them? Who are the other brands that are competing with you for their attention? How can you one-up this competition?

All Systems Engage

After you’ve gathered all of this data, it’s time to go out and engage your ideal customers. You’ve literally stacked the deck in your favor at this point, so you can confidently approach people on the individual level to have conversations about their needs, and discuss how your brand can provide for them. You also know exactly where to find these customers and which offers they’re most likely to respond to. If you’ve done your research correctly, nearly every variable will be playing to your strengths. So get out there and mix it up. Once you’ve began engaging, (this will be an ongoing process) measure your success.

How did your efforts effect your bottom line? Keep track of the change in data, and start the process all over again. You need to be shaving down your sales strategy into a finely pointed spear. Ironically enough, the more narrowly you target your campaigns, the greater success you’ll find.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to put this information to good use. Remember to check back next week for more helpful ecommerce advice on the Ashop blog.
 

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