Approaches to Take to Understand Customers in a Digital World

John Krautzel
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Buyer personas have long been a way for businesses to understand customers and make informed marketing, development and sales decisions. With the rapid introduction of personal technology, these traditional personas are nearly obsolete. To succeed in the modern marketplace, businesses must find new ways to understand and reach their customers.

Locate Gathering Places

As the technological landscape has changed, so has customer behavior. To understand customers, your business must locate their digital gathering places. Do your customers tend to use Facebook, or are they active on Twitter? Do they comment on other brands' Instagram photos? Digital activity can provide valuable clues to what your target audience wants, how they react to problems and how to reach them. It can also help you identify dead channels, so you can avoid wasting time and money as you build an effective marketing strategy.

Understand Customer Perception

In the digital world, perception is everything. The winds of change move swiftly, and a single Facebook post or news article can change attitudes toward your business in a moment. To understand customers and build an effective strategy, it's crucial to keep tabs on their perception. One useful metric is the Net Promoter Score, which measures how customers see your brand and how likely they are to recommend it to a friend. This score provides valuable insight — a seven or eight on the 10-point scale indicates that buyers are satisfied but vulnerable, meaning that you're on the right track but need to make changes to increase loyalty. Monitoring the NPS enables you to adjust strategy and improve the customer experience.

Identify Influencers

One way to understand customers is to identify the digital users that influence their behavior. Influencers can have a powerful effect on your business — a single tagged Instagram post or a glowing blog mention can result in a slew of new customers. Start by finding the people who have a strong following in your industry. A clothing company might look to popular fashion bloggers, while a technology firm could examine tech executives that appear frequently in podcasts, television or news stories. Once you identify influencers, you can monitor follower responses, explore potential partnerships and analyze popular content.

Use Big Data

Consumers leave large data trails each time they use the Internet. For businesses, that information can provide valuable insights into preferences and purchasing behaviors. It can help you identify a range of useful information, from the phrases customers use when searching for products like yours to the most effective times to send marketing emails. If it's in the budget, understand customers better by working with companies that collect and analyze data for your target audience. Keep in mind that not all insights are valuable; to make sense of the mountain of data, scale down insights based on your most important analytics.

Digital technology has dramatically altered the consumer landscape. To stay competitive, businesses must adjust the way they understand customers.

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