Personas Research

Personas ResearchPersonas Research

Personas is the more fashionable term for “segment profiles,” which is now deemed as boring and old. The term “personas” became in vogue as sales and marketing teams tried to customize their customer communications. It now refers to customer groups in general, even if no segmentation research has been conducted to classify customers.

In some organizations, these customer profiles are just a reflection of who internal stakeholders believe their customers are and what they do. This is a bad practice because the personas are based mostly on anecdotal evidence and personal opinions, rather than actual research.

Personas are no more than very concrete segment profiles and should be based on segmentation analysis that goes beyond behavioral data. They may include demographics, psychographics, and category-specific behavior descriptors. When we do market segmentation based on needs, attitudes, and behaviors, segment profiles are part of the deliverables. Depending on the type of data we have about the segments, they can be general or very specific profiles that can be converted into personas.

In personas research, particularly for customer journey mapping and user research purposes, we go deeper into the “why” people in the segments “do what they do” to get a more vivid and human representation of the segments. They become portraits of segments. In short, the most specific data we have about motivations and how the segments may use products and services, the better information we have to create personas.

Why You Should Do ItWhy You Should Do It

What is the main reason to conduct this type of research? Because you are not the user. If you are a user of your own products, you probably represent a very small and biased segment of your customer base. You are invested in the company like no user will ever be.

To create products and services that are useful, usable and appealing to customers, you have to understand who your customers are and what they need. Otherwise, you will end up creating products and services for yourself, your friends and family. Worst of all, you could be just copying your competitors without knowing it.

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The ApproachThe Approach

To develop personas, we use both qualitative and quantitative research whenever possible given timeline and budget constraints.

It’s also important to get key stakeholders involved in the research process to facilitate the implementation of the results. This is why we always recommend starting personas research with meetings or interviews with key stakeholder groups.

There are essentially two main approaches to personas research:

  1. Large-Scale Segmentation Analysis: This is grounded in quantitative research, but often includes qualitative research prior to quantitative research to identify relevant variables that discriminate best among the segments. Qualitative research can also be used after the quantitative research to get a richer profile of the segments to build detailed personas. Quantitative research is based on survey methodology.
  2. Small-Scale Qualitative Analysis: This is based on qualitative research and is more directional in nature.

Qualitative research methods we can use for personas research include:

  1. One-on-one interviews (phone, online and in-person)
  2. Diary studies
  3. Direct observation
  4. Contextual inquiry
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Target Audience RecruitmentTarget Audience Recruitment

Relevant Insights can recruit qualified 2C and B2B participants through our sample provider partners for both qualitative and quantitative research. Relevant Insights can also recruit participants from your customer database and will implement procedures to protect any identifiable personal information.

As an alternative, you may also recruit directly from your own customer database if data privacy restrictions don’t allow for customer data sharing. In these cases, we will provide the necessary data collection tools or work with your data collection tools (i.e., survey tools) if the data is required to stay in the account.

After discussions with you, we determine the sample parameters and assist in developing screeners. We also manage participant incentives.

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In direct collaboration with you, Relevant Insights will:

  1. Assist in designing the personas research objectives, scope, and approach.
  2. Conduct stakeholder group meetings and interviews.
  3. Gather and synthesize any internal data available (e.g. surveys, segmentation, analytics, sales team feedback, etc.).
  4. Recommend data collection mode depending on sample parameters and the industry in which your organization operates. Surveys can be conducted online, by phone, by mail or with a hybrid approach.
  5. Develop questions and metrics to support the development of personas.
  6. Discuss who to include (customers and non-customers) and recommend sample size and sample sources. Sample size requirements will depend on the product category, target audience, and incidence rates, among other factors. However, as a guiding principle, we recommend at least 1,000 participants for large-scale segmentation analysis and five to 30 participants per segment for small-scale qualitative analysis. When qualitative research is combined with quantitative research in large-scale segmentation analysis, we recommend 10 to 30 participants.
  7. Program, test, and host the survey(s). In addition to testing the programmed survey for errors before launch, a “soft-launch” is deployed to a small sample to detect any potential issues with actual participants before its distribution to a large sample.
  8. Monitor the field and provide daily reports on its progress, as well as any issues that may arise.

For qualitative research, Relevant Insights will:

  1. Recommend the most appropriate qualitative research data collection method for the target sample
  2. Develop discussion guides
  3. Collect the data according to the qualitative approach selected (e.g., interviews, observation, etc.)
  4. Rent facilities or online platforms as needed
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Analytical PlanAnalytical Plan

The analysis in personas research is centered around finding unique patterns to develop the personas profiles.

The type of information included in personas profiles will depend on the product category and industry. Nonetheless, some of the most common profiling criteria are:

  • Goals.
  • Needs and priorities.
  • Motivations for using your product/service.
  • Behaviors and habits.
  • Path to purchase and processes used.
  • Pain points and barriers.
  • Technology and tools used.
  • Competing options.
  • Media consumption.

In large-scale segmentation analysis based on quantitative research, we develop a predictive algorithm to identify personas/segments in future research you might do. Different multivariate statistical and trade-off techniques are used to identify the segments, including:

  • Convergent Cluster & Ensemble Analysis (CCEA).
  • Conjoint Analysis (CBCACBCMBC).
  • MaxDiff Analysis.
  • Latent Class Analysis.
  • Factor Analysis.
  • Discriminant Analysis.
  • Cluster Analysis.
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Relevant insights can provide different reporting options, which can be chosen based on budget and time constraints:

  1. Summary of internal stakeholder meetings.
  2. Short written summary report with key findings for external research.
  3. Full detailed report with analysis, charts, tables, quotes in a graphically appealing format for external research.
  4. Graphic representation of the personas.
  5. Raw data for segmentation analysis and qualitative research, including media files and transcripts of interviews, diaries, etc.
  6. Cross-tabulated tables for segmentation analysis.
  7. Personas typing tool (for Large-Scale Segmentation Analysis).
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Typical Project DurationTypical Project Duration

Six to eight weeks for qualitative research or quantitative research.

Factors that affect project duration include:

  • The incidence rate of the target sample: The lower the incidence rate, the longer we need to stay in the field to gather the required data.
  • Client team responsiveness: A delayed response to requests for feedback at different steps of the project, will stall a project and affect the delivery date.
  • Timeline for stakeholder meetings.
  • The number of participants in qualitative research.
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The cost will vary depending on:

  • Research approach selected.
  • Sample specifications and sample size.
  • Reporting requirements.
  • The number of stakeholder meetings/interviews.
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