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FutureNow Article
Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006

Would You Rather Know What Customers Do or Why They Do It?

By Holly Buchanan
October 15th, 2006

Personas help you understand why customers do what they do, so you can predict and persuade more effectively.

It was like Groundhog Day. I had the same conversation over and over and over again. I was at the Summit in New York. It was a record breaking crowd, over 2200 attendees. I talked to a whole bunch of those online retailers and everyone was saying basically the same thing …

“I want to know what my customers are doing on my website. I’m finding more and more ways to gather data. I have my SEO firm giving me reports, I have competitive intelligence groups giving me reports, I have my web analytics team giving me reports, I have in house research teams giving me reports. But how do I analyze all that data and turn it into customer insight that is actionable. How can I use all this data to increase my sales?”

There’s more ….

I have more data than I know what to do with, but when we try to do things to increase sales, the first thing we do is go out and get even more data. Is the problem we don’t have enough data or we don’t have the right data?

Everyone in management gets these rich, detailed web analytics reports every week – but what no one is willing to admit is, no one reads them. I mean, what the heck are all those numbers anyway?

These are questions many seasoned online retailers are asking. You may be asking the same questions yourself. What data will give me the best insight into my customers? Which data is most useful? And how can I take that data and turn it into increased sales?

All valid questions, but here’s the problem … while this data tells you what your customers are doing, it doesn’t tell you why they are doing it.

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Comments (2)

  1. [...] Analytics will tell you what people do, but not why they do it. If you don't understand the "why," how do you know what improvements to design and test? Personas give you the customer insight you need to know what to plan and test. They give you insight into your visitors' motivations and angles of approach. For example, you can test different headlines, but how do you know what verbiage to use in those headlines? Personas will give you that insight. [...]

  2. This is little like the chicken and the egg.
    If you know what they do, then you have all you need. But if you know why you will be able to predict what will they do in other situations (I guess).

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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