An e-commerce company that doesn’t have a clear concept of their target audience can’t expect to have great results. The e-commerce world is a fiercely competitive one, where businesses can easily go unnoticed if they aren’t using smart online marketing techniques. An online marketing campaign is wholly ineffective if the person running the campaign doesn’t know exactly to whom they are speaking.

Understanding your target demographic is a cornerstone of good business performance management, or BPM. While it may seem like a daunting task to attempt to narrow down your potential customers into one homogenous group, it’s not all that difficult if you use the right techniques. Here are some ways that e-commerce companies can easily define their target audience.

Cyber-stalk your competitors

The idea of monitoring closely – or “cyber-stalking” – your competitors may make you feel icky or as if you are “playing dirty.” However, there is no shame in this tactic and just about every successful business owner is guilty of it. If you don’t think that Pepsi closely follows what Coca-Cola is up to, then you’re sorely mistaken.

Identify that online storefronts that you are in direct competition with and investigate how they are targeting their audiences. Monitor their Twitter and Facebook pages to see the types of people who frequently like and comment on statuses and posts. Figuring out who’s shopping with your closest competitors is a great way to figure out your own ideal audience.

Treat your social media followers like people

When you get a new follower on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, don’t just celebrate your increasing total number of followers. Instead, click on their profile link and take a moment to really look at the person who just took the time to become a fan of your brand. If you do this enough, you will start to see certain patterns emerging. It’s also not a bad idea to send a message thanking the person for becoming a fan. Treating your online followers like real, actual human beings seems like such common sense advice and yet is something that scores of online marketers fail to get right time and time again.

Encourage reviews, surveys and testimonials

When a customer confirms their order on your storefront, your communication with them is not finished. In addition to confirmation e-mails, you should always be sending an e-mail encouraging them to leave a review, post a testimonial or complete a survey. Not only will this give you and idea of how your company is doing in terms of customer service, but it’s an opportunity for you to have your customer voluntarily give you some information about their demographic. You can save this data and, over time, create charts that will help you to identify emerging themes in what kind of person does business with your company.

Stop doing the things that don’t work

If certain marketing strategies and sales aren’t working, abandon them. As your company grows and begins to really master understanding your target audience, you’ll quickly begin to understand just why certain things work and others don’t. For example, if big bulk item promotions don’t seem to sell and emerging customer data is telling you that the majority of your consumers are single and childless, you’ll be able to quickly put two and two together. Looking at which promotions are successful and which aren’t is a great way to connect all the dots when you’re accumulating data about your customers’ demographics.

Being able to identify what type of person does business with your company will allow you to focus all of your marketing and promotional efforts in ways that work. Don’t expect to have clear answers overnight. Compiling useful data on this subject takes time and sometimes a bit of energy, but eventually, you’ll have data that is absolutely invaluable in aiding your company to grow.

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