Know Your Audience: 5 Customer Types You Need to Understand for Ecommerce

Let's dive into the 5 customer types you need to understand and what questions you need to start asking to boost your ecommerce sales.

When it comes to solving your business problems and increasing sales, it’s all about data mining and asking the right questions. Taking a lot of action is crucial in the beginning of your ventures so that you can build a database of customer information to work with, even if your systems and funnels are not ideal in the start. The best way to improve is to test certain strategies, like email or social media ad campaigns, then look at the results and see what you can do to optimize.

Let me help you get ahead of this testing process by explaining the 5 customer types you need to understand and what questions you need to start asking.

1. Big Buyers

This is the Pareto principle in action. The big buyers are your favorite customers that spend the most money multiple times. It’s crucial to understand what makes them different than your other customers and how you can attract more of these big buyers. Let’s look at the questions you should ask about your top spenders.

What do they have in common?
We’re going to ask this question for all of the customer types, since it is that important to ask. The goal for big spenders is figuring out how to duplicate them.

How did you acquire these customers?
Was it word of mouth? Were they walking by your store and fell in love? Was it a deal they couldn’t pass up that got them hooked?

Which campaigns inspire them to act?
Even though they already buy from you, maybe they need a little push from your end to purchase again. Or maybe they love you so much that they just keep coming back without any extra effort from you. Do they love you because of your products or your content?

What do they buy most often?
Once you know what they buy the most, you can start sending them relevant offers and give them deals for being such awesome customers.

The Solution

The first thing you want to do is review all of your campaigns and acquisition sources, with the goal of finding the source that created the most big spenders and understanding why. Once you identify sources that work and the ones that do not, you can determine how to budget your campaigns or decide if you want to eliminate any completely.

Next, make sure you set up a loyalty program for these customers. They deserve it! Give them rewards points for purchases, and special memberships with exclusive deals. Create “members only” perks and give them those perks automatically, without making them sign up to be a member. This will show the buyer how much you appreciate them! Before you know it, they’ll start advocating for your brand instead of purchasing silently.

My Best Buy exclusive deals
‍Best Buy offers special deals for My Best Buy members

2. Incentivized, First-Time Buyers

This audience is the trickiest.  They are the ones who only bought from you once because of a promotion, deal, or other incentive. Your goal is to highlight the quality of your product so that they will want to purchase a second time without the crazy deal that initially got their attention. Here are some questions to help you understand these buyers.

What do they have in common?
Your incentivized buyers may not have anything in common other than they like deals. Keep that in mind, but continue to search for the unique characteristic that separates them from the rest of the pack. Maybe you had one incredibly successful campaign that only sold on discounts and not on the quality of your product, for example.

Which incentives do first-time buyers use most?
Check your analytics, email campaigns, and social media posts to see if there was a particular promotion that resonated with the audience.

Will they only buy again with a new incentive?
This will tell you if your customers like the quality of your products and brand or if they’re just hunting for a deal.

Do incentivized shoppers eventually become top spenders?
You should already know the answer to this after analyzing your top spender habits.


First, you want to make sure that your first-buyer incentives have a unique code on them so that you can track this audience.

A great way to see if your customers are only incentivized or if they put in effort to purchase from you is by understanding their intent. Use funnel analysis tools to help identify where these customers are falling off. If they are further down the funnel, that means they have more intent and want to buy from you. If a majority of your traffic hardly makes it through the top of your funnel, you should reconsider your incentive programs.

3. Browsers Who Don’t Purchase

This is without a doubt the most frustrating “customer” to deal with. That also means that they are the most important because you get to learn what makes them leave, even if they are initially intrigued by your ads. Here are the questions you need to ask for this segment.

Where are they coming from?
The goal of this question is to see if you can pinpoint a unique event that brought them in, but didn’t effectively close the deal. Maybe you’re emails are captivating enough to get them to browse, but your website isn’t appealing enough to get them to buy.

What data do I already have on them?
You know that these people are clicking and browsing, but you don’t quite know exactly what they’re clicking on. Do your best to analyze what you already know about these people, and gather more data using heatmaps and session recording.

What characteristics do they share?
Look at things like their demographics, what pages on your site they visit, and what products they are looking at. Keep trying to find trends and patterns that will help you identify the problem in your funnel.

How can I convert them?
Now that you’ve thought about the previous questions, you can start brainstorming ideas that are the most effective for your audience. Start looking at the most common purchases of your first time buyers, and see how this audience can get attracted to that first purchase item. You’re better off being creative with your own promotions or deals instead of looking to your competition.


The best way to handle these people is by offering free and valuable content. This may not get them to buy today, but it is a long term strategy that will make them returning customers once they do begin to buy. It builds customer loyalty and takes advantage to the principle of reciprocity.

The second solution after asking these questions is to figure out where your conversion barriers are for this specific audience. Is your landing page not mobile-friendly? Maybe your website is difficult to navigate or you’re asking them to do too much at the checkout.

You could also create a “welcome” program for your new subscribers. Send out an email that welcomes them, thanks them for subscribing, and gives them a special deal or free piece of content for signing up to your email list.

Infogram welcome email
‍Infogram has a nice welcome email that gives valuable content right away

4. One-Time Seasonal Shoppers

More likely than not, the reason these buyers only purchased once around the holidays is because they were buying a gift for someone else. They saw your deals for black friday or for mother’s day, and they jumped on them. Here are the questions you can ask to find out if they were purchasing gifts.

Did they ask for gift receipts or request gift wrapping?

Did they send the item to a different address and/or to a different person?
This does not always mean it is a gift, but if you see common trends you can start to get an idea.

Was the product(s) they bought featured in a gift guide or special holiday ad?

Did they check a box indicating it was a gift or use a gift-suggestion app?
This is obviously a clear indicator.


You need to add a covert gift purchase program. This is basically a more subtle way to target gift buyers, assuming that you know for a fact that the buyer is exclusively a gift buyer.

Target them only during the holiday season, or keep them in your regular ad campaigns, but send out a special holiday email with gift ideas right before the holiday season.

We Work’s holiday gift guide
‍We Work’s holiday gift guide

5. Full-Price First Time Buyers

These are the people who buy because they want your product, and they don’t care how much it costs. They don’t care about hunting for any sales, deals, or promotions.  These are the questions you need to ask regarding full-price, first-time buyers.

What do they have in common?
If you haven’t caught on by now, you should be asking this question for all of your audiences.

How did they discover your brand or business?
Usually, they find you through a friend referral since they don’t care too much about finding deals.

What did they buy and what do the products they bought have in common?
Does their full-price purchase have anything to do with the specific item that they bought? Maybe your pricing is off and they are taking advantage of that?

How often did they engage with your business or visit your site before purchasing?
This is huge. Do they actually care about your brand? Or are they just looking for one item?

Did they buy an item at full price the same time you had a special sale on that item?
This is the key indicator to determine whether these customers only care about quality. Or, maybe they were not informed of the sale that you were having. If that’s the case, how could you market your promotions better?

Do they tend to buy at certain times of the month?
It’s nice to know if they were buying at full price because it’s payday and they don’t want to wait for your next promotion.

The Solution

The simple solution for this audience is a second purchase program or a “welcome customer” program. Depending on what they purchased, send an email offering similar products or a special deal for their second purchase. Don’t forget to thank them for their purchase as well. second purchase offer
‍ has a nice second purchase offer and a thank you

It's okay if you don't know the answers

Asking these questions about your customer types and thinking about how to direct your marketing efforts is the first step towards boosting your sales and making everyone happy.