Everyone needs a personality. After all, your personality facilitates all the important moments in your life, and is what you are really remembered for suggested Matt OKeefe, a lifehacktivist. Although everyone has a unique personality, the characteristics or qualities we display can be grouped into personality traits, which we’ll get later to. But let’s first have a look at what a personality is…
So what is personality?
Your personality is the inner psychological characteristics that both determine and reflect how you respond to your environment 1. Therefore can personality be defined as ‘the intrinsic organisation of an individual’s mental world that is stable over time and consistent over situations’ 2.
Personality also has three distinct properties 1:
- Personality reflects individual differences.
- It is consistent and enduring.
- Personality can change.
So why is it important for retailers to know about their customer’s personalities? The personalities of your customers tell you a lot of who they are. For that reason retailers can segment their customers according to their personality traits, which may be valuable in providing them a personalized online experience. Next we need to understand how your customers’ personalities work in the retail space.
Customer personality in the retail space
Experienced retailers can quickly recognize their customer’s personality traits when they enter the store and start shopping. They do it by looking at their customer’s body languages or their mannerism. Additionally retailers take note what products interest their customers and how they socialize or interact with patrons and staff.
By knowing the personality trait of a customer, a store owner can now approach the customer in ways that she feels comfortable with herself in the store environment. Accordingly she may enjoy a positive shopping experience and becomes loyal to your brand.
And what about your online customers?
The major difference between the online and offline environment has to do with the consumer’s role 3. Thus, while the offline environment gives consumers a passive role, when they are online they become active explorers. For example, online customers may decide which messages they receive, the order in which they receive them, and for how long they will receive them. Importantly, retailers need to help their online customers to understand their roles – by allowing them in an environment that is according to their personality traits.
Although online retailers may not easily observe what their customers’ body language are, they have the opportunity to collect valuable data about their online behaviour. After all, online customer behaviors include a wide range of processes and activities related to sensory reactions, perceptions, attitude formation, preferences, decisions, satisfaction evaluation and loyalty formation 3. Most of these online activities by customers can be measured and analysed.
Once you are aware of your customers’ personality traits, you may use that knowledge to customize and manage their online environment to maximize their shopping experience. But what are the personality traits and what do they tell you about your customers?
The Big Five personality traits
The Big Five Model is one of the most widely used approaches to study and describe our personality traits 2. It comprises of five dimensions: neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness. These five dimensions are considered to be the underlying traits that make up an individual’s overall personality:
- Neuroticism – individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness.
- Extroversion – these people tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. Extraverts are energized and thrive off being around other people.
- Agreeableness – people with behavioural characteristics that are perceived as kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm, and considerate.
- Openness – these ‘open minded’ people involve the following dimensions: active imagination (fantasy), aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity.
- Conscientiousness – a person scoring high in conscientiousness usually has a high level of self-discipline. These individuals prefer to follow a plan, rather than act spontaneously.
So, if you know which one of the five personality traits your online customers have, you may creative a hub for them on your website. Your customer will feel welcome in this hub because all the processes and activities will be customized to her personality trait. A great online customer experience may be the result!
Now we’re going to look how to manage each dimension of the Big Five Model.
The Big Five Model as a tool to enhance your customers’ online experiences
Your online customer is probably alone when she visits your website. There is no eye contact, and no body language to display or to observe. Furthermore, is the environment quiet with no outside influences (other people, noises and floor staff). She is probably now out of her comfort zone she’d grown into, the physical one in which she’d developed and evolved her personality in.
But now she is in a virtual world. Her personality traits from a physical environment may not be helpful online. Unless you as the online retailer, can create an online environment that fits her personality trait. She will feel home again – and hopefully, for you, it will be business as usual.
Create an online environments that fit the personality traits of your customers
- Your Neurotic customers – they are likely to be your most difficult customers. So if a neurotic customer visits your site, she should be guided to an area where all her concerns are taking care off. Here a “Most frequent questions asked” link may help her. Also pages that will explain the products, processes and term and conditions in a concise understandable way. A live chat bot may also give her some peace of mind.
- The Extraverts – the noisy ones. These customers should be directed to your website’s social community, and then asked to be a group leader. Extraverts will enjoy the interaction and your website should offer them a platform to pronounce themselves. They will have a happy experience if they are fed with news about products and the industry and then have an opportunity say something about it.
- Agreeableness – the loyal ones. They are respectful, sociable, and trustworthy and good at listening to and forming relationships with others. These customers need also to join your business’s online communities where they most likely will defend your brand.
- Openness (open minded customers) – your creative customers that will challenge the status quo. These open-minded customers will most probably be your most valuable customers because they may come forward with brilliant ideas. Give them content that will stimulate their curiosity.
- Conscientiousness – perfectionists. For them, a good online experience will be in an environment where everything is organized and in place. They love to follow strict rules and procedures – so give that to them!
Ever more of your customers are moving online to look for products, find answers or to interact in communities. Many times they may end up at a web page that does not match their personality traits. Most probably they will exit your site and search for an alternative – until they enjoy an online experience in an environment that is customized to suit their personality traits.
So, if you are collecting data about your customers and visitors to your website, you might as well find out what their personality traits are. Because, maybe your competitors are doing it already…
1 Schiffman, L.G. and Kanuk, L.L. 1997. Consumer behavior, 6th, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 113-143.
2 Mulyanegara, R.C., Tsarenko, Y. and Anderson, A. 2009. The Big Five and brand personality: Investigating the impact of consumer personality on preferences towards particular brand personality, Journal of Brand Management, 16(4):234-247.
3 Dobre, C. and Milovan-Ciuta, A.M. 2015. Personality influences on online stores customers behavior, Ecoforum Journal, 4(1):69-76.