Personas—profiles that represent your brand's customers—are an indispensable part of a well-designed brand marketing strategy.

Product managers, e-commerce specialists, and marketing professionals all rely on personas to target specific customer groups. They filter decisions about product development, Web outreach, and brand management through customer personas to gain a better understanding of how potential actions affect their customers.

Because of the proliferation of data sources, companies today have more information than ever to build customer personas and gain fresh insights into customer preferences and motivations. Although much of the emphasis on Big Data focuses on quantitative research, qualitative research is an essential component in creating more accurate, realistic portraits of target customers.

Here are three ways qualitative research informs the persona-building process and how marketers can use qualitative data to make better decisions.

1. Using qualitative data to make human-centered decisions

In the absence of qualitative data, marketers are merely guessing at how real people perceive products and services, and receive brand messages.

Marketers have always constructed personas using the best information they have, but without qualitative data, that typically results in manufactured representations that lack the heart and soul of a persona based on qualitative data.

For example, video-recorded research can reveal incredible insights into the cognitive funnel associated with e-commerce. Rather than just analyze quantitative site performance metrics, companies can gain deeper understanding by conducting qualitative research by recording consumers as they engage on sites, identifying what portion of the page they focus on, and noting their responses to messages.

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image of Kyle Henderson

Kyle Henderson is founder and chief product officer at YouEye, an online user research platform that features remote usability testing.

LinkedIn: Kyle Henderson