image of five people standing in a row, each doing something different and representing the buyer's journey

Personalizing the Buyer’s Journey with the Help of ThinkLab

New ThinkLab research unveils five specifier types for the interior design industry.

If you’re a product manufacturer, what do you do when your industry undergoes a massive shift? You come to ThinkLab for data-driven insights on how to navigate what’s next. If you are in sales, face time with clients dropped from 80 percent pre-pandemic to less than 40 percent at the time this article was written, according to ThinkLab data. That means you’re trying to find new ways to scale your time and reach your clients. If you are in marketing, consider that specifiers are relying more heavily on digital tools. As a result, you are probably feeling the heat to create “all of the things.” This could leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure as to what to prioritize first and whether what you’re creating will even be used.

If we’ve learned anything within the past few years, it’s that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. But how can manufacturers reach clients in a personalized way when everything feels important? Cue the findings of our latest design hackathon research: specifier personas.

We set out to answer this question: What is the desired blend of human and digital interaction with brands today? After six months of research—including data from more than 20 hours of focus groups and over 850 survey respondents—we created the interior design industry’s first wide-scale persona study.


A buyer persona helps you appeal more authentically to your customers. They are used often in the consumer marketing space and include customer characteristics like demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Beyond simply categorizing specifiers by their role or generation, personas take you through the buyer’s journey and help you understand new mindsets to know where to invest.


We uncovered five unique specifier personas in our research, yet we discovered that they all share a core value: ease of doing business. The key difference for each persona is in how you deliver that ease of doing business and how they each measure success. Therefore, the “phygital” journey (the combination of human attention and digital self-serve) with your brand varies for each persona. The power comes in understanding and curating these moments along the buying journey through the lens of persona preferences.


01 The rep-first specifier:

Currently the most represented persona in our sample set, it is likely the most familiar to you. In fact, if you are in sales, you may have thought this was the only specifier persona.

You may hear something like this from a rep-first specifier: “I believe in personal relationships and value companies that have a local rep.”

02 The brand-first specifier:

Constituting the second-largest share of our sample set, this persona may have been front and center for you if you are in marketing.

You might hear something like this from a brand-first specifier: “I have a small collection of brands that are my go-tos. I’m extremely loyal to these brands and will only deviate if the client requires it.”

03 The sustainability-first specifier:

Though this persona currently takes up the smallest percentage, these specifiers are probably working on some of the highest-profile projects in our industry, and we believe they are a rapidly emerging segment.

You may hear something like this from a sustainability-first specifier: “If I don’t advocate for the environment, who will? My joy is helping clients discover they don’t have to sacrifice other things to reach sustainability goals.”

04 The data-first specifier:

We found that this persona was most likely working as an end user in purchasing or a member of the commercial real estate community. They are also the most likely to be working on large campus projects with annuity business and extensive RFPs.

Here’s what you might hear from a data-first specifier: “I have a specific set of criteria I am trying to meet, and I need clear information given to me by the manufacturer so that I can form my own comparisons.”

05 The digital-first specifier:

While this persona is certainly digital-first, it’s important to note that they are not digital only. In fact, when they want to speak to a human, they require the quickest response of all the personas.

You might hear something like this from a digital-first specifier: “I should be able to self-serve for all the easy stuff online without requiring help. But when I need assistance, I need it now.”


ThinkLab developed a persona guide to orient you to the unique preferences of each—along with applicable tactics to help you craft persona-specific experiences.

Visit and learn more about how to maximize your reach to each of these five personas.

Meredith Campbell is a member of the Research & Content Development team for ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW. Join in to explore what’s next at

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