Lifecycle Marketing — Chapter 2

The Customer Lifecycle

The term Customer Lifecycle may evoke panicked memories of high school biology, but fear not. It’s a very simple yet powerful concept: The customer lifecycle identifies milestones in a common path that most customers tend to follow over the course of their relationship with a retailer.

The Customer Lifecycle describes key milestones that every customer goes through over the course of the relationship with a brand. Customers sign up, they make their first purchase, some turn into repeat buyers - and eventually, sad as it may be to see, some customers eventually stop purchasing altogether.

The goal of Lifecycle Marketing is to tailor marketing communication based on the lifecycle stage of the customer.

For some retailers, that journey would start when the customer first signs up for an email list or registers for the site. And for many companies (particularly in the flash sale and daily deal verticals), this is also the end of the journey for users who never end up moving past subscriber status.

But assuming the customer makes it past that first hurdle, the next stage - and the first step for many retailers - is the customer’s first purchase. This is a decisive moment. To use a relationship metaphor, this is like a first date: it’s the customer’s first interaction with your brand, and an opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

How the relationship evolves from that point on depends on what kind of experience the customer has - and what kind of retention marketing program the retailer has in place. With any luck, the customer might develop brand attachment and go on to buy again. He or she might get into a groove and start making purchases at some typical rate, say, once every quarter.

But then, at some point, the relationship might begin to cool down. The customer might go for a longer-than-typical stretch without making a purchase. And at some point (after the relationship equivalent of numerous unreturned phone calls and missed dates), the retailer might begin to conclude that the relationship had reached its natural end.

Big picture, when you develop a marketing strategy that’s based on the customer’s lifecycle, you take a look at every individual customer and pinpoint where he or she is along this common path. The idea is that while the goal is always the same - developing loyal, repeat customers - there are different tactics and messages that are likely to resonate most with customers at different stages in the customer lifecycle. Think about it: the way you would talk to a new email subscriber is very different from the way you would talk to a long-time customer who is showing signs of lapsing.

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