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Map Your Ecommerce Marketing to the Customer Lifecycle

Much like the phases of the moon, your buyers go through a series of stages as they engage with your B2C brand.

First, an anonymous user browses your site, then makes a purchase, then another, and slowly, but surely, becomes a loyal customer. This is the customer lifecycle, and understanding the ins and outs of this ever-changing process is the key to effective ecommerce marketing.

If your customer lifecycle today only has two steps — potential customer and active customer— you’re thinking about the customer experience far too simply. Each step in the buying process should have its own unique and personalized focus on building each kind of customer relationships.

The depth of segmentation and detail of your customer lifecycle should influence all of your marketing activities and be measured by specific customer engagement and behavior.

You cannot market to one-time buyers or potential customers in the same way that you market to a loyal customer of 5 years, for example.

Here’s how to map personalized marketing to each step in the ecommerce customer lifecycle to maximize retention and drive long-term customer loyalty.

Outline Your Customer Lifecycle

Not every B2C business has the same exact customer lifecycle. Depending on your industry and the products you sell specifically, your lifecycle may be quite simple or very complex. It could take just a few months to engage a loyal customer or it could take years. But the majority of customers go through the same 4 basic steps as they buy from you:

  • No Purchase
  • One Purchase
  • Repeat
  • Loyal 

Of course, not every customer will convert at each step and become a loyal customer — some will inevitably drop off and won’t return to buy again. But your goal as a B2C marketer should always be to push them through the sales funnel and drive them towards that final stage. However, you can break down the customer lifecycle even further. Each different stage of the buying process can be broken into more detailed segments within each cycle.

Customer Lifecycle

Here you can see each of the 4 main lifecycle stages broken down by sub-segments:

  • At Risk: Has not been seen across any channel in over 30 days
  • Recent Buyer: Has purchased within the last 30 days, but has not been seen on any other channel since
  • Awareness: Has been seen in the last 30 days
  • Interest: Has shown a basic level of interest in a product, such as viewed a product
  • Consideration: Has shown further interest in a product, such as viewing a single product twice
  • Intent: Has shown real purchase intent by adding a product to cart

These steps can, of course, be customized to your business, depending on your buyer’s behavior. For example, one company may consider the average timeline stages mentioned above as a lapsed customer, while another company may consider their customer journey spot on with this timeframe. But generally, this means that within the group of repeat purchasers, you could have a group of existing customers that are fully engaged and about to buy again, along with a group that is completely unengaged with your brand and unlikely to buy. Understanding these customer touchpoints is key to turning buyers into true brand advocates.

Personalize Your Marketing Activities

Now that you’ve identified and broken down your customer lifecycle into specific and detailed segments, you can begin to map your marketing strategy activities to each stage. The way you market to buyers at each step should be vastly different, including:

  • Specific messaging
  • Most responsive channel
  • Targeted conversion goals
  • …and more

You should hyper-personalize all of your communications with customers according to where the buyer is in the lifecycle today, whether a new customer, post-purchase, or loyal.

For example, you know a group of at-risk, one-purchase customers needs a nudge to come back to your site and make a second purchase. By segmenting that group, you can send them targeted email marketing exclusive offers like a discount for 20% off their second purchase, along with suggested items from the same line of products as their first purchase. At the same time, you can serve up targeted ads on social media to those same buyers, using segment sync.

West Elm Winback Campaign

You can do this type of targeted marketing again and again, offering custom loyalty messaging to repeat customers and introductory welcome messages to new customers. The more personalized and tailored the message, the more likely a customer is to respond and you will significantly improve customer retention.

Measure Success Throughout the Lifecycle

As you map your marketing activities to the many stages of the customer lifecycle, you also have to make sure you’re offering the right message at the right time. You never know what mix of messaging will work for a specific stage in the lifecycle, and should always be on the lookout for a new tactic and a new channel that may engage your buyers at that stage. Make sure to try out email, push notifications, SMS marketing, paid ads, and more to test out your best messages for each and every stage.

At each step in this process, carefully measure the success of each of your marketing efforts and continually A/B test your messages and tweak them according to the data. You may find that your welcome message to new buyers isn’t converting at a high enough rate and have to re-write it to get the best possible results. Mapping to the customer lifecycle is a powerful tool in your arsenal, but it doesn’t get you out of the hard work of experimenting and testing your marketing.

But customer lifecycle marketing will make your job easier. With this type of powerful dynamic segmentation across email, paid ads, and other platforms, you can really drill down and engage with your audience at each stage. By using marketing automation to offer value throughout the customer lifecycle, you’ll build serious brand loyalty and you’ll see your buyers come back again and again.

This post was originally published on Sept. 12, 2017, but was recently updated.

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