If you run your own business, you should already know how important it is to understand the needs and pain points of your customers. With a customer lifecycle, you can easily track and monitor the customer experience, from initial brand awareness to maintaining the relationship post-sale.
Customers are overwhelmed with choices nowadays, but with dedicated content and marketing strategies for each stage, your business can connect with customers throughout their shopping journey.
In this article, we’ll examine what we mean by a customer lifecycle, the five main stages, and best practices when linking the customer lifecycle with your online store.
The customer lifecycle follows the path customers take as they advance through the sales funnel, from awareness to brand loyalty. This, in turn, helps businesses shape marketing decisions and nurture beneficial customer relationships.
To put it simply, the customer lifecycle gives an overview of customer behavior and helps businesses discover strategic opportunities, rather than focusing attention on a single sale or metric. It involves building long-term relationships with customers, managing their experiences, and delivering optimized messaging for each stage.
The goal is to produce content that specifically targets each touchpoint in the customer journey and to measure the success of these actions.
It’s a never-ending loop, not a journey from point A to point B – once a customer has converted and started a relationship with your business, the work doesn’t stop. Your business should continue to make them aware of new products and deliver content to drive them toward additional purchases.
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If you want to trace every stage of your customer lifecycle, check out our guide to the Customer Journey Map, a visual representation of your customer journey.
As we’ve already mentioned, the customer lifecycle gives an online store the opportunity to step back from the individual customer touchpoints and view the journey as a whole. Still, the lifecycle can be broken down into five main stages, each reflecting a different step in the customer journey.
Despite the fact that each stage requires unique actions to be taken, and success is measured in varying ways across the lifecycle, the five main stages are all connected. You can’t achieve brand loyalty without first building brand awareness, for example.
Let’s get started:
At the beginning, a customer is on the search for the perfect product or service to solve a problem. The key question for your business is: Can customers find you?
To help them, your business can build brand awareness by posting regularly on social media, creating relevant content for your site, promoting positive experiences, and ensuring your business performs well across search engines.
The market is competitive, so you want your business to position itself as the solution to the customer’s issue – the customer is doing their own research and comparison, and the steps we’ve outlined should help your business stand out from the crowd.
When reaching out to new customers, we recommend measuring success through the number of website visitors, your post impressions, and your follower count across platforms.
Once a customer has become aware of your online store and what you have to offer, the next question is: Do you have the information and resources available for customers to make a decision?
The acquisition stage is all about generating leads and locking the customer in so they feel satisfied and confident enough to proceed with a purchase. Through understanding your target audience, you can produce content to help the customer make an informed decision. For example, a blog post on how to use a product correctly, or a table detailing shipping costs.
A good way to monitor a customer’s interest in your business is to track how long they spend on your site browsing, if they’re adding items to their cart, and how much they actively engage with your content.
Here comes the exciting part – a sale! After finding your business and reviewing resources to make an informed decision (thanks to your expert content), the customer is ready to buy, buy, buy.
This positive experience has moved the user into the conversion stage of the customer lifecycle, and it’s time to water your blossoming customer relationship.
Now’s your chance to evaluate your purchasing process and see if anything can be improved. What prevents a customer from converting?
Your checkout page could be too time-consuming or complicated, or you might have a poor refund policy. Whatever it is, it’s best to keep things simple and easy to find. For example, Shopify has announced a new one-page checkout layout in its Winter ‘23 Edition to help prevent cart abandonment.
Thankfully, sales are very easy to keep track of and it’s pretty obvious if the business is thriving or failing. Take a look at your lead conversion rates, average order value, and general revenue.
After a customer has placed enough trust in your brand to make a purchase, it’s now time to maintain that relationship. The customer lifecycle isn’t just about attracting new customers, but also retaining existing ones too – as a business, you can learn from their reviews and feedback to kickstart positive change.
So, how can you make the customer experience better?
Customers want to feel special and valued by a business, so checking in with post-purchase surveys or personalized content is a great way to keep the relationship alive. You can ask questions, such as:
- Were they happy with their purchase?
- What was their experience like shopping with your store?
- Did your business provide great customer service?
- Is there anything to improve?
You could even establish a customer loyalty program with exclusive benefits, such as discounts or referral codes, to further entice customers to stick around!
The retention stage relies heavily on how a customer feels after engaging with your business, but don’t worry, there are still effective ways to monitor customer behavior. You can keep an eye on subscription rates, the number of repeat purchases made, and social media engagement, for example.
The ultimate goal from the customer lifecycle is loyalty to your business. Following a positive experience through the previous stages of the lifecycle, the customer essentially becomes a brand ambassador.
They can help your business grow through the actions they take, whether that’s sharing posts about their purchase on social media (and creating user-generated content), referring friends and family to your online store, or writing product reviews.
As a business owner, you have to ask yourself: Will your customers return and how can you maximize each customer’s potential?
An engaged and loyal customer is more likely to purchase items they love time and time again, plus they’re eager to hear about new products and brand updates. Still, it’s important as a business owner that you take the time – through each customer lifecycle stage – to prove how valuable your business, product, and services are to the customer.
To measure brand loyalty, we’d recommend taking a look at how well received your business is across review sites and forums. Gathering a customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is also a great metric to have.
We’ve already examined the main stages of the customer lifecycle, but how can you use this strategy effectively for your online store?
It’s common knowledge that a better customer experience will result in happy customer relationships and more sales. By following the steps below, you can start to optimize your business, strategies, and content according to the customer lifecycle.
Here are eight top tips for managing the customer lifecycle with your online store:
- Determine your target audience – Identifying your customers and building buyer personas can help you approach the right audience with your marketing. This is especially important at the start of a customer relationship when you’re building brand awareness. How can you best serve your customers?
- Share relevant and topical content – If you run a pet food business, there’s no need to post content on the latest fashion trends for women.
- Provide resources – A customer is in the acquisition stage, so make their decision process easier by providing all of the necessary information, whether that’s product details or pricing. Customers should be able to easily find whatever they need on your website or brand pages.
- Engage with customers directly – Be proactive and reach out to your target audience to share how you can best serve them as a business, whether that’s through free trials or an in-depth conversation. It’s important to connect with customers across a variety of channels too, so make sure to monitor wherever your brand is present.
- Make checkout easy – Once your customer is ready to convert, it’s best to make your checkout process seamless to avoid cart abandonment or customer frustration. We’d recommend a single checkout page and lots of payment options.
- Personalize interactions – This is especially important when attracting new customers or when managing customers post-purchase. For example, you could thank them for shopping with your business, share delivery updates, or message about related products the customer might be interested in.
- Automate your processes – A great tip for managing your store with ease is to automate your processes and workflows, especially as your audience grows.
- Request feedback regularly – Comments, surveys, and reviews are a great source of information and a key way to find out how customers really feel. Requesting feedback or following up with customers can help your business spot areas in need of improvement, and can even help you convert new customers and maintain those all-important customer relationships.
The customer lifecycle is there to help your business find and connect with more customers – you can customize your marketing and strategies to better serve your customers, and discover opportunities for growth and success.
As we’ve discussed, the customer lifecycle covers the entire customer journey, from initial awareness to becoming a long-term customer. Understanding each stage allows you, as a business owner, to successfully guide customers along the sales funnel and create positive consumer experiences.
The advice in this article should help you get started but, most of all, you must always remember to focus on every stage of the customer lifecycle and keep your messaging consistent and relevant. Your strategy should tie back to the needs of your customers at every point and help position your business as the perfect solution to their problem.