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The customer lifecycle is the top consideration when developing a marketing strategy. It describes how a customer interacts with your brand, connects a need with the value of your product, and enables an ongoing transactional relationship. Ironically, as the digital footprint has expanded to global proportions, lifecycle stages have never been smaller or more analogous to the physical experience of discovering a brick and mortar store and making an in-person purchase. The better you accommodate this process, the more likely you are to drive repeat engagement and brand advocacy.
Let's explore the customer lifecycle through the lens of a local business.
The first step in the lifecycle is when the customer becomes aware of your brand. This introduction could come through exposure to your marketing materials or a coworker's recommendation. This oftentimes acts like a “blinking light” — drawing attention and promoting curiosity among potential customers. On average, we see 362 marketing messages per day. Interestingly enough, we only notice about 24% of those. That’s a lot of noise to cut through, so making sure you have the brightest light with creative, high-quality content is essential to capturing interest.
This step is an important one — especially with as easy as it is to connect (or disconnect) with brands through social media. If your audience is interested in what they see, they may begin to follow your brand, paying close attention to reviews and comments to get a better understanding of your company and products. Make sure to stay active online and keep your social profiles updated. You'll want consumers to know that you care about your brand and are available to help.
Evaluation is a critical stage before purchase. The length of this phase can vary depending on several factors, including the product, cost, seasonality, and how many other options are available. In this phase of the customer lifecycle, consumers conduct their final research and comparisons between potential products and companies. To assist them with this process, provide easy-to-use comparison tools, free trials, and self-guided digital services. 24/7 online chat sessions are also helpful to immediately answer questions and guide them to the information that they’re looking for.
The key to a successful evaluation stage is making it easy for potential customers to find persuasive (yet honest) information about what makes your products superior. The longer that you can keep their attention, the more information you can provide, so make sure your content is easy to navigate, engaging, and valuable — bonus points if you can make it entertaining, too! Sometimes nifty tools like interactive comparison charts, augmented reality (AR), and 360 product viewing can encourage viewers to spend more time on your site, which can lead to conversions.
In this phase of the customer lifecycle, it’s crucial to assist your audience with making their final decision. Approximately 83% of consumers will require some degree of support when shopping online, and 53% abandon their purchase if they can’t find the answers that they’re looking for. Providing chatbots, 24/7 email support, FAQ pages, detailed self-service pages, and video demonstrations can make or break the opportunity to convert.
Emails and advertising during this stage should be highly personalized, based on the consumer’s behaviors on the website and other interactions with your brand. Focus on unbeatable offers and add a sense of urgency to encourage them to pull the trigger. Free shipping combined with a 10% discount, gift with purchase, and similar offers offered in a limited time frame often do the trick. Popular limitations include “Until midnight,” “This weekend only,” and “48 hours left (with countdown clock).”
Also, remember to add these offers as pop-ups on the website where consumers are weighing their purchasing decisions. Exit pop-ups will catch them before they leave, but you can also add them after a certain amount of time on the site, or after they add their first item to the cart, long before they contemplate leaving. These offers may also encourage them to purchase more items or upgrade.
The lifecycle doesn’t end with a single transaction. Maintaining a positive and supportive relationship ensures that all the hard work of selling your product doesn’t go to waste. It’s been said that the least expensive customer is the one you already have. Not only is it easier to get them to purchase again, but treat them right, and they’ll contribute to your business in the form of referral power.
But don’t take our word for it — 76% of consumers say that customer service is a test of how much a company values them, with 97% saying it’s a crucial factor in deciding which brand will earn their loyalty.
Continue to maintain the same excellent service in step five, while also encouraging customers to purchase again. Since you have the most familiarity with your existing customers, leverage that in your marketing efforts to create highly customized offers, messaging, and content that resonates with them. Remember, there’s a higher chance of conversion with existing customers since they already liked your products enough to convert the first time. Customers are also terrific targets for upselling and cross-selling.
Also, take the opportunity to get customer feedback through surveys. The results can guide you on how to improve products and services and better serve your existing customers. If you make improvements that they care about, share it with them. This type of responsiveness helps customers feel recognized and valued.
The constant prioritization of these activities will not only increase the chances your customer comes back but will improve the likelihood they promote your business to friends, family, and business associates.
Acquiring and retaining customers is the secret to longevity for every business. The customer lifecycle reinforces this concept by drawing attention to the fact that every phase of the buyer journey is essential and adds value. When you plan your marketing strategy, ensure that you have plans for each step in the process, so consumers feel connected from awareness to advocacy.
Originally published on January 28th, 2020, last updated on June 16th, 2022.