Positive customer interaction is a critical part of your success in retail. Providing an excellent user experience throughout their interactions with you is vital for bringing in repeat customers. But how can you start optimising this?
The customer lifecycle allows you to break down the stages in which you interact with your customers. Spending time and resources assessing and improving each stage ensures you have the knowledge and technology to move customers through the cycle smoothly.
But what exactly is the customer lifecycle? It’s a description of the steps a consumer takes before, during, and after completing a transaction with a business. This process functions as a cycle, and each stage can be repeated. Key goals to work towards include brand loyalty, repeat business and brand awareness.
The customer lifecycle considers the entirety of the customer experience and user interactions. It typically consists of 3 phases with specific subcategories. The process involves every touchpoint a customer has with a business, starting from becoming aware of the company. It continues even when they become loyal customers.
Basic stages of a customer lifecycle
The customer lifecycle can be broken down into three phases: acquire, engage, and retain. Within that, there are a few subcategories. Below, we break down the phases into their subcategories and discuss what you should do to optimize the stages of the customer lifecycle.
At this stage, you need to focus on your marketing strategy. Marketing efforts are often spent on potential customers. However, you should also include existing customers in your strategy. They need to be reminded of your company’s offer and encouraged to continue interacting with your company.
As well as more traditional methods of promoting brand awareness – print and email campaigns targeted advertising, and so on – it’s worth building partnerships with social media influencers. When choosing influencers to approach, pick someone whose viewership is your target audience. You can use them to expand your customer base and create brand advocates.
Customers not only need to be aware of your company, but they also need to be interested and willing to interact with your business. During this stage, you are trying to optimise your conversion rate. For new customers, you are trying to drive them towards their first purchase.
Make sure you build personalised experiences for your potential customers when you are onboarding. You want to ensure that your content marketing is effective and that another personalised communication speaks directly to your potential customers.
At this stage, your customer has decided to make a purchase. This is when you should focus on building a relationship with that customer. For first-time buyers, this step is perhaps the most important. While onboarding, ensure that all their needs are met. First impressions are everything, and you need to make sure their customer experience is excellent.
Consider using CRM or Customer Relationship Management systems to manage this interaction. Especially if you run an eCommerce business, this can be an effective way to manage the virtual nature of your customer base.
If you can continually send relevant messages to a customer, you will increase their chances to return. The most effective way to encourage interactions with your customers is to start a loyalty program. In a Statista Report published in 2020, it was found that 25% of those surveyed had loyalty programs with e-commerce businesses and 87% with supermarkets.
Keeping high rates of customer engagement through strategies like loyalty programs encourages conversation with your customers. The distribution of messages can be done through marketing automation. This can trigger messaging to customers that meet certain conditions. This can be a few days post-purchase or after a certain amount of time since their last activity.
You want to make sure you are encouraging customers to return to your company. Successful customer lifecycle management tries to limit the amount of churn that occurs. One way to do this is to get clients to subscribe to your product or service. Subscriptions can limit churn and produce customers who are loyal to your brand. This step within the customer lifecycle stages can be carried out by your sales team or your customer service representatives.
One principal goal within the customer lifecycle is to foster customer loyalty. The pinnacle of customer loyalty is their willingness to provide a referral to your business. One of the best forms of marketing occurs by word-of-mouth. Brand advocacy can only happen if you foster a relationship and encourage customer success. Loyal customers can expand your base to their friends and families or provide things like testimonials.
Customer Lifecycle vs Customer Journey
When working on the customer experience, the difference between the customer lifecycle and customer journey can be difficult to distinguish. However, the customer journey—also known as the buyer’s journey—focuses on the consumer’s position in the interaction. Meanwhile, the lifecycle is organised and driven by the sales and marketing teams to further conversion efforts.
Unlike the customer lifecycle, the customer journey only has three different stages. The stages are:
- Awareness: Customers realise they have a problem or pain point and start looking for information.
- Consideration: Customers understand their problem or pain point and begin to look for solutions actively.
- Decision: Customers try to resolve their problems by looking for solutions.
Your company must work to fit into the customer journey , and the process only works linearly. However, in the customer lifecycle, consumers are cycling through the stages of interaction with your brand. The different stages of the lifecycle create the marketing and sales funnel.
Just because the two are different does not mean they are mutually exclusive. Your team can manage your workflows so both the customer lifecycle and buyer’s journey can work together. They first intersect during the awareness stage. This is where your customer’s journey starts and where they enter into your customer lifecycle.
Within your lifecycle, you must consider your buyer’s needs during each stage of their journey. Once the customer has subscribed to your content, they exist firmly within the lifecycle. You want your paying customers to be satisfied with your customer service. Paying particular attention to needs during the customer’s journey can lead you to a greater lifetime value for your clients and lead to higher conversion rates during your customer lifecycle.
What to Look Out for in the Customer Lifecycle
Your customer lifecycle has many moving parts involving multiple departments. There are few things that you need to watch out for when you start utilising your customer lifecycle. They include:
Problems with Conversion
During the acquire phase, it’s easy to get caught up in monitoring the amount of traffic. However, the first thing you need to consider is conversion ratios. If you have a subscription for marketing materials, you want to look at your website-to-sign-up ratio. If you have high traffic and low signups, it may be caused by:
- Targeting the wrong customers
- A confusing or lacklustre website
- An issue with your product or market fit
Especially in e-commerce or in any SaaS customer lifecycle, conversion numbers won’t be nearly as large as the number of people who visit your site. Just realise that this is normal. When considering customer lifestyle metrics, keep this discrepancy in mind.
Although customer lifecycle marketing aims to create loyal customers, you will not keep everyone interested in your product. Set realistic goals for customer retention and the frequency of user engagement. This will vary based on industry and individual companies.
To figure out what goals your company should set in terms of limiting churn, look at your past performance and the performance of your competitors. This will give you a rough guide to set goals for your team.
How to deliver personalised interactions throughout the entire customer lifecycle
Personalised interactions within your customer lifecycle are essential in laying the groundwork for your customer management goals. The beauty of modern marketing technology is that you can now easily integrate your customer’s unique preferences seamlessly into your marketing strategy. Here are some ways you can personalise your interactions at each stage of the customer lifecycle.
Catch Customers’ Attention
Use social media, the web, and physical stores to drive qualified traffic and engage anonymous users. Use your target audience and sponsored ads to market your brand to new and existing customers.
Have your users subscribe to your marketing emails. This data can be obtained via progressive profiling or through gradual interactions with your company. When you do this, make sure your customers know how you plan to use their data, the benefits of signing up, and that you’ll continue to deliver on your brand promise.
Once your customers subscribe, you want to make sure that they continue to get personalised information. If you use marketing software, you can have these emails sent automatically. They can help you upsell or encourage subscribers to re-engage with your company. It is also a great way to welcome new users to your platform.
If you have an app, you can encourage your customers to sign-up for push notifications. You can also encourage them to get notified when you post on social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram. From there, you can cross-promote your channels so your customers are always reminded of what your business can offer them.
When you evaluate your customer experience, you must consider how your company performs within the customer lifecycle. Look at each stage in the cycle and investigate whether your company could be doing more to provide a personalised experience to your customers.
Now that you know each stage and some ways you can personalise consider the things you can do to support your customers and yourself within the customer lifecycle. For example, RingCentral for Retail can help you connect you and your customers online, in-store, and everywhere in-between.
All your communications can be centralised, which can help you make your communications personal and consistent. It provides a seamless service that is vital to the optimisation of your customer lifecycle.
Originally published Aug 30, 2021