The customer lifecycle is a beautiful thing.

It starts with the potential of a new person visiting your site. In an ideal world, it ends with a meaningful relationship: a new loyal customer.

As customers move through the stages of their unique lifecycle, your ecommerce brand should engage with them each step of the way.

However, many brands are not doing this at all. In our recent study, we found that customer lifecycle marketing is not a priority for most B2C marketers. This is a sad state of affairs for your buyers. Lifecycle marketing can help you build more meaningful customer engagement, personalizing your marketing based on the stage they’re currently at in the cycle.

By automating this high-touch marketing process, your ecommerce business can actually gain an advantage in the market, saving time and improving conversion rates. If you’re ready to stop overlooking lifecycle automation, here’s how to add it to your ecommerce marketing strategy.

What is Lifecycle Automation?

In the world of ecommerce, your buyers go through a series of stages in their lifecycle as customers. Each ecommerce brand is slightly different, but the customer lifecycle generally follows these broad steps:

  • No Purchase
  • 1 Purchase
  • Repeat purchase
  • Loyal customer

As you can see below, there are also smaller, more detailed stages within each larger stage, outlining whether your customers are at-risk, interested, or showing intent to make another purchase soon.

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Your customers may take fewer or more steps, depending on your product and market. However, it’s up to you as a B2C marketer to drive the conversions from the first step to the last step, building long-term customer engagement. You want to gently encourage your buyers with marketing activities to move to the next phase of the lifecycle. For example, you could send an automated email that encourages a one-time buyer to come back again by offering a certain percentage off a second purchase.

Use customer data to segment buyers

If you have accurate customer data on exactly where your buyers are in their lifecycle, it’s easy to segment and personalize your messages based on the phase they’re currently in. The more detail you have about your customer behavior, the more effective your message will be. If your data on your customers is incomplete or out of date, lifecycle marketing won’t work and, in fact, could hurt your conversion rates.

But if you’re confident in your data, you can tailor your message exactly to where your buyers are right now. You can specifically market to at-risk one-purchase buyers, for example, and have a better idea of the messages you should send. These are buyers who haven’t engaged with your brand in more than a month since their first purchase. What can you do to win them back and convince them to buy a second time? This data can make your ecommerce marketing far more effective.

Engage across channels

Lifecycle automation is often thought of as a specific part of email marketing campaigns, but it can be much more than that. There’s no reason for customer engagement to be restricted to one channel alone. You can also engage your buyers through social media, push notifications, and even paid ads.

When it comes to lifecycle marketing campaigns, don’t restrict yourself. If your buyers aren’t responding to email, other channels could spark their interest instead. For example, you could coordinate a marketing campaign for second purchase buyers, offering a discount on their next purchase via emails, web push, and paid ads on social channels. If your brand is everywhere your buyer looks — with a true omnichannel marketing campaign — they will be more likely to engage.

Automate messages in real-time

This type of thoughtful and detailed lifecycle marketing is unfortunately also a lot of work! That’s why automation is so important. Instead of sending out an email or an ad every week to first-time at-risk buyers, you can instead test out a series of automated messages that send the moment your customers take an action on your site. By using real-time data to automate engagement with your buyers, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll respond positively. Many buyers today actually expect to get marketing like this, and if your brand doesn’t step up and offer them, you could fall behind.

Here’s a few examples:

  • If a customer makes their second purchase, you could have an automated email and a coordinated targeted and go out offering a membership in your brand’s loyalty program.
  • If someone is just browsing, you can test out a series of nurturing emails to encourage their first purchase.

Then, you can measure the effectiveness of these campaigns over time, constantly tweaking and testing out new campaigns to improve the effectiveness.

Lifecycle automation shouldn’t be an afterthought in ecommerce marketing. Instead, it should be a focus for your team to set up and coordinate across channels. With the right focus, you can increase the likelihood that a one-time buyer today becomes your most loyal customer in the future.

Cara Hogan is the Content Strategist at Zaius, where she focuses on how technology can drive business growth. She is a grammar perfectionist, a data enthusiast, and a rock climber.

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