The customer lifecycle describes the various stages that a customer goes through before, during and after they complete a transaction with a brand. Customer lifecycle marketing is therefore the strategy (and execution of that strategy) by marketers to ensure that customers firstly, can navigate those stages easily, and secondly, to affect those stages so they can optimize the revenue potential or lifetime value of the customer.
Whilst there are many naming conventions for the customer lifecycle stages, they generally follow five stages: awareness, consideration, purchase, advocacy and loyalty. For clarity, here is how I would define these stages:
- Awareness - This stage applies to the recognition of a need or problem (for example, running out of shampoo, wanting to upgrade a TV or a desire to be healthier) and the impulsion to act upon or buy a product that will meet this need.
- Consideration - With a problem or need identified, a customer will start to research what they think is the best solution. This evaluation process may include print, visual and online media, word of mouth, visiting in-store showrooms, sales representatives, exhibitions and other sources of information. Consideration will also include the assessment of a shortlist of products.
- Purchase - This is the point where a customer has decided on a product and makes the purchase.
- Advocacy - This is asking your customers to spread the word about your products and turning them into fans of your services and brand. This can include encouraging them to leave product reviews, share your content, join your social media channels, referral schemes and the like. Advocacy often happens before loyalty these days, with brands looking to create advocates to drive more sales. We see this a lot with social influencers, for example.
- Loyalty - This stage is to encourage a subsequent purchase because they are pleased with the product and your service. Loyalty and retention require the need to maintain interactions with your customers through subscriptions, loyalty schemes, tailored customer offers, gamification and so on.
The customer lifecycle evolved and did marketers miss it?
Not everyone starts at awareness and ends at advocacy anymore. In fact, any one of these journey stages could be a customer’s point of entry, and they can jump to different stages on a whim: from awareness to purchase, from consideration back to awareness.
With the rise of social media and mobile technology, consumers can consider themselves a brand advocate even before they make a purchase! So rather than plotting a journey for consumers to navigate through, marketers now need to move to an ‘always-on’ approach and be there in the “omni-moment” to provide the relevant content, offers and experience when it’s desired. After all, customers do not think of channels in the same way marketers do. As far as they are concerned, their conversation is with a singular brand.
An omnichannel customer lifecycle means that the channel is irrelevant and the conversation can continue through any channel and at any time.
For example, let's say a customer replies to one of your emails through social media, or perhaps contacts the call center after receiving a direct mail piece. In both cases the customer is choosing the most appropriate channel for what they personally are trying to achieve. Essentially, the focus is not on the channel as the source of the conversation, but simply a method to continue or influence the conversation itself. Modern consumers just assume that businesses are seamlessly linked already and I don't think that all marketers have truly woken up to this fact yet.
Customers do not think of channels in the same way marketers do. As far as they are concerned, their conversation is with a singular brand.
How can marketers move to an optimized, omnichannel customer lifecycle?
In order to move to an omnichannel, ‘always-on’ customer lifecycle strategy, you need to be able to unify every customer touchpoint, from all channels, to create what is called the ‘Golden Record’ (more on that below).
The customer journey, or journeys that you deploy, then need to be managed via one centralized strategy and one platform rather than scattered across many marketing platforms. Using your email tool to execute email campaigns, a separate SMS platform, another personalization tool etc. leads to a fragmented and disconnected customer experience.
So, in the realms of marketing automation, you need to be able to plan and trigger email, SMS, the website, the CRM and any other marketing channels, via the same workflow that can stitch them together to talk to each other.
Here are the three components you’ll need to create an omnichannel marketing solution:
- Unified customer data to create the Golden Record: All the customer touchpoints need to be integrated to form the ‘Golden Record’ or 'Single Customer View'. This is one singular record for every customer in your marketing database and a complete history of everything they've ever done with you (every click, visit, like, purchase, etc).
A Customer Data Platform (CDP) is the ideal tool to integrate all your data sources, match, merge and deduplicate them, and then fuel every marketing channel or customer-facing department with trustworthy, structured and consistent data.
- Customer analytics and insights to better understand behaviors: The insights that come from the 'Golden Record' enable you to understand your customers accurately, build behavioral segments that truly impact results and then analyze the effectiveness of channels and advertising efforts to measure and improve campaigns.
Customer intention is also a way to measure the customer lifecycle that is often never used, but in my experience the best way to measure progression along your customer journey. B2B marketing automation and lead nurturing tools often do this better than B2C marketing platforms. Contact scoring, attribution and time-based measurements can combine to create a comprehensive view of the customer lifecycle when used correctly.
- Integration of marketing channels for consistency: To create omnichannel conversations with your customers you need to be able to coordinate all your channels from one ‘air traffic control’ center. By using the campaign management workflow in your email platform whilst having someone execute SMS campaigns, or direct mail being scheduled by an offline team and your personalization platform disconnected from your offline customer data, you are never going to achieve the consistency your customers demand! Now being referred to as a "multi-channel marketing hub" you need a marketing platform that can integrate your existing technology stack into one workflow, enabling every channel to talk to, and trigger, each other.
For more information about some of these customer lifecycle principles and to discover more about how BlueVenn could help you optimize your customer experience marketing strategy, download the Customer Journey Optimization ebook or request a demo of the BlueVenn Customer Data Platform online.