Everything in life has a lifecycle – a beginning, a middle, and an end. The same can be said for the way your customers experience your brand. Whether your business is retail, e-commerce, consumer goods, travel, or sports and entertainment, nurturing your customers through their purchasing journey and beyond is accomplished in large part by customer lifecycle marketing.
Lifecycle marketing focuses on communicating with potential and current customers at the various points of their relationships with your brand. Let’s unpack the customer lifecycle, and how to create the perfect email for every step of your customer’s journey.
What is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?
Customer lifecycle marketing operates on the premise that the relationship your customers have with your brand is fluid. It changes over time as your customers’ experience your brand in different ways, and as that relationship changes, so should the way you engage .
A buyer who hasn’t engaged for 6 months is going to have a different set of needs and expectations compared to a loyal repeat shopper. That first-time buyer will ideally become a loyal shopper themselves — but there are several steps along the way. Lifecycle marketing focuses on guiding and nudging customers along on that journey.
A major component of customer lifecycle marketing is the lifecycle email. Spamming your database with one-size-fits-all promotional offers, regardless of where your customers are in their lifecycle, is likely to do more harm than good.
Knowing what content to send to which customers at what time is a complex code to crack, but customer lifecycle email marketing can help you map out an answer.
Customer Lifecycle Stages
Your customers’ lifecycle is their journey through the purchasing process. It includes everything from that first visit to the website through to (ideally) becoming a loyal customer who actively promotes your brand. Understanding these stages will help you create the right email to nurture customers and prospects at each point of their journey.
The five stages of the customer lifecycle are:
- Awareness – At the awareness stage, you can safely assume that prospects are engaging with your brand for the first time.They know very little about your brand or your products, and they need a guide along the way. At this point, your customer lifecycle email marketing should focus on welcoming the customer, introducing yourself, and maybe offering some introductory deals.
- Education – The most important question you need to help prospects answer at this stage is ‘what’s in it for me?’ Why should they buy from you? How do your products or services stand out from the competition? How do they make the lives of your customers better? Customer reviews of your business and products are a great way to educate prospects and build trust. It’s important to send emails with information about you and your products to help them complete their research and motivate them to purchase.
- Purchase – Congrats! You’ve got a new customer. A key part of this stage of the journey is to make the checkout process as easy and smooth as possible. Make sure your confirmation and tracking emails go out the instant the purchase is confirmed on your end, so your customers can stay informed about their order. This is the perfect opportunity to nurture loyalty by following up with thank you emails, discount codes, or offers of free shipping on their next order.
- Retention – Building and maintaining a relationship beyond the point of initial purchase is where a lot of brands falter when it comes to customer lifecycle marketing. Customer retention is all about keeping customers engaged and looking for opportunities to nurture them toward repeat purchase. Post-purchase emails that offer discounts, product recommendations, or that ask them to leave a review perform well at this stage. You can also send regular emails with sneak peeks on new products or sales to drive re-engagement.
- Advocacy – This is when a loyal customer takes it to the next level and becomes an advocate, making a point of telling others just how much they enjoy your products, your brand, and their relationship with both. Emails that incentivize reviews and referrals, offer exclusive discounts or club membership that gives members early bird privileges perform well to the advocacy lifecycle stage.
See why “Emarsys’s top-notch campaign management delivers against its promise to empower email marketers.”
Customer Lifecycle Emails for Each Stage
The most important thing to understand about lifecycle email marketing is that it needs to be targeted. These aren’t emails you’ll blast out en masse to your entire email list. These are emails carefully crafted for each step of the buyer’s journey. The right email at the right time will make a sale, or turn an occasional browser into a loyal customer. Conversely, the wrong email at the wrong time will turn a prospect or customer ice-cold. Let’s look at each stage in the customer journey:
The Beginning Stage
This is the start of a buyer’s journey, where the customer goes through the awareness and education stages listed above. Encourage that first purchase with a welcoming or onboarding email that greets potential customers just as you would in a traditional brick and mortar retail space.
Huckberry’s welcome email focuses on “people like us,” creating a sense of community and belonging right from the start.
Another important email workflow to put into place is your abandoned browse and abandoned cart sequence. These emails remind shoppers to come back, look around a little more, and decide whether or not to make that purchase. Entice prospects and customers to continue browsing or make a purchase with special offers and incentives like free shipping.
The Middle Stage
This encompasses the purchase and retention stages mentioned above. By this stage, your customer has become an active buyer. As such, at this stage you should be looking to encourage repeat purchase by sending cross-sell or up-sell emails, and new product or feature alerts.
Havenly builds anticipation by letting its customers know to be on the lookout for something big.
Build your relationship further by sending lifecycle emails focused on loyalty rewards, birthday messages, holiday greetings, milestones, or limited-time promotions.
This Starbucks promotional email features an “exclusive offer” for customers using their Starbucks card to make a set number of purchases by a certain date.
The End Stage
End-stage emails can go in one of two directions: building up brand advocacy, or wooing a previous customer back after they have become inactive.
Encourage advocacy with emails that offer discounts for posting reviews or referring friends. You could take things a step further by offering VIP membership for loyal brand advocates that entitles them to exclusive offers.
The language you use to ask for reviews depends on your brand. Crate & Barrel takes a gentle approach by inviting customers to “join the conversation.”
Entice previous customers with win-back or replenishment emails that focus on what they loved about your brand or products in the first place, based on their purchase history. Use product affinity to share products that share similarities with past purchases or remind them to reorder a product that might be running low.
Upgrade Your Lifecycle Email Marketing with Emarsys
Email is a powerful marketing tool. But that tool is useless if you don’t use it correctly. Lifecycle email marketing is all about looking for opportunities to drive predictable and profitable growth throughout the customer lifecycle.
To do this you need to understand the stages of a customer’s journey and create targeted automated lifecycle emails for each one. Your success hinges on how well you understand who you’re sending these emails to, when to send them, and why.
If elevating customer lifecycle marketing for your brand is your goal, make sure you find the right partner. The Emarsys omnichannel customer engagement platform helps brands around the world increase acquisition, purchase frequency, average order value, and retention by automating customer lifecycle management across every channel.
Ready to harness the power of the Emarsys platform and accelerate lifecycle email marketing? Request a free 3-minute demo today.