What is the Customer Lifecycle?

What is the Customer Lifecycle?

The 20th century was a story of mass production.

Henry Ford perfected the first moving assembly line to crank out copies of the same car. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, mastered transportation and logistics to bring mass-produced products to areas without access. The 20th century was about scale.

Now, in the 21st century, we’ve shifted into a customer-focused economy. Manufacturing has scaled—commodity goods are everywhere. Making the same widget for every consumer isn’t enough to grow a business.

The 21st century is about personalization. Custom experiences. Delivering what consumers want instead of simply what can be delivered.

A new age of business means you need a new way to understand your customers. Enter: the customer lifecycle.

Your customer lifecycle helps you show customers what they want to see, no matter where they are in the customer journey. When you nail your customer lifecycle, you know how to talk to potential customers who have just heard of your brand and loyal advocates who are already your customers—and everyone in between.

Let’s explore the customer lifecycle and how your business can reach customers at each stage.

What is the customer lifecycle?

The customer lifecycle describes the stages consumers enter when they consider, purchase, and remain a loyal buyer of your product or service. It outlines the customer’s progression through your marketing and sales cycle.

The customer lifecycle offers a complete picture of how people buy from businesses like yours — and shows you how your team should engage with customers in the buyer’s journey.

Why does the customer lifecycle matter?

Your customers don’t want the same thing as everyone else.

Not only do your customers want customization in their product purchases, but they also want a personalized customer experience throughout the entire buying experience. In fact, a Forrester study reported that “77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.”

The customer lifecycle offers a solid framework to bring personalization to your customer interactions. For instance, your customers choose:

  • Product type
  • Product color
  • Product quantity
  • Payment method
  • Point of sale
  • Shipping method

When buying shoes, Amazon customers can select the brand name, color, and size. At checkout, they can purchase with a credit or debit card or use a gift card. Customers also have the option to decide where to ship the item. So, one shopper may buy black Nike shoes with a credit card, while another shopper may prefer buying the red Reebok shoes with a debit card.

The customer lifecycle matters because your team can pinpoint where to add personalization within the buyer’s journey. More importantly, you find ways to use marketing automation to help your team scale your personalization efforts.

How does customer lifecycle marketing help grow your business?

Customer lifecycle marketing is tailoring your marketing strategy to deliver on your brand promise at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

Expectations are high. Knowing your customers’ high expectations prepares your team to engage customers on the right channel with the right message at the right time.

In doing so, you offer more value to your customers — leading to more sales and an increase in customer retention. Lauren Heartsill Dowdle, editor of ModernCompany agrees:

“[If] you focus on providing value to your customers from the moment they reach out to you to the moment they make a purchase — and beyond — they’ll be much more likely to return to you the next time they’re in need of your services.”

Customer lifecycle marketing also helps you increase operational efficiency. If you can identify opportunities to automate tasks, your team can focus its attention on more strategic work.

For example, Legacy Physical Therapy uses ActiveCampaign to build patients’ trust within the customer lifecycle. The business customizes lead magnets based on a patient’s specific pelvic condition, like prenatal pain or postpartum care. These free offers provide nervous patients with helpful information.

With ActiveCampaign, Legacy Physical Therapy can create as many automations as needed to deliver the right message to the right patient. Automating these tasks saves their team precious time.

What are the stages of the customer lifecycle?

At ActiveCampaign, we divide the customer lifecycle into the following four stages:

  • Reach & Engage
  • Nurture & Educate
  • Convert & Close
  • Support & Grow

customer lifecycle stages

Next, we’ll dive deeper into each stage and learn how a customer moves from first learning about your brand to becoming an advocate who raves about your product.

Reach & Engage

Consumers learn about your business in multiple ways.

  • A visitor may land on your site after an industry influencer mentions your brand
  • Or a potential shopper may find your latest article in a quick Google search
  • You may get an influx of visitors because of your new Facebook ad campaign

In this stage, your team’s focus is to craft a personalized message that grabs your audience’s attention. Then, with the help of site tracking, you see exactly what products and information they’re looking for. Once you know that, you can follow up to convert more customers.

Nurture & Educate

Nowadays, it’s unlikely for a first-time visitor to land on your site, read your product information, and then click ‘Add to Cart.’

Thanks to the Internet, your customers research before making a purchasing decision. They’re reading reviews on third-party sites, searching your brand name on Twitter, and looking up your competitors to see what they have to offer.

So, your team must nurture the customer relationship by showing people exactly what they want to see. That means using dynamic content to send email subscribers exactly the message they want to read. You help them learn how your product can address their needs.

Convert & Close

After educating your consumers, the next step is to send well-timed calls to action to close the sale.

But, how do you know who’s ready to buy?

Lead scoring gives your team the inside scoop by tracking your consumers’ engagement. Based on how people interact with your business—visit a page, open an email, or submit a form—you can follow up with the deals most likely to close.

It’s also important to not place any unnecessary roadblocks in the purchasing process. For instance, do you require your shoppers to register with your site before checking out? This requirement could turn off eager consumers who would prefer to checkout as a guest.

Support & Grow

Congrats! You closed a deal on a new customer. While it’s tempting to move on to the next sale, your team also should focus on growing existing customer relationships. Happy customers will buy more of your products and tell their family and friends about the awesome customer experience.

You delight each customer by offering timely support and relevant product offers. For example, you can set up chatbot automations to gather information about customers before a live rep begins chatting. Or send text messages with flash sale notifications to your brand advocates.

How do you reach customers at each stage of the customer lifecycle?

With more customer data at our fingertips, marketers are quickly learning that it takes multiple brand interactions to get consumers to the checkout cart. Each stage of the customer lifecycle includes several key marketing channels for your team to nurture and persuade your audience.

What are the key channels within each customer lifecycle stage?

Customer lifecycle marketing centers around meeting the customer where they are. The channel defines where you will engage the customer. Counting both online and offline channels, hundreds of marketing channels exist to help you reach, teach, sell, and grow your customer base.

Fortunately, your team doesn’t need to focus on every possible channel. Instead, you will direct your attention to the key channels of your customers’ engagement. Like any effective marketing strategy, you’ll have to observe, test, and analyze each channel to understand what works for your brand.

It’s also important to note that channels aren’t exclusive to just one stage of the lifecycle. You can send product emails to teach your subscribers and deliver reward emails to grow your audience. Check out a few key channels in the customer lifecycle below.

customer lifecycle key channels

Reach & Engage Channels

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Events

Nurture & Educate Channels

  • Sales call
  • Live chat
  • Content marketing
  • Webinars

Convert & Close Channels

  • Mobile push notifications
  • Direct mail
  • Email marketing
  • Text messaging

Support & Grow Channels

  • Community forum
  • Customer support
  • Email marketing
  • Affiliate marketing

What are good examples of customer lifecycle marketing?

Effective lifecycle marketing creates an impactful experience for your customers. Here are some examples from notable brands to help you fine-tune your strategy.

1. Carvana reaches with promotional ads

Carvana runs sponsored Twitter ads to grab the attention of eager car shoppers. The brief ad copy boasts the company’s unique selling point of buying a car completely online with touchless pickup.

Carvana customer lifecycle marketing example

Original Screenshot

2. Spotify teaches through educational content

Spotify educates its potential customers about the benefits of its audio streaming service. In this email, subscribers get a quick guide on how to use the service in their vehicles. They can choose from the Bluetooth, cable, or dashboard options.

Spotify customer lifecycle marketing example

Original Screenshot

3. Gilt sells through promotional reminders

Luxury eCommerce retailer Gilt sends relevant promotional reminders to its segmented audience via mobile push notifications. The message below is specific to shoppers interested in the Hugo Boss brand and who need a stylish suit and shoes for their next outing.

Gilt customer lifecycle marketing example


4. Banana Republic grows with a coupon offer

Clothing retailer Banana Republic leaves no stone unturned when it comes to customer retention. This re-engagement email entices previous customers to shop by offering a 20% off coupon on their next purchase.

Banana Republic customer lifecycle marketing example


Improve your customer lifecycle to grow your business

When you understand what consumers need, it’s easier to grow your business. Understanding the customer lifecycle helps you reach the right people with the right message at the right time. Work with your team to create marketing strategies based on the customer lifecycle to increase your customer retention.

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