8 min read

How to Approach the Online Customer Lifecycle

Written by Andriy Boychuk
8 min read
Table of Contents

    Before your existing customers become loyal to your brand, they were first visitors to your website. Or maybe they came across your ads.

    But, how do you ensure that everyone (or at least most) that encounters your website for the first time makes a purchase and eventually becomes a lifelong customer? The key is to understand the online customer lifecycle.

    When you manage your online customer lifecycle the right way, turning visitors into customers becomes easy. But, more importantly, you’ll keep your online customers coming back.

    After all, statistics show that existing customers account for the sales of almost most businesses.

    This just goes to show how important the digital customer lifecycle is.

    Not to worry, in this article, we shed light on what the online customer lifecycle is and how it should flow. Furthermore, we also share some tips on managing the customer lifecycle of your online clientele.

    What is the Online Customer Lifecycle?

    The online customer lifecycle is the different stages an online customer passes on their journey to becoming a loyal customer.

    In other words, it describes the milestones a customer will pass through from the moment they find your business online to their first purchase and beyond.

    Unlike with traditional physical customers, managing the lifecycle of your online customers is a more delicate process. This is because all your communications will happen virtually.

    Therefore, you’ll have only your virtual content to make your case for you and get your customers through all the lifecycle stages and grow their lifetime value.

    However, when you have a thorough understanding of how the digital customer lifecycle works, you’ll find that reaching, converting, and retaining customers is more straightforward.

    Fun fact?

    Online customer lifecycle management is an ongoing process. It never really ends — even after they become loyal customers. After all, you want to give them a reason to stay.

    That said, let us explore the salient points of an online customer lifecycle.

    How to Approach Digital Customer Lifecycle

    Every online customer’s lifecycle starts the moment they find your brand on the internet. However, the direction they go and how it eventually plays out have a lot to do with your digital customer lifecycle management system.

    Here’s a step-by-step progression for a typical online customer lifecycle:

    Reach

    Your reach is how you make your potential customers aware of your business. In other words, your marketing materials need to show up in places when your customers can see them on the internet.

    As a rule of thumb, the wider your reach, the higher your chances of getting the attention of prospective customers.

    It may be tricky to get an exact number on your reach due to the internet’s peculiarities. However, you can usually get an estimated range for how many users view your business’s ads, website, and other online representations.

    During the reach stage, your prospects will likely compare your products or services with your competitors, doing their research and reading reviews. So, do your best to stand out and show them how much value you have to offer.

    Generally, your reach is only successful when prospects show interest in your brand, which leads us to the next stage — acquisition.

    Acquisition stage of the online customer lifecycle

    Acquisition

    Any customer that reaches out to you is already in the acquisition stage. Did they click on your ads and arrive on your website? Did they find you on Google and click on your link? You acquired their attention!

    However, you can’t rest here. You have to provide them with more information and other incentives to encourage them to decide and buy.

    Also, during the acquisition stage, you want to get prospects to sign up for your email newsletters or related marketing channels. This way, you can get them into your marketing funnel and provide them with more specific marketing content to encourage them to buy.

    Pro Tip?

    Equipping your website with a live chat feature or related system for customer inquiries can go a long way in ensuring their acquisition.

    But, of course, you also want to make sure your website design is visually engaging and user-friendly.

    Conversion

    Most businesses measure conversion as when customers finally buy a product or service. While this is generally the prevalent perception, conversion does not have to be a sale.

    Instead, conversion in your online customer lifecycle is any action you consider to achieve a business goal.

    Here are some less popular examples of the customer conversion stage:

    • Getting users to download a White Paper from your site
    • Viewing a predetermined number of web pages on your site in one visit
    • Spending a specific duration going through web pages on your website
    • Users submit their personal information to acquire something valuable, etc.

    Once you successfully convert a visitor to a customer, the next stage is retaining them. In other words, ensuring they keep coming back to you (and your eCommerce brand).

    Retention

    The key to retaining customers is feeling what they feel. This way, you know what they think of your brand and how you can improve their customer experience.

    Surveys, feedback forms, and ratings can give you the much-needed insight to keep them coming back.

    Also, appreciating recurring customers with discounts, special offers, and other incentives is a sure-fire to ensure they stay loyal to your eCommerce.

    Once you get your buyers through the retention stage of their digital customer lifecycle, you’re likely going to have a lifelong customer!

    Advocacy

    A brand advocate is a customer who is loyal to your brand and tries to get their personal network to shop from you.

    In other words, they try to refer other people to your business through various means — from reviews to social media posts and word-of-mouth referrals.

    The online customer lifecycle advocacy stage should be your goal for every customer. After all, statistics show that people who become customers through personal referrals are 37% more likely to stay!

    How to Improve Your Online Customer Lifecycle

    Optimizing and refining your online customer lifecycle can help you upscale your business. A helpful strategy in this regard is introducing customer experience trends like hyper-personalization.

    For instance, reaching out to your customers on special dates like wedding anniversaries or birthdays positively affects their experience and moves them further along the lifecycle touchpoints.

    Here are some more tips for optimizing your online customer lifecycle:

    • Stay up-to-date on customer data and analytics. This way, you know your customer pain points and how to solve them.
    • Define your KPIs and keep track of them. They tell you if your digital customer lifecycle strategy is working or you need to make some adjustments.
    • Tailor your marketing to highlight the value you have to offer and how you can meet your prospects at the point of their needs.
    • Prepare email marketing campaigns for each online customer lifecycle stage
    • Identify loyal customers and appreciate them. For eCommerce brands, they are usually the recurring buyers.
    • Carry out your retargeting campaigns for prospects that don’t seem ready to move along the customer lifecycle stages.

    Wrapping Up

    eCommerce businesses that want to be at the forefront of their industry must stay up-to-date in this rapidly changing digital world. One way to do this is to leverage the best practices for online customer lifecycle management.

    Hopefully, this article has given you insight into the digital customer lifecycle and how you can improve your management system.

    Further Reading

    Customer Lifecycle and Journey: What is the Difference?

    Understanding the Customer Adoption Lifecycle in eCommerce

    Build a Customer Lifecycle Strategy with Email Marketing

    How to Choose a Software Specialized in Customer Lifecycle

    Customer LifeCycle Metrics To Pay Attention To If You Own An eCommerce Business

    Plan your eCommerce Customer Lifecycle Campaigns with this Detailed Guide

    Talk email strategy with an expert