Lifecycle Marketing Strategies & Tactics to Take your Business to the Next Level
What they know about you is different. How much they spend is different. What kind of relationship they have with you is different.
Understanding that customers go through a journey – from prospect, to customer, to repeat customer, is what led to lifecycle marketing.
This guide details advanced lifecycle marketing strategies and tactics – with examples from Southwest, Tula, Mercari, and more.
What Is Lifecycle Marketing?
I admit – defining lifecycle marketing is not “advanced”.
However, I believe it is important to establish the fundamentals before we go deep.
Customers go through stages. While each business model is different, the most common stages in lifecycle marketing are:
- Customer Acquisition
- Customer Retention
- Customer Development/Loyalty
Customer lifecycle marketing is simply communicating to people according to which stage they are in.
Next, I want to outline how various components to an effective lifecycle marketing campaign.
Step 1: Creating a Framework for Lifecycle Marketing
The first step to creating a lifecycle marketing campaign is having a clear mental model for how it works.
InfusionSoft was one of the earliest companies to create such a model. They divided the buying journey into three stages.
You can see their original framework below.
However, today, there are more effective ways to reach prospects and nurture them into lifelong customers. This is true across all stages of the customer journey – from acquisition to retention to development.
The question is how to combine these tactics with a real person interacting with your brand.
In our opinion, the best approach is to react to their actual behaviours, in real time, presenting them with a clear reason to move onto the next stage.
To do this requires three core movements.
Triggers define when a marketing message is sent to a customer.
A message defines what exactly you are communicating.
Finally, a channel defines where this communication takes place.
Let’s break down these three components of a lifecycle marketing campaign further.
1. Lifecycle Marketing Triggers:
A lifecycle marketing trigger is a signal from your customer.
Most often it is an action they take. For example, opting into a form.
However, a trigger can also be an absence of an action. For example, if a certain number of days pass without you hearing from a customer, it might be a trigger to follow-up.
Triggers represent a core difference between lifecycle and traditional marketing.
Traditional marketing is initiated by a brand. Lifecycle marketing is initiated by the customer.
Below are a number of common lifecycle marketing triggers. However, keep in mind that this is an incomplete list. Any customer action (or non-action) can be used as a trigger.
- Date & Time a prospect fills in a form
- Date & Time a prospect does not complete a purchase
- Customer birthdays
- Customer anniversaries
- Customer purchases
- Customer’s browse behaviour
- Changes in customer accounts
2. Lifecycle Marketing Messages
The second component of lifecycle marketing is messages. Messages are what you actually send to your customer.
You should make your messages both relevant and contextual.
By relevant, I mean the customer should care about the message. By contextual, I mean the message should relate to the trigger that caused the message in the first place.
Like triggers, messages take many forms.
Common types of messages include specific content (blog posts, white papers, and testimonials), product guides, various offers, and solicitations for feedback.
Unfortunately, many brands limit the types of messages they send. Often, the biggest difference between a basic and advanced lifecycle marketing strategy includes a significant difference in the types of messages sent.
3. Lifecycle Marketing Channels
Channels are the final component of lifecycle marketing.
The channel defines where you will engage the customer.
In 2018, email remains the most prominent channel used by eCommerce stores. However, there are a multitude of channels you should consider.
Lifecycle marketing meets the customer where they are. It is a true omni-channel strategy that selects the right channel based on the last customer interaction.
Below is a shortlist of channels.
- Push notifications
- Website personalization
- Website messaging (pop-ups, live chat)
- Direct mail
Now that we’ve covered the basic components, I want to showcase examples of lifecycle marketing campaigns from the top eCommerce stores in the world.
I’ve grouped each strategy into one of the main buyer lifecycle stages: acquisition, retention, and development.
Strategies & Tactics for the Acquisition Lifecycle Marketing Stage
We start with the customer acquisition buyer stage.
Acquisition Stage Lifecycle Marketing Example #1: Integrating Personalized Recommendations into Welcome Series
Trigger: Prospect signs up to newsletter or creates an account.
Message: Introduction to brand, articulation of USP, and personalized recommendations.
Channel: Email, Facebook Messenger, in-App Push Notifications.
Welcome sequences are among the most common lifecycle marketing strategies used today.
Unfortunately, many stores limit themselves to simple price incentives to move customers from the acquisition to retention stage. Take MattressFirm for example.
A Basic Welcome Email for Customer Acquisition Stage
There are times when financial incentives are the right play. And, to be fair, the Mattress Firm does implement a number of best practices with their offer including using a one time code, manufacturing urgency with an upcoming expiration date and implementing a spending threshold to hit before the gift kicks in.
However, you can dramatically improve the quality of your welcome messages through personalization. Our favorite way of doing this is by incorporating recommendations.
An Advanced Welcome Message with Personalized Recommendations
Before prospects opt-in, they are engaging with your site. Connecting this browse behavior to the anonymous session gives you a great opportunity for contextual followup.
The image above shows Mercari doing this beautifully. They open with an enticing subject line: “10 items from your recent search.” and dynamically insert recommendations connected to the brand that was searched.
Dynamically inserting these recommendations in your welcome series, either influencing the type of content your present or actual product recommendations, will immediately improve your email engagement.
Acquisition Stage Lifecycle Marketing Example #2: Use Personalized Recommendations in Abandoned Cart Follow-up Emails
Trigger: Prospect abandons purchase, and does not respond to initial abandoned cart message
Message: Offers related to the initial product placed in cart
Cart abandonment emails work. In our last study, we found that our customers average an 18.64% conversion rate on these campaigns.
Again, there are both basic and advanced strategies you can use here.
In our tests, we’ve found cart abandonment emails with personalized product recommendations significantly outperform those with standard ones.
In the study, personalizing these recommendations on a 1:1 level increased clicks by 289% and purchases by 189%!
Acquisition Stage Lifecycle Marketing Example 3: Implement Browse Abandonment
Trigger: Prospect abandons session without placing any items in their cart.
Message: Offers related to customer’s session activity, including content read, products viewed, and categories visited.
Channel: Email, Push notifications.
A study conducted by YesLifecycleMarketing found that only 5.3% of eCommerce stores leveraged browse abandonment.
Most companies sabotage themselves by only responding to customers after they abandon a cart.
The truth is…
Many prospects leave your site before they get that far. We’ve found the best way to position your brand for this strategy is by providing value through customer service.
“Most companies sabotage themselves by only responding to customers after they abandon a cart.”
Some of the most effective browse campaigns we perform for customers are “Email My Cart” and “Visit Summary” campaigns.
Retention Lifecycle Marketing Strategy 1: Leverage Replenishment Reminders
Trigger: Date and time since last purchase
Message: Questions and reminders about replenishing stock, with clear CTA to purchase.
Channel: Email, FB Messenger
According to Ometria, replenishment emails garner a ridiculous 60% open rate.
Understanding the natural product lifecycles gives you an opportunity to reach out and inspire action. Even industries as slow-moving as housing can reach out for maintenance on HVACs, furnaces, roofs, and more.
You can maximize your effectiveness by reaching out early and following up with incentives. I like bundling complementary products to discounts, but both work.
Here, Tulia is trying to convert a one-time sale to a subscription.
They call out three major benefits for signing up:
- Product Price Savings – “Save up to 15% on skincare essentials”
- Free Shipping – “Score free shipping every time”
- Bundled Gifts – “Enjoy a free gift on us with each order”
Retention Lifecycle Marketing Strategy 2: Integrate Personalized Upsells & Cross-Sells
Trigger: Date and time since last purchase, Product Purchased
Message: Complimentary offers personalized to last purchase
Channel: Email, FB Messenger, Push Notifications, Social Retargeting
We’ve discussed before the power of returning customers.
Despite converting 74% more often, and spending 17% more per transaction, most eCommerce stores do not have a personalised follow-up campaign.
The example above is from Southwest.
They start with a highly personalized subject line, injecting the location of the trip and confirmation number. They pair it with a great prompting question: “Have you booked your hotel?”.
The rest of the content is personalized to the trip, with strong call to actions that underline the added benefits of extra points.
Customer Development Stage Lifecycle Marketing Strategy 1: Move Customers Into Loyalty Programs
Trigger: Date and time since last purchase, Product Purchased
Message: Status, Rewards, Gifts
Channel: Email, Direct Mail, Social Advertising
Loyalty programs should bring your existing customers closer to your brand.
My favourite example is Starbucks. While most think of Starbucks as a brick and mortar player, the reality is they have built out an impressive omnichannel retailing strategy capable of reaching customers across channels to drive repeat purchases.
How do you get customers to join a loyalty program? Beyond making the perks worth it, you need to craft the right message.
In Starbuck’s case, they capture each customer’s email when they access the free internet they provide in store.
They use this permission to send a wide variety of offers. Here, they offer you accelerated gold status. They tie it to a specific day and additional purchase – but most importantly, they require you to join the reward program.
When they don’t convert on the first message, they use a different offer.
Here, they simply highlight the benefits of joining the Rewards Program – in this case free coffee. Notice how everything – from the email subject line to the images reinforce the central benefit.
In order to properly execute these strategies, you must connect your customer data to your marketing.
While many technology partners claim to be able to help, they often do not address some of the most significant challenges in lifecycle marketing and personalization.