The customer journey refers to steps that customers go through as they engage with a company or business. Customer journeys differ depending on what product or services the company sells and the information channels it deploys.
You need to understand your customer journeys so that they create experiences that maximize sales revenue while minimizing costs.
Always use the customer’s point of view (rather than the business’ POV) to design how the business treats the customer at each stage of the journey.
Closely related to the customer journey is another concept; the customer lifecycle. The customer lifecycle refers to how the customer relationship evolves over time from when they were a potential customer until they become loyal clients.
Here are the general goals of a business during the customer lifecycle;
- Acquisition of new customers
- Retention of existing customers
- Enhancing usage by existing customers
- Selling more to existing customers
How a customer lifecycle management helps business
Customer lifecycle management is important because it can help businesses to increase marketing and sales ROI, and boost revenues through upsells and cross-sells. Also, happy customers can bring referrals which means even more income at very low marketing costs.
At the heart of the customer journey and lifecycle is an understanding of customers and their needs. Throughout the lifecycle, businesses need to keep collecting information and refining their processes.
Stages of the Customer Lifecycle
Stages of the customer lifecycle vary among different types of businesses, whether eCommerce, Saas, or any other product or service. Still, the customer lifecycle generally follows the following stages;
This is the first instance where the business “reaches” a potential customer. This could be through paid ads, SEO, social media, referrals, or any other method. The reach stage generally covers the initial interactions that made the customer aware of the products or services that a business is offering.
From the point of view of the customer, at this stage, they are searching for a solution to a specific problem. While they are in that process they find out about your business.
Metrics that matter at this stage are those that have something to do with the size of the audience. Such metrics can include:
- Ad impressions
- Website visits
- Organic search ranking
- Advertising metrics
- Contacts collected
- Form submissions
- Shares, likes, comments, retweets, regrams, and other reactions
To be successful at this stage, a business needs to;
- Know where (channel and platforms) potential customers are
- Establish a presence on relevant platforms and channels to reach potential customers
- Know what marketing practices the competition deploy
- Create content that captures the attention of potential customers
The key metric for this stage is the rate at which the audience translates into contacts.
For instance, the goal of a campaign might be to get people to fill a form or provide their contacts when they reach a campaign landing page. In such a case, the key metric would be the ratio of landing page visitors versus contacts collected or forms submitted. This metric can help you understand the effectiveness of the ad campaign and the landing page.
The business can use the above metrics to do optimizations that minimize costs and increase returns on ad spend.
You have reached the customer, now they are aware of the business and its services or products. The next phase is to help the contacts along so that they can become interested in those products or services.
It is time to focus on engagement by creating meaningful interactions. At this stage, key metrics tell us if contacts have shown interest in the products or services. Such metrics can include;
- Landing page visits
- Category page visits
- Ebook, whitepaper, template, or case study downloads
- Email/newsletter subscriptions
- Free trial signups
- Initiated demos
- Webinar attendance
- Form submissions
- Shop visits
- Booked meetings
- Add-to-cart numbers
It is upon the marketing team to identify actions that indicate when someone is interested. Create content that is of good value to customers in their quest for a solution. This will build their confidence in your business so they can consider your products or services. Content can be in various formats such as website pages, brochures, videos, email, and posters.
The ultimate metric is the rate at which contacts transition into leads. It helps the business to track the effectiveness of different tactics and to run necessary optimizations.
Conversion is where the customer buys goods or services. For conversion to happen, the business needs to focus on;
- Presenting the right offers to customers
- Building relationships with the customers
- Availing a simple purchase process that is convenient for customers
To present the right offers, the business must have collected the right information during the preceding acquisition and reach stages. A simple way to collect such information is to create the right questions in lead forms, or through verbal questions.
The main metric here is the number of sales and the amount of revenue. Another key piece of information is the conversion rate. Tracking conversion rates is important since it helps the business run optimizations that will increase the marketing return on investment.
Conversion is the stage where marketing plays a diminished role as other departments step in. In fact, some customer service professionals opine that real customer lifecycle management begins at this stage.
From the point of purchase onward, the business must consistently support the customer to build an excellent experience of the product and the company. This will help keep the customer satisfied and create more revenue. Excellent client support and engagement should always underpin the following stages;
Customers are getting the first experience of purchasing from your business at this stage. So it really helps to set a tone that your product or service is exceptional value for money. Reinforce the product with excellent customer service and a smooth experience, even where a customer needs to migrate to your service.
A key objective of onboarding is to educate the customer and help them get optimal value from their purchase.
For example, if the customer has purchased the Customer Success Management tool at Userlot, they receive training and assistance to set up at the onboarding stage. The support team helps the client configure the tool so it can work for the specific business to help boost customer retention.
The support team will then help onboard users and provide training as well as training materials. In case the client needs help with any integrations, Userlot also provides technical support.
Consider an eCommerce business. The onboarding stage is about follow-up, nurturing the relationship, and education. So the eCommerce business can follow up to ensure that a first-time customer receives the shipment, and/or is satisfied with their purchase and overall buying experience. Then the business can educate the customer more on how to get the best value e.g through offers, memberships, loyalty points, or extended product warranties.
In the case of a software business service, success at this stage is to get the customer to use the service and enjoy its value.
For an eCommerce business, onboarding is successful when the first-time customer adopts the different offers or programs. For example, the customer can sign up for rewards or join a discount membership program.
When the customer is using the product/service for the purpose that they bought it, then they have reached the adoption stage.
There are many cases where companies or people may buy items/services then fail to use them. Businesses must put in the work if they want to help customers get value out of their purchases. This is especially true in the tech space.
Support, training, and incentives are key tactics that can promote adoption.
One of the bigger obstacles to adoption is a poor onboarding process. Another blocker is a flawed product design. For instance, a product might be too complicated for a particular use case.
There are many ways to track product adoption. For online products and apps, in-app data and usage statistics can help paint a picture of what customers are loving and what features they barely deploy. This information can help a business refine the product or introduce a complementary product.
In the instance of an e-commerce company, customers may fail to reach the adoption phase because the benefits of being a repeat buyer are unclear, even if the experience up to this point was satisfactory.
The business can send surveys and use website data to understand what customers enjoy and what customers dislike. The info is then used to create a better experience on the platform.
Consider Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads. They all incentivize users with ad discounts from time to time. Why? Because companies may use their products sparingly and then stop.
So in addition to proper training, onboarding and support, incentives can be deployed to encourage adoption.
High rates of adoption usually lead to more repeat business from customers. The result can be more revenue and lower operating and marketing costs.
Inversely, low adoption is a predictor of high churn rates, consequently higher operating and marketing costs, and lower revenues.
When customers adopt a product or service, it can mean they like the value it provides. The business still needs to continue providing an excellent experience.
At this stage, businesses must also engage with customers and show appreciation. This can include asking customers for their feedback and input, sending gifts, cards, or swag.
The following metrics can indicate the level of success:
- Net promoter score
- Customer health score
- Churn rate
Customers at this stage are receptive to getting more value from your products or service. So it can be the perfect opportunity to present them with upsells and cross-sells. Always recommend special offers, upsells, and cross-sells that yield clear value for the customer.
Customers who successfully use a product or service and find it to be of great value can become loyal customers.
Tap into their happiness by asking them for testimonials, and case studies. Also, consider launching referral programs.
Small gestures such as letting customers beta test new products or features that can add value to their experience.
Businesses can also give exclusive offers to loyal customers (those who make frequent purchases).
Here are some of the metrics that can show levels of loyalty;
- Repurchase ratio/ renewals
- Customer acquisitions from referrals
- Customer lifetime value
- Customer loyalty index
- Customer engagement score
- Net promoter score
How to Keep a Customer for Their Entire Lifecycle
The key to success in the entire customer journey lies in understanding customer needs and delivering the appropriate solutions at each stage.
So it is important to have a wholesome strategy for the customer lifecycle rather than have sales, marketing, and product teams working in silos. When teams work in sync, the customer can enjoy a smooth transition through the different stages. When customers experience consistently pleasant interactions throughout their journey, they are likely to end up as loyal customers.