Understanding the customer journey is essential to maximise engagement with your brand.

Every marketer has heard the phrase – ‘content is king’ – it’s a cliché for a reason. For an e-commerce brand, successful personalised marketing is dependent on the regular delivery of relevant and compelling content, regardless of what lifecycle stage the customer is in. By delivering content that the customer wants to read, when and where they want to read it, marketers can keep their brand front of mind. Central to matching a customer with the right content is mastering the customer lifecycle. However, to understand where the customer lifecycle begins marketers need a customer database that can describe their behaviour, and that’s not always easy. So where should a marketer begin? Here is my recipe for success.

Managing the customer lifecycle

A customer lifecycle is the path a customer takes from their first contact as a prospect, through to their first purchase, and then on to becoming a repeat customer and finally, a defecting customer. Along this journey, the marketer has opportunities to communicate with the customer and provide information or incentives that aim to move the customer to the most lucrative repeat customer stage and extend this period for as long as possible.

From small start-ups to well-established companies, a global rule of thumb is that complacency is the surest way to lose touch with repeat customers. This is why it is so important to harness the customer database early on and use it to reach out to customers in new and creative ways that strengthen brand affinity.

1.    Customer segmentation

Part of managing the customer lifecycle is staying focused on retention. Constant customer acquisition is costly in terms of the marketing and advertising dollars spent; with reports suggesting it could be anywhere from four to eight times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.

Repeat customers need to remain engaged with the brand, and one way to keep them in this state is through cross- and up-selling efforts. Marketers can also employ data filters to identify and differentiate recurring customer types and sub-segments. This allows brands to target their customers in a personalised way and to perfect their call to action, which in turn leads to further purchases and service upgrades.

While repeat customers bring in the most revenue, acquiring new customers is also an important activity. Acquiring a customer often begins when they register on a website or sign up for a newsletter. Building a customer relationship is the first step in managing customer lifecycles, and a double opt-in verification, where a special link is emailed to the new customer, combined with a follow-up welcome email is crucial for setting positive first impressions.

2.    Automation and real-time responses

In lifecycle management, timing is everything: marketers must interact with their customers at just the right moment. This is only possible with automation, because a human marketer could never respond to opportunities as fast or as accurately as an AI-enabled automation program.

Sending a simple monthly newsletter is a static and one-to-many approach that omits all-important personalisation. However, with an automation system, the marketer decides which customer behaviours will trigger which events. Every newsletter article that gets clicked, every cart that gets abandoned, and all the time a customer spends browsing a brand’s website, should trigger an automated response that is both timely and personalised.

3.    Test, adjust, and increase ROI

To maximise their impact, automated programs need to constantly evolve based on customer responses. It’s easy to create a program and then sit back and let the machine do its work, but that’s a very good way to continue sending ineffective emails to an ever-defecting contact list.

The key is to keep content fresh and optimised to target the right individuals. Automation makes it very easy to set up helpful testing measures and gauge the effectiveness of almost every aspect of a program. To identify whether it makes sense to provide coupons or incentives in specific scenarios, marketers can test the email format, timing, and ROI of an incentive vs. no incentive message, and simply use the most effective strategy. This is how automation can maximise the ROI of campaigns.

Historically, marketing has had to rely on intuition and best guesses. Some messages hit the desired target, but most missed. However, with the growth of AI-enabled automation, marketers have a wealth of tools at their disposal to nurture every customer through each lifecycle stage with a personalised approach. Marketers must start by getting their customer database in order so that they can leverage it effectively; to segment the market, and automate responses to customer behaviour, so as to hit customers with the right content at the right time, and ultimately increase their ROI.

By Heath Barlow, Australasian Market Lead, Emarsys