Chapter 1: Where Is Your Customer in the Sales Life Cycle?
There’s no denying it — successful businesses have loyal customers. Think about a popular brand and its fans. Do they leave positive reviews online and act as brand advocates on social media? Do some of them wear T-shirts advertising the company’s logo?
When customers tie a brand to their identity, it’s a good sign a business is doing well. Loyal customers are more likely to try new products, spend more on a company’s merchandise and recommend the brand to others. All of this leads to growth.
But, acquiring loyal customers doesn’t happen overnight. Loyalty is the final stage of a customer’s life cycle and relationship with a brand, and they have to move through a series of steps to reach this point. To help your customers deepen their relationship with your brand, it helps to know what stage they’re in first. You can then use your insight to create retail displays and other marketing materials to pull customers through their journey.
So, what is the customer life cycle, anyway? This chapter explains each stage of the retail customer life cycle and how it applies to displays.
What Is the Customer Life Cycle?
The customer life cycle is a term used in customer relationship management, and it describes the phases a customer goes through to reach brand or product loyalty. The life cycle begins the moment a potential customer becomes aware of your brand.
Companies develop marketing strategies specifically to move customers through the different life cycle stages. The goals of customer life cycle marketing are to attract customers, keep them engaged, and ultimately help them become repeat buyers and brand advocates.
What Are the Consumer Life Stages?
Here are the various stages customers go through as they interact with your brand:
The reach stage is when a customer first becomes aware of your product. They might spot your display in the supermarket, for example, and become curious about your brand. They may not need your product immediately at this stage, but they might associate a need with your brand in the future. During this phase, your goal is to capture your target customer’s attention and prompt them to learn more.
To help customers through the reach stage, you need to determine your target audience first. One way to define your target customer is to create a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a fictional character representing the demographics, lifestyle, preferences and behaviors of your customers. When you know your target audience, you can market to a narrower group of people and develop a cost-effective strategy.
Promoting your products with a retail display is an effective in-store marketing strategy for reaching target customers. You might combine retail displays with other advertising forms to connect with customers in the reach phase.
During the acquisition stage, customers learn more about your product. They might read about it online, ask a store clerk for more information or get friends’ opinions about the product. They may compare your brand to competitors and consider if you’ll meet their needs better. When customers are in the acquisition phase, they’re not yet ready to buy your item, but they’ll wonder if it’s something they want or need.
During this stage of the customer life cycle, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible to learn more about your product. For example, you might design a retail display that illustrates your product’s benefits, describes a sustainable manufacturing process or lists unique ingredients.
You also want to make sure it’s easy for potential customers to get in touch with you. If customers contact you with questions, respond promptly with personalized communication. For instance, if a customer emails you, address them by their name in your reply. Be prepared to educate customers on how to use your product best, and be ready to suggest alternatives if needed. You might offer a discount for making their first purchase.
Your goal during the acquisition phase is to nudge customers gently toward the next step — conversion.
The conversion stage is when a person feels ready to purchase your product. Making it to this step doesn’t promise they will become a customer, though. Your product needs to offer clear benefits over other options to ensure the customer completes this stage.
If a customer has a question or concern that doesn’t get promptly addressed, they might put the product back on the shelf. That’s why it’s important your packaging and display include answers to customers’ immediate questions, such as how much the item costs.
Customers should also be able to buy your product effortlessly. You might place an easy-to-access floor display in the checkout area to simplify the buying process.
During the retention phase, your job is to strengthen your relationship with customers. You’ll want to connect with customers through social media, email, or other channels to show your appreciation and ask for feedback. You might send customers coupons or promotional codes along with regular updates to keep them in the loop.
Customers should experience exceptional service and support whenever they contact your company. The goal is to make your customers feel valued, so they want to buy from you again. When customers feel appreciated and heard, they are more likely to enter the advocacy phase.
The last stage of the life cycle is the advocacy phase. This is when a customer adores your product so much they become brand advocates. They’ll leave positive reviews, answer questions about your products and recommend your company to friends and family, which can help your business grow. According to a survey by The Nielsen Company, 83% of respondents trust recommendations from friends and family.
Customers in the advocacy phase also continue buying your products with less concern about price. They identify with your brand and believe in your company, which can outweigh other factors. It’s much easier to sell to existing customers than new ones, but it takes time, energy and resources to get people to this point. It also requires effort to keep customers in the advocacy phase.
One way to help customers reach the final step of the life cycle is to offer a loyalty program. Use your loyalty program to reward repeat customers with free offers or discounts. According to the Loyalty Report 2018, 77% of customers say they are more likely to continue buying from a brand if it offers a loyalty program, and 70% claim they are more apt to recommend brands with loyalty programs.
Customers may go back and forth through the various stages, so it’s essential to keep them engaged. To keep customers coming back for business long-term, make them feel special and vital to your company. Reach out to customers periodically to ensure they’re satisfied and connect with them beyond sales messages. Send them birthday cards and random thank you notes, keeping all communications personalized.
Why Is the Customer Life Cycle Important?
By understanding what stages your customers are in, you can develop effective marketing strategies and grow their lifetime value. A customer’s lifetime value is the profit you gain during their relationship with your company. For example, a one-time customer has a low lifetime value, while a repeat customer usually has a high value. Learning what your target customers want, offering exclusive rewards and engaging them with creative advertising are ways to help them move through the cycle and increase their lifetime value.
How Does the Customer Life Cycle Apply to Retail Displays?
You can design your retail display with the customer life cycle in mind to connect with shoppers in various phases. Here are some ideas:
- Reach: To reach customers and spread brand awareness, consider designing an attention-grabbing endcap display and retail signage designed especially for your target audience.
- Acquisition: To help customers through the acquisition stage, you might print your product’s benefits on the display, include free samples or attach a brochure holder with educational information.
- Conversion: Help shoppers convert by making it easy to purchase your product on impulse with an eye-catching counter display. You might also place a floor display in a checkout area to encourage impulse buys.
- Retention: Deepen your relationship with customers in the retention phase and make them excited to repurchase your product by using your display to promote a sale or new flavors. For example, you might design a colorful display bin that invites customers to reach in and grab on-sale items as they shop.
- Advocacy: Use your display to advertise a customer loyalty program or discounts and show your appreciation for your loyal fans. Depending on your target audience, you might design a fun floor display that encourages customers to take a selfie and share it with friends.