Customer lifecycle marketing can no longer be an abstraction for e-commerce brands. It’s time to prioritize the entire lifecycle and break away from the acquisition marketing myth.

Acquiring new customers is more costly than retaining existing customers. Nurturing, servicing, and helping customers should be at the core of everything you do throughout the entire lifecycle.

This post will show you three actionable ways to improve your lifecycle marketing in 2021. You’ll also learn how to reverse old business strategies with new tools and tech, and why many retailers rush instead of patiently retaining.

The Acquisition Marketing Myth

Marketers are under enormous pressure to deliver results, drive ROI, and produce content. Driving demand for products and services — tasked to the marketing department — stems from a long-held assumption that more marketing means more new sales which equals more business.

But more business in the short term does nothing to create sustainable revenue in the long term, nor does it have any correlation to customer lifetime value.

“CLTV influences so many things; how much you should spend to acquire customers, what price points your products need to be at, how you measure the impact of promotions and what you need to do to keep your customers engaged and loyal. CLTV covers the entire Lead-to-Loyalty spectrum, which is why it is such an important metric to measure and to optimize.”

Rak Singh, SMITH, VP Growth and Optimization


Acquisition is a dicey game to bet everything on. The best thing you can do is figure out how to keep consumers playing on repeat, for longer periods, and spending more. It’s time to bust the myth of “drive sales, drive sales, drive sales” and replace it with something new: create value, drive loyalty, retain business.

Acquiring new customers who buy once and leave isn’t the end game; repeatable, recurring revenue from loyal brand advocates over the long haul is. But we have to trust that if we build it (the entire lifecycle strategy), they will come.

Lifecycle marketing is where it’s at — someone who buys from you a second time is twice as likely to make a third purchase (Zaius), and the likelihood of an additional purchase goes up the more times they buy. So, how can you empower your customers to continue purchasing from you?

Get your priorities straight for 2021. Discover the 8 most lucrative areas of focus for marketing in 2021.

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Customer Lifecycle Marketing: Retain Existing Buyers

When we talk about customer lifecycle marketing, we’re talking about placing equal weight (if not more) on the latter phases of the buyer journey. The best customer lifecycle marketing generally includes personalized experiences within the following stages of the buyer journey:


Acquiring new customers will always be an important piece of an effective and successful marketing strategy. Acquisition includes:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Driving website activity
  • Increasing database growth
  • Attracting relevant traffic via referrals and social media advertising
  • Boosting social and email signups

Bringing in and attracting new people to the brand is necessary. But in this evolving age of choice, commoditization, and consumer unpredictability, an over-reliance on acquisition will leave you hanging high and dry.


The conversion stage falls under acquisition, and is about getting meaningful conversions or first-time purchases. Conversion includes:

  • Capturing subscribers or leads
  • Online purchases or transactions
  • Initiating a welcome email series or other campaigns
  • Using browse abandonment and cart abandonment to capture lost prospective buyers


Growing customer value by extending transactional propensity and building customer relationships is where many retailers fall off. While they might have a points-based rewards systems or a basic loyalty program in place, they’re doing very little personalized or 1:1 marketing.

In the growth stage, you want to turn first- or second-time time buyers into active ones. This stage is about upselling, cross-selling, or predicting next-best options for customers at the perfect time with the perfect message. It’s about driving repurchases across all channels.


Retention is the biggest part of lifecycle marketing. It’s about inspiring existing customers to buy more, and more frequently. How? Here’s a few ways:

  • Focusing on quality over quantity, value over volume, and personalization over mass messaging
  • Making your loyalty program the nucleus of the marketing mix, not a complimentary add-on
  • Execution of an e-newsletter with a preference center
    • Celebrating customer events or achievements → anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, apology, etc.


The final stage, win-back, means convincing defective customers (regardless of the stage they stopped buying at) to re-engage and remain loyal. This is a great way to retain lapsing individuals. Inactive customer win-back and subscriber reactivation campaigns are commonly used to make this phase possible.

3 Ways to Boost Retention in 2021

The goal of retention is to increase affinity by developing stronger brand loyalty and cultivating more valuable lifetime relationships with customers.

In order to keep customers coming back, retailers need to generate personalized experiences, and ensure the content, timing, and appeal aligns with the right lifecycle stage.

Here’s three tactics you can implement right now to boost retention this year:

 Replenishment marketing. Gain an understanding of when customers are likely to run out of supplies, items, and products they order based on product lifetime and customer data. Then build omnichannel communications to help them re-order at just the right time.

 Loyalty or VIP emails. Special campaigns (or even sporadic, ad-hoc single emails) often work well for VIPs or loyalty members. Let these beloved buyers know that they are your most important customers, and offer them a personalized discount on their next order.

You’ll likely see the order come sooner and have it be a bigger order than if they are just in their regular purchase routine. These campaigns target your high rollers – the customers that may not buy often (or maybe they do), but who will usually go big when they buy.

 Defecting customers win back. This segment of customers are showing tell-tale signs of defecting, like purchasing less often, buying cheaper items, or making more returns. GolfOnline, an online supplier of golf accessories and Emarsys customer, saw a 160.14% uplift from defective buyer win-back programs.

Final Thoughts

The acquire-and-convert paradigm will no longer work for marketers who are serious about creating longer-term loyalty through retention. First-time buyers are great (and obviously a needed part of growth) but it’s hard to survive on one-and-done customers.

Marketing across the entire customer lifecycle means creating personalized experiences for every customer with the intent of generating affinity over the long term.

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