If only there was an e-commerce “success playbook” with no-fail, step-by-step instructions to attract new customers, make sure they love your product and site, get fulfillment right every time, and be flooded in repeat customers…
But what would be the fun or challenge in that?
We’ll give you the next best thing: a step-by-step guide that will point you to growth opportunities in your own business. Over and over again.
This is our E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle (ECL).
The E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle applies to every online store, of every size and in any industry. It’s our personal guidebook for how to quantitatively bring a store from inception to success in reliable, measurable, and predictable steps.
Over the last few months, we’ve published a series of blog posts that dug deep into the stages of the ECL. It covers everything you need to grow any e-commerce business: from acquiring new customers and growing conversions, to fulfillment, customer retention, and analytics.
> To read the series, start here with the first post: Shopify Selling 101: The E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle
To make it easier for you to access the valuable info in the ECL and put it to use for your business, we’ve compiled all of the juicy insights, app recommendations, and strategy advice from our E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle blog series and squeezed it into an easy-to-read, good lookin’ infographic.
Bring this infographic to your next business strategy session and ask yourself and your team:
- What stage of the ECL are we in right now?
- What are the “low hanging fruit” of growth for us?
- Where should we focus our energy and resources in the short term?
Once you know where to start, click through to the post on that ECL stage for more detailed guidance on how to assess where you are today, and uncover the right tools to grow your business to its next level.
It’s important to note that the ECL is a cycle, not a funnel. There is no “end”. It is a continuous process of assessment, change, growth, revisions, trials, assessment… and on and on.
Let’s round out the ECL infographic with a quick highlight of the key points in each stage:
You’ll know you’re in the acquisition stage if the biggest question you’re asking right now is: “How do I get people to my site?”
The answer, in short, is to use a combination of marketing strategies and tools to “cast your net wide” and appeal to a variety of consumers.
Our favorite way to talk about marketing - especially in this stage of the game - is in terms of the marketing you “own” versus the marketing you “rent”.
Marketing You Own: These are strategies that will cost you little to nothing, except your time. They usually take weeks or months to build up and deliver results, but once you begin to see success, it’s a form of equity that will continue to grow for the long-term.
Owned marketing includes:
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Content Marketing
Marketing You Rent: This is all about advertising. It costs $$, but can deliver a more immediate impact -- as long as your strategy is on-target. A successful advertising campaign includes:
- The right combination of advertising platforms (search engine advertising, display ads, social media advertising, etc.)
- The right audience, including demographics and keywords
- A compelling offer or promotion
- An eye-catching visual design
- A brief call to action
- A landing page to support a consistent experience and help drive conversions
In this stage you have one goal: get the right people to look at your website.
It’s important that your visuals, personality, tone, and core messaging are consistent across all mediums and platforms. Great website design is a must-have to get people to look at, click through, and stay to shop on your site.
> Read the post on Acquisition: “Shopify 101: How to Drive Traffic to Your Online Store [A Comprehensive Guide]”
You’re asking: “Once they’re on the site, how do I get them to buy?”
There’s almost nothing as frustrating as getting lots of site visitors, but little to no sales.
Enticing your shoppers to buy - and then buy more - depends on having an easy, fast, and appealing on-site experience.
Let’s talk about form, function, and motivation.
Form: Your site design needs to quickly communicate your brand’s personality and identity, and connect with the types of shoppers you’re trying to attract. This includes:
- Logo that establishes your brand personality
- Color palette to create to visual structure
- Typography that contributes to the brand identity
- High-quality photography and video
- Navigational graphics that make it easy for customers to find their way around
- Data forms that are short and fast
Function: To keep potential customers on your site long enough to consider a purchase, a fast, easy customer experience is a must-have. This means:
- Loading time is no more than 2-3 seconds
- Search is easy-to-use with well-organized results
- Product filtering is clear and simple to use
- Buttons all work when clicked
Motivation: Great website form and function is the foundation for the conversion stage, but you need to create motivation and urgency to buy. This means more marketing tools, such as:
- Promotions that are strategic and well-timed
- Landing pages that connect directly with your promotion
- Personalization tools that customizes site search, navigation, and merchandising to fit your shoppers’ preferences
- Follow up for those who browse but don’t purchase, or have purchased and are candidates for reactivation
> Read the post on Conversion: “Shopify 101: How to Increase Conversions for Your Online Store”
You’re asking: “How do I deliver the product once it’s been purchased?”
The keys to growing your business in the fulfillment stage are positive customer reviews, customer retention, and optimizing your fulfillment costs.
Fulfillment is a lot more than just shipping. It also includes:
- Online Checkout
- Order Management System
- Order Status Tracking
- Inventory Management
- Returns Management
It’s dangerously easy to underestimate your fulfillment costs (all too many e-commerce businesses make this mistake, and it can be a costly error that eats into profits). Check out the full list of fulfillment costs to consider in our E-Commerce Lifecycle infographic!
> Read the post on Fulfillment: “Shopify 101: Fulfilling Orders and Mastering Shipping”
You’re asking: “How can I get customers to come back and buy again, and buy more?”
Retention begins once fulfillment is completed. Your customer has their product, they’re using it, and hopefully it’s the best thing they’ve ever bought.
Now you want to convince them to buy another one. Or something similar from your store. Maybe buy one as a gift. Or tell a friend about their awesome new thing.
The end game here is to maximize your customer lifetime value (CLV).
Customer lifetime value is the predicted total value of an individual customer over the duration of your relationship with them.
Essentially, how much money can you make from that one customer relationship?
There are two primary ways to affect CLV:
- Increase CLV for individual customers in a one-to-one relationship. Some of the keys to this are delivering amazing customer support, using reactivation emails, and automated marketing tactics to bring customers back to your store.
- Turn individual customers into brand evangelists for your company (a one-to-many relationship). This means that your customers are sharing your products with their social networks and telling their friends and family about you.
> Read the post on Retention: “Shopify 101: Retention Strategies to Maximize Customer Lifetime Value”
You’re asking: “How Do I Know What’s Working? Where Do We Need to Make Changes?”
The measurement piece of the E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle is based on analytics, and it’s really not the 5th step. It’s actually a sub-step of all of the other four sections we talked about above (Acquisition, Conversion, Fulfillment, and Retention).
Measurement tells you what’s working and what isn’t, and where your opportunities for improvement and growth lie.
It is the foundation that supports and informs the continuous process of growth, change, assessment, revisions, trials, assessment… and on and on.
Measurement is not about data. It’s about information. Data without context or insight is just a bunch of numbers taking up space.
The way to make your measurement and analytics valuable is to first choose a fey key metrics that will help you assess how you’re doing in this moment, and over time. These KPIs will be different for every business, but we’ve mentioned a few common ones in the ECL infographic.
Once you’ve identified what your company’s key metrics are, make them easier to review by consolidating them into a single dashboard (using a business intelligence tool or KPI dashboard). Then create a schedule for reviewing your metrics regularly.
> Read the post on Measurement: “Shopify 101: Analytics to Guide Your Success Through Every Stage of the E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle”
We’ve been working with e-commerce brands of all sizes and stages for almost ten years now. We’re pros at helping companies identify their growth opportunities and map out a step-by-step strategy to success. We’d love to help your business get clarity on where your biggest growth opportunities are, and use your Shopify site to skyrocket your success. Give us a ring!