Customer Experience Lifecycle in SaaS: How To Optimize Each Stage and Drive More Conversions?
The customer experience lifecycle paints the complete picture of a customer’s interaction with your brand.
Optimizing experiences throughout this cycle to improve every interaction increases engagement and customer lifetime value.
In this article, we’ll explore the following:
- What the customer lifecycle is and why it’s important.
- The five stages of the customer lifecycle.
- Lifecycle management strategies for every stage in the customer journey.
Let’s get started.
- The customer experience lifecycle is the interactions a customer has as they move along the five stages of the customer journey.
- The customer lifecycle is different from the customer journey. The experience lifecycle describes how a customer feels as they move through the different stages of their journey with a business.
- There are five different stages in the customer experience lifecycle – reach, acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty.
- The reach stage of the customer journey describes the moment when customers first hear about your business.
- The next stage is acquisition, where customers sign up for a product or service for the first time. In SaaS, this is usually the moment they start a free trial or freemium plan.
- The conversion stage (also known as the purchase stage) happens when a customer buys from the business for the first time. In SaaS, this is when they upgrade from a free trial to paid, or from a freemium to a premium plan.
- In the retention stage, customers stick around for a few payment cycles without canceling their accounts. They’ve recognized the value of the product or service at this point.
- Finally, the loyalty stage (also called the advocacy stage) happens when happy customers refer new people to the product since they’re so pleased with it.
- To increase success in the reach stage, you should define your target user personas and share informative, relevant content.
- In order to get more customers to sign up for your product, you can showcase your product with live demos, offer free trials or freemium plans, and remove friction from the signup flow.
- To ensure more customers are moving through the conversion funnel, you should:
- Use concise onboarding checklists to activate users faster,
- Shorten the learning curve with interactive walkthroughs and help users adopt features without friction
- Embrace the product-led reverse trial approach: give freemium users access to premium features for a limited time and allow them to experience the added value firsthand.
- To make sure existing customers are sticking around, you can:
- Look into product usage analytics and understand what’s driving customer loyalty. Then, replicate their paths and drive the rest of your user base to success.
- Offer continuous support and education with an in-app resource center.
- Collect customer feedback to address issues that are holding back customers from becoming repeat buyers and advocates.
- Finally, to increase your loyal customer base, you should implement the following strategies:
- Celebrate customer success and create stronger emotional bonds with customers. You can use gamified elements like celebratory modals, and badges, certificates.
- Implement loyalty and referral programs that incentivize long-term relationships
- If you have customers who have reached the loyalty stage, utilize your opportunities to the best and encourage customers with high satisfaction to leave reviews on 3rd party platforms. Social proof does wonders for your company.
What is the customer experience lifecycle?
The customer experience lifecycle is the journey that customers take during their entire relationship with your brand. It typically spans five or more stages – reach, acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty.
Customer experience lifecycle vs customer journey
The customer journey describes the stages that people go through when interacting with your brand. It can be visualized with a customer journey map.
The customer experience lifecycle is similar, however, in contrast to the customer journey, which is measured from beginning to end, the customer lifecycle is ongoing. The cycle continues as the customer moves from stage to stage, sometimes dropping out at different points and starting over.
What are the customer experience lifecycle stages?
Customer lifecycle stages describe the steps a customer takes to go from being aware of your company to making their first purchase, and beyond.
These are the five stages of the customer experience lifecycle:
In the reach stage (also known as the awareness stage or consideration stage), people in your target audience first become aware of your business. They recognize your brand as a potential solution to a problem they have or a goal they want to achieve.
In the awareness stage, people browse educational content to start comparing products or services. This all leads to a purchase decision.
During the acquisition process (also known as the purchase stage), new customers make their first purchase from a company. If you’re a SaaS business, this is the stage where customers may sign up for a free trial or the freemium version of your product.
In the conversion stage, customers convert from free trial to paid plans or upgrade from freemium to premium. They’ve seen the value of your product and are ready to pay for it.
In the retention stage, customers have stayed with the business for some time. Customers feel that the value of the product or service is worth the price. If it’s a subscription business, they keep renewing their plan.
Loyalty is the final stage of the customer experience lifecycle model (also called the advocacy stage). Loyal customers have built a positive relationship with the company and are now referring new business to the company.
Customer experience lifecycle management strategies for the reach stage
To get more customers into your sales funnel, follow these two lifecycle management strategies:
Define your target user personas
Use user persona templates to define your ideal customer, their pain points, and their goals.
Then you can create marketing and sales content, like blog posts or social media campaigns, that speak to those concerns.
Share informative and relevant content
Engage with customers on social media platforms. Ask them questions, listen to what they’re saying about your industry, and stay updated on the big picture.
Share useful and engaging content on social media that’s not always sales-focused. Education should be the biggest priority in the reach stage.
Customer experience lifecycle management strategies for the acquisition stage
The acquisition stage in SaaS is a bit different than a typical B2B company. This is because the sales cycles are longer, starting with a trial or demo.
Showcase your product with live demos
Use demos to connect with customers and show your product’s value. Help them get to the “aha” moment faster by showing them how the product can be used in the context of their goals.
Offer free trials and freemiums to potential customers
Demos work great for products with a steeper learning curve. On the other hand, if your product is easy to use and intuitive, offer a free trial or freemium account to increase acquisition.
You can consider using paid trials to qualify leads. For example, you can ask customers to pay a small amount to use the product for a week or two before committing to the full plan.
If you’re going with the freemium pricing model, make sure your freemium plan offers just enough value, but not too much that the user won’t feel the need to upgrade.
Remove friction from the signup flow
Remove unnecessary steps from the signup flow so users can get into the product without any friction.
To do this, provide single sign-on options and don’t ask for upfront payment.
While collecting info is critical to deliver personalized content during the customer experience, don’t bombard users with too many fields to fill out. You can always collect more data with microsurveys in the later stages of the onboarding process.
Customer lifecycle management strategies for the conversion stage
Here are three strategies to support customers nearing the conversion stage:
Activate users and get them to experience the promised value
Users won’t convert if they don’t perform value-driven actions.
At Userpilot, we use checklists to show new users the essential four actions they need to take to publish their first in-app flow.
Shorten the learning curve and drive feature adoption with interactive walkthroughs
The checklist prompts them to take action and discover relevant product functionalities for them. The walkthrough then shortens the learning path by showing them how to use a new feature. It removes friction and increases adoption.
Give freemium users access to premium features
Let customers have firsthand experience with premium features. It will help motivate them to switch from the free plan to a paid version. Free users can see the value an upgrade might provide.
In this example from Asana, they grant free users access to their premium Goals features for a limited time.
Customer lifecycle management strategies for the retention stage
Here are three strategies to improve the retention stage experience:
Understand what’s driving customer loyalty and replicate
Track product usage, and understand what brings value. That is, which features power users use regularly.
Then, identify the user segments with the same needs that only interacted with the part of those features. If they’re underusing critical features, they’ll never achieve that same level of value as your power users do.
Prompt them to engage with those features that will bring them extra value.
To do this, you can trigger in-app UI patterns such as tooltips, modals, and hotspots that encourage them to try out those features.
In this example from Asana, they use an in-app modal to encourage customers to try out their Forms feature (which is likely a high-value feature).
Offer continuous education and support with an in-app resource center
Most customers prefer self-service support. They don’t want to wait around for your support team to respond.
Offer self-serve resources with an in-app resource center. Enable users to troubleshoot their problems and educate themselves on demand. This reduces friction, keeps their motivation high, and improves satisfaction.
Collect customer feedback and address it
Show customers, you care about their experience by acting on their feedback.
With customer feedback, you can identify bugs and resolve them and find friction points in the user journey to eliminate them. Then, follow up with customers to close the feedback loop.
NPS surveys are one way to measure user sentiment at this stage of the customer lifecycle. NPS surveys ask customers how likely they are to recommend your product to a friend (indicating satisfaction levels).
Don’t forget to gather qualitative insights with open-ended questions. You’ll get more context around their survey responses, so you can make informed product improvements.
Customer experience lifecycle management strategies for the loyalty stage
Want to nurture the relationship you have with current customers? Here are three management strategies for the loyalty stage:
Celebrate customer success
Form emotional bonds with customers and give them a mood lift when they reach an important milestone.
Use the event-triggering feature in Userpilot – once an action of your choice is completed, an automated event is triggered. It can be a gamified celebration modal, certificate, or monetary incentive.
In this example from Calendly, they show a celebration modal when users schedule their first event.
Implement customer loyalty programs
Customer loyalty programs are a great way to keep more existing customers as they incentivize long-term brand-customer relationships.
There are a few different loyalty program formats you can try out.
For example, some companies use point-based loyalty programs where customers get rewarded for purchases or referrals.
Speaking of referrals, that’s a popular loyalty program format used in the SaaS industry. In this example from Evernote, they reward customers for referring new people to the platform. In exchange, those customers get points that can be used for money off their subscriptions.
Encourage loyal customers to leave reviews
Ask happy customers to leave reviews on third-party review sites, like G2 or Capterra. They get to share their experience with your brand, while you get new business from the positive social proof.
Instead of individually asking every loyal customer for a review, you can automate this by designing an in-app modal in Userpilot. You can trigger it to show only to the user segments who use and enjoy your product the most.
Improving every stage of the customer lifecycle improves satisfaction and contributes to higher revenue. That’s because customers expect a tailored product experience that helps them achieve value.
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