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Does Your Subscription Ecommerce Biz Need a Lifecycle Marketer, Retention Manager, or Both?

Smart sellers hire for roles that drive high LTVs. Learn about these positions to decide which you need.
October 24, 2022

You sell subscriptions, but you’re having trouble getting people to subscribe and staying subscribed. At some point, it feels like you should have a person overseeing this area of your ecommerce business. But should that be a lifecycle marketer? Or a retention manager?

Retention is so vital that smart brands hire dedicated people to focus solely on building audiences and driving repeat business. In some companies, lifecycle marketers fulfill these tasks. In other cases, the business hires retention managers.

Which of these roles is right for your team? This article aims to help you understand the lifecycle marketer and retention manager roles to help you choose. 

What is a Lifecycle Marketer?

To understand the role of a lifecycle marketer, you must first understand the concept of customer lifecycle marketing: 

Lifecycle marketing is the process of establishing stages of the customer journey and developing strategies to usher potential customers through each. It requires a careful understanding of your customers, their needs, and how best to guide them through their first and all their subsequent purchases. 

A lifecycle marketer manages the entire customer (or, in this case, subscriber) journey. They define stages of the journey (sometimes called “landmarks”) and create initiatives that move the customer through each. They plan ways to overcome roadblocks and push for deeper engagement, ultimately increasing retention and revenue. 

Someone in your organization needs to understand the customer journey. If it’s left unmanaged, customers will feel disengaged and lack reasons to remain loyal, which is a disaster for subscription ecommerce stores. 

Someone in your organization needs to understand the customer journey. If it’s left unmanaged, customers will feel disengaged and lack reasons to remain loyal, which is a disaster for subscription ecommerce stores. 

The typical stages of the lifecycle journey are Awareness, Engagement, Evaluation, Purchase, Post-purchase, and Advocacy. This explains just how comprehensive a lifecycle marketer’s job can be, especially once it encompasses several marketing channels.

To help you understand lifecycle marketing, let’s walk through two examples.

1. Wine Enthusiast’s Welcome Email

A welcome email is the quintessential example of lifecycle marketing. The purpose of a welcome email is to introduce the new subscriber (who may also be a new customer) to the brand and explain the value it provides. This is an important opportunity to inform the subscriber of any information that the lifecycle marketer wants them to know throughout the relationship, such as shipping terms, charity contributions, or tips for using the product. 

Wine Enthusiast does this pretty succinctly in their welcome email. They explain the benefits of being a subscriber: exclusive offers, first access to new items, and wine news, ratings, and recipes.

2. Jimmy Joy Shipment Delay

Sometimes, subscription customers aren’t ready for their next shipment. Maybe they haven’t used up their last purchase or don’t currently have the funds for it. The customers’ only option at most stores is to cancel the subscription. 

However, Jimmy Joy keeps more subscribers by anticipating their needs and offering a method to delay their upcoming shipment, thereby removing much friction from the purchase/post-purchase phase.

Pro Tip: Jimmy Joy is an ARPU user taking advantage of our delay flow. Subscribers can adjust their shipment date by the increments you suggest or choose the exact date they’d like it to ship. This option lowers churn and increases lifetime value. In fact, introducing easy delays reduced Jimmy Joy’s “too much product” churn by 50%.

What is a Customer Retention Manager?

A customer retention manager is responsible for retaining customers, but they don’t manage the entire customer journey. Like the lifecycle marketer, a retention manager creates systems and automations in place, but they generally only focus on customers after the purchase. They do not manage or respond to interactions or touch points the customer experiences before purchasing. 

This role often overlaps with the support team, as they respond to problems but don’t necessarily solve them for future customers. For example, if a customer complains about the quality of their latest shipment, a retention manager would likely have the authority to 1) send a new product and offer a discount on the next renewal and 2) investigate and solve the underlying quality issue. 

Do you need a retention manager in addition to a lifecycle marketer? Yes, because it’s important to have someone fight churn by focusing on convincing customers to buy again. Whereas a lifecycle marketer can help prevent churn by optimizing the customer journey, a retention manager would put systems in place to manage only retention. 

Furthermore, a retention manager is an excellent source of knowledge and learning to pass information up the chain to the lifecycle marketer. For example, suppose the retention manager noticed a trend of canceled subscriptions due to unmet expectations. In that case, they could deliver that insight to the lifecycle marketer, who could amend the various landmarks to set clearer expectations. 

A retention manager is an excellent source of knowledge and learning to pass information up the chain to the lifecycle marketer. 

To help you understand retention management, let’s walk through two examples.

1. BirchBox's Win-back Campaign

When a customer stops making purchases or interacting with your email content, you may need to incentivize them to re-engage with your brand. BirchBox does this with a free gift.

However, remember that a discount is usually the last step in a win-back campaign. Some win-back campaigns use 3 to 5 emails to convince a customer to re-engage, even if that means just opening an email. Experiment with different types of emails to re-engage lapsed customers.  

2. Yankee Candle’s Subscription

Yankee Candle products are available anywhere, so repeat customers tend to buy from a variety of online and brick-and-mortar sources. In order to retain website customers (where margins are highest), they started offering a subscription program.

Pro Tip: If you're going to provide a subscription, it's important to create a flexible subscription experience. With ARPU, Recharge merchants can use upcoming charge notifications to offer relevant 2-click upsells to increase AOVs and easy delays to prevent churn. 

So Which Do You Need?

As you can see, the roles of a lifecycle marketer and retention manager are quite similar. The lifecycle marketer’s role has a broader scope, but both roles are concerned with keeping customers buying regularly and enrolled in subscriptions. 

Which role you hire for depends on the products you sell and the needs of your company. Larger companies with bigger budgets can usually afford to hire a specialist for each role. The lifecycle marketer is typically a higher position in the company’s architecture, also overseeing brand evangelists, conversion rate optimizers, designers, copywriters, and more. 

The lifecycle marketer may report to the head of growth or chief marketing officer. Sometimes the director of marketing and the lifecycle marketer are the same person. 

In small, newer companies, these roles are typically handled by the same person. It’s tempting to focus just on retention when you are young and every dollar saved counts. Lifecycle marketing seems like a vague “we’ll-get-there-some-day” function, but we encourage you to think about it early. You can begin mapping the customer journey as soon as you have some data to learn about your customer. 

A Key Tool for Lifecycle Marketers and Retention Managers

No matter which role you hire, someone will need to manage shipment and charge communications, which is why ARPU is a valuable tool for lifecycle marketers and retention managers. You can send custom upcoming charge notifications with 2-click upsells, effortless shipment delays, product swaps, and more. Try ARPU for free.

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