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Customer Behavior

Understand the 6 Customer Relationship Levels to Grow your eCommerce Business

At the heart of any growing eCommerce business lies the Customer MasterPlan model. The most successful businesses are those who move as many customers as possible from Stage 1 to Stage 5 of the model, and as quickly as possible. That’s because the real profits come from Repeat and Regular Buyers.

6 customer relationship levels


The 6 circles in the figure above represent the 6 Customer Relationship Levels:

  1. The World – literally everyone in the world
  2. Visitors – people who have visited your website
  3. Enquirers – people who have signed up to your email marketing
  4. First Time Buyers – customers who have made one purchase
  5. Repeat Buyers – customer who have made more than one purchase
  6. Regular Buyers – your raving fans, customers who have made multiple purchases, absolutely love your business and want to help it grow

The Customer MasterPlan model is a very simple yet effective way to segment your audience.

It’s simple because pretty much any business can work out who’s a visitor vs an enquirer vs a buyer.

It’s effective because all customers at each Customer Relationship Level have a similar relationship with your business. If they’re a “Visitor” they are aware of you, but they don’t yet trust or need your business enough to sign up to your emails or purchase your products. If they are a “First Time Buyer” they have experienced all you have to offer, and should be ready to buy again.

At each Relationship Level, a customer is receptive to slightly different messages and you need to adjust your marketing methods according to each stage.


Moving through the Customer Relationship Levels

  • Stage 1 (World -> Visitors) – you need to tell them you exist, and ask them to visit your website, both advertising and PR are great ways to achieve this.
  • Stage 2 (Visitors -> Enquirers) – you need to prove that they were right to visit your site – first impressions count! It’s all about clear landing pages and call-to-actions as well as an outstanding user experience.
  • Stage 3 (Enquirers -> First Time Buyers) – you have to continue to demonstrate how great you and your service are, whilst conveying the individual benefits of your products or services and asking them to buy.
  • Stage 4 and 5 (First-Time Buyers -> Repeat Buyers -> Regular Buyers) – it’s all about continuing to build that strong relationship so they keep coming back again and again. Throughout these levels, both email and remarketing have big roles to play.


Choose the right Marketing Methods

One of the key messages here is that you need to think of your marketing in terms of how it helps customers jump to the next Relationship Level. It’s not about “Let’s do email!” anymore, it’s now about “Can email help me move customers through Stage 4?” (The answer, of course, is yes!).

The Customer MasterPlan model enables you to work out where you should be focusing your efforts to make the biggest improvement. In which of the stages are you weakest?

First, you need to determine the gaps in communication with your customers. Simply divide a sheet of paper into 5 sections and write down the marketing methods you’re using at each Stage. If, for one of the Stages, you aren’t currently doing any marketing activity, then that would be a good place to focus.

marketing methods sheet


You’ll notice that there are 3 types of marketing in Stage 1. That’s because there are just so many ways you could be trying to get customers to your website that there needs to be some way to make sense of them. The 3 types are:

  • Shine a Light – marketing that makes the largest number of people know you exist, but doesn’t focus on any particular target group. For example advertising in a national newspaper.
  • Target Customers – marketing that puts your business in front of the right customers. It could be advertising in a niche magazine, or Social Media advertising targeted on interests.
  • Get Found – marketing that ensures that when a customer has decided to buy the products you sell, it’s you they buy from. For example advertising via Google Shopping Campaigns.

3 types of marketing in Stage 1


How to start improving each Stage and growing your sales

Here are some ideas of how to improve your performance in each Stage of the Customer MasterPlan Model and move more customers from The World to become Regular Buyers:

Stage 1:

  • Google Shopping Campaigns! A must-do so your customers can find you when they need your products.
  • Influencer Outreach – are there blogs or podcasts or newspapers that would love to review and feature your products?
  • Facebook Advertising to an audience of people who are lookalikes of your existing email database.

Stage 2:

  • Use popups to encourage the email sign up. Deployed well this can get 8% of visitors to your website onto your email list!

Stage 3:

  • Optimize your email welcome sequence to follow up after the customer has signed up
  • Use an abandoned basket email to remind people about the items in their carts.
  • Any form of Remarketing can be used to softly nudge them toward buying now rather than later.

Stage 4:

  • Set up post-purchase email sequences
  • Include surprise promotional materials or give-aways in the product parcels
  • Create a customers-only Facebook group through which customers can stay in touch and share their experience

Stage 5


Don’t just do everything – focus on where you’re weakest

Maybe all these ideas are yet to be implemented in your business, you could work on all of them. But please first work out which is going to make the biggest difference (hint it’s probably in the Stage you’re weakest at!) and work on that one first.

That’s the real power of the Customer MasterPlan model and its 6 Customer Relationship Levels. To enable you to quickly assess where you need to improve performance, and easily identify the marketing that will push your business forward.


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Chloë Thomas is an eCommerce expert focused on eCommerce strategy and marketing, to help eCommerce people make better decisions as they build their path to success. Author of 4 books, keynote speaker, and host of the eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast. Her latest book is an bestseller – Customer Persuasion: How to Influence your Customers to Buy More and Why and Ethical Approach will Always Win.