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Lifetime Customer Value: See you next century!

As a branding consultant, I’m really big on the idea of Lifetime Customer Value – i.e. calculating the the amount of money a customer will spend with your business over their entire lifespan. This particular brand metric doesn’t have equal emphasis for every business, but wherever possible I encourage businesses to soak this idea in to their internal culture in the interests of providing great customer service.

This whole metric is about to take on new meaning however, when one considers the hyper-extension of the human lifespan which potentially lies not too far away. Dr. Aubrey De Grey is one of the most prominent (and controversial) observers and commentators on this coming revolution, but he is also far from the only one.

Current predictions about people’s lifespans in the future vary from between 120 years to indefinite. What’s most interesting is that people will enjoy good health for most of that time, with only a very short window of declining health at the very end of our lives.

This is not science fiction. The time-span for the emergence of first technologies in this area is between 20 to 60 years.

Yes that’s a fair way off, but think for a moment on the consequences of this change for business practice and life in general:

– Will people still marry for life? Or will we see a rise in  the number of fixed-term marriage contracts?

– The world-wide birthrate will have to decline. Are children a big part of your customer base? How much can you continue to count on the size of this market?

– To what degree are your products / services linked to certain stages in your customer’s lifetime? What changes will impact upon the way you structure your products?

– Do you sell beauty products? People will be biologically in their mid 20’s for the vast majority of their life – who needs wrinkle cream?

– Do you service the elderly? What changes does the elimination of ageing hold for you?

– What about the education market? What courses do you have to service the needs of an immortal?

 

This is just the start. Let’s dig deeper:

 

– Capitalism in general is built upon the concept of eternally growing markets, due to population growth. What happens when population growth ceases, essentially forever (barring wars and natural disasters – the effects of these disruptions on consumer markets is generally well understood)

– With zero population growth (or close to it) where are your new customers going to come from if you alienate your current ones?

 

If you have ever lost a loved one to age-related disease then you can conceive of the emotive forces that will drive the development of these technologies as they start to enter the mainstream. With that in mind, as business owners and marketers we need to start wrestling with the problems and opportunities these new developments will create both for business and for humanity at large. There are going to be an awful lot more educated, experienced, marketing-savvy and generally wiser individuals on the planet in the future.

I can’t speak for future marketers, but to my mind, lifetime customer value and customer retention levels may be two key metrics that are about to take on massive importance.