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Measuring Customer Lifetime Value

The case for maximizing long-term customer profitability is captured in the concept of customer lifetime value.20 Customer lifetime value (CLV) describes the net present value of the stream of future profits expected over the customer’s lifetime purchases. The company must subtract from its expected revenues the expected costs of attracting, selling, and servicing the account of that customer, applying the appropriate discount rate (say, between 10 percent and 20 percent, depending on cost of capital and risk attitudes). Lifetime value calculations for a product or service can add up to tens of thousands of dollars or even run to six figures.21

CLV calculations provide a formal quantitative framework for planning customer investment and help marketers adopt a long-term perspective. Many methods exist to measure CLV.22 Columbia’s Don Lehmann and Harvard’s Sunil Gupta illustrate their approach by calculating the CLV of 100 customers over a 10-year period (see Table 4.1). In this example, the firm acquires 100 customers with an acquisition cost per customer of $40. Therefore, in year 0, it spends $4,000. Some of these customers defect each year. The present value of the profits from this cohort of customers over 10 years is $13,286.52. The net CLV (after deducting acquisition costs) is $9,286.52, or $92.87 per customer.23

 
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