LTV, CAC, and payback in B2C


The most important metrics for B2C companies are payback period, customer acquisition cost or “CAC”, and life time-value or “LTV”. Payback measures the speed at which you payback customer acquisition costs, CAC is the cost of acquiring the customer, while LTV estimates the profits of the customer over their life with you. We found a few B2C public companies that disclosed their metrics, and you should work to achieve metrics as close to theirs as possible (while some of these figures may be dated, the ratios are what matter).

Chewy’s LTV to CAC is 2.4x for a 3 year old cohort — not great. Chewy doesn’t disclose CAC or LTV individually, but does disclose the ratio. The chart below shows the 2015 and 2014 cohorts seemingly performing better than the 2016 and perhaps the 2017 cohorts. According to Chewy’s prospectus “We measure LTV on a rolling three-year basis, which, as a multiple of acquisition cost, was 2.4x for our most recent 2015 cohort, and continues to grow as it ages. We have included a chart below that shows the ratio of LTV to CAC for the 2012–2017 cohorts. Our most recent cohorts had similar behavior for ordering our products as prior cohorts.” Older cohorts are performing slightly better than new cohorts for Chewy, but that’s not unusual (early adopters are typically cheaper to acquire).

Revolve has nice economics. Revolve disclosed CAC and LTV data only for their 2014 cohort: “in 2014, we spent approximately $7.2 million in acquisition marketing to acquire 242,318 new customers in the 2014 cohort, resulting in an approximately $30 CAC for that cohort. This cohort generated a contribution profit of approximately $43 per customer on the first order, which demonstrates our ability to achieve rapid payback and profitability. Furthermore, the LTV of the 2014 cohort has increased over time driven by repeat purchases and rising contribution margins. As a result, the LTV of the REVOLVE segment’s 2014 customer cohort was approximately $188 after four years, 6.3 times the $30 cost of acquiring those customers, which is a testament to our ability to acquire customers efficiently and profitably.” That’s excellent performance and what you should strive for: be profitable on the first purchase and keep the customer coming back.

Wayfair’s CAC grew by 12% annually while marketing spend increased 2.3x. Wayfair, an online purveyor of housewares, reported CAC of $46 in Q3 2013 versus $36 in Q3 2011. While that seems like high growth in CAC, it’s nominal when you consider that marketing expense increased from $9mm to $21mm over that same time. Overall, CAC grew at a compound annual growth rate of 12% each year, which is acceptable given that marketing spend more than doubled over the same period.

Angie’s List had stable CAC, while tripling marketing spend. Angie’s List, an online review site with memberships, had very little change in CAC from 2009 to 2011 with CAC of $74, $85, and $78. Over the same period, paid memberships went from 411k to 1.1mm and marketing expense rose from $16mm to $56mm. In other words, marketing expense more than tripled but CAC stayed the same. That’s remarkable scale.

The Real Real’s LTV to CAC of a 3 year old cohort is 3.5x. The Real Real uses the terms BAC and BLTV respectively, but irrespective of terminology, the performance is strong as they achieve profitability on the cohort in year 1 and earn over 3x on the cohort in year 3. “The BLTV to BAC ratio in excess of 1.0 for all cohorts presented after 12 months reflects that each cohort has achieved payback at least equal to BAC within 1 year after acquisition. We have observed that BLTV for buyers who are also consignors is significantly higher than for buyers who have not also consigned.”

Lifelock’s LTV/CAC ratio is 5.15x. Although a bit dated, this figure was derived from the formula of monthly revenue per customer x 12 /(1-annual retention rate) all divided by CAC. The numbers are $11.76 per customer x 12 / (1–86.5%) / $203.

LegalZoom’s payback is 90 days. We couldn’t find LTV and CAC data, but payback period information is just as valuable. “We deploy a disciplined customer acquisition strategy that has allowed us to generate lifetime value in excess of customer acquisition costs within the first 90 days of establishing a customer relationship in the United States. As we continue to invest in customer acquisition costs to grow our business, we look to do so efficiently. We aim to achieve a ratio of lifetime value to customer acquisition costs of approximately 3x within 25 months of customer acquisition, and approximately 5x within 96 months of customer acquisition. Many of our subscribers have increased their cumulative spend with us over time as they have expanded their use of our platform to include additional products and subscription services. Our relationship with our small business customers typically starts with the formation of their business, and we can generate additional revenue as their businesses grow and their needs become more complex.”

Bumble’ payback is similar. “Our Payback Period on user acquisition costs for all new user registrations averaged less than three months in the nine months ended September 30, 2020.”

Robinhood’s payback has improved. “For the monthly cohorts in the year ended December 31, 2019, our average revenue payback period was approximately 13 months, and for the monthly cohorts in the year ended December 31, 2020, our average revenue payback period improved to less than five months. Our average cost to acquire a new Funded Account declined by more than 60% from $53 in fiscal 2019 to $20 in fiscal 2020.” Their cohort growth is also fantastic (see below).

Healthy LTV, CAC, and payback period are critical for scaling any B2C business. If you can get on par with the companies above, you’ll be on your way to going public.

Visit us at blossomstreetventures.com and email me directly at sammy@blossomstreetventures.com. All founders and funds welcome! We invest in companies with run rate revenue of $3mm to $30mm, with year over year growth of 20% to 50%+ depending on revenue. We lead or follow in growth rounds and special situations like inside rounds, small rounds, rushed rounds, corralling investors with our term sheet, bridges, inbetweeners, cap table clean up, and extensions. We can commit in 3 weeks and our check is $1mm to $4mm. Also visit https://blossomstreetventures.com/metrics/ for always up-to-date SaaS metrics.