The Key Personalization Question for Marketers: It's Not What You Think

February 4, 2016

The guest post was submitted by Aaron Orendorff, who is a content strategist and college instructor.

Let’s be honest: as a marketer, the deck is stacked against you.

As of 2014, the average adult is exposed to 362 ads … every day. Of those 362 ads, roughly 153 “attracted the audience’s full attention for a few seconds or more.” That’s a bleak forecast.

What’s more, not only are consumers flooded with ads, but “trust” in advertising -- especially among millennials -- is at an all time low. Online, the answer to this dilemma lies in personalization: segmenting your audience in real-time to create relevant, custom content -- ads, discounts, headlines, and calls-to-action -- that not only grab your audience's attention for “a few seconds or more”  … but get them to engage.

And yet … when it comes personalization, marketers often ignore what -- according to the British Retail Consortium -- is the second-biggest motivating factor in buying decisions.

Hint: it’s not what you think.

Why the weather matters

Turns out … it’s the weather. Why? Because the weather has a profound, psychological impact on us.

We plan events years in advance, but are quick to cancel at the first sign of unexpected rain. What we purchase -- food, clothing, gifts, and amenities -- are all driven by the weather. In addition, physicians have long recognized that the weather alters how we feel: mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

Perhaps most striking is the fact that weather “affects around $3 trillion in private industry alone.” In fact, IBM made big waves at the end of January when they closed their acquisition deal of The Weather Company for somewhere in the realm of $2 billion to more than $3.5 billion. The purchase included nearly all of Weather.co’s “B2B, mobile and cloud properties.”

The reason is simple, as Fortune’s recent headline declared: “IBM bought The Weather Company because weather affects nearly everything.”

What’s more, David Kenny -- the former CEO of the Weather Company and recently named head of IBM’s Watson platform -- explained, “there are already at least 500 companies using Watson-based machine learning data, spanning applications in areas like healthcare, travel and retail services. The idea will be to create more intelligent analytics for these groups leveraging the Weather Co. datasets.”

Given its persuasive power … the key personalization question for marketers is this: how can I use the weather in my marketing?

“Weatherizing” your marketing

Weatherizing your marketing is essentially an advanced form of geomarketing (what’s also known as geotargeting or geofencing). Geomarketing can be used to personalize everything in your online funnel -- from external advertising; to on-site elements like images, headlines, contact information, and pop-ups; to big-picture considerations like currency and language.

With each element, what your visitors actually sees and hears is based directly on where that particular visitor is located.

And geofencing isn’t just for the B2C market. Last year, it was named the third most important “digital marketing trend which B2B needs to embrace in 2015.” Building on this model, when a visitor pulls up (or is exposed to) some element of your online marketing, geofence software intervenes.

It starts by identifying the location of your visitor and then checking that location’s weather through an API. Current conditions are automatically compared to pre-set rules you establish within your geofence so that what’s delivered to the visitor is a genuinely personalized experience.

In other words, weather triggers “swap out” dynamic content based on the conditions -- not just the geography -- of your website visitors themselves.

What to weatherize

Thanks to geomarketing programs, set up is fairly simple. But, the next question is: what should you weatherize. Five elements are most important.

1. Home Page

Your home page is the central hub for all your visitors. But you shouldn’t treat it like a “one size fits all” straightjacket. Instead, the most important elements to weatherize are (1) your featured products, (2) alerts that affect services and availability, and (3) your pop-ups (both entrance and exit).

2. PPC Advertising

The second place to implement weather in your online marketing campaign is in your price-per-click (PPC) advertising. Across the board, geo-targeted mobile display ads outperform the standard CTR benchmarks in literally every industry. And weatherized ads are simply an extension of those principles. By building your display rules around weather conditions, you can automatically prioritize the products and messages hyper-relevant not only to your audience’s search terms and profiles but to their current needs.

3. Landing Page

Every PPC advertisement you create should be linked to it’s own custom landing page. Because of this, the key area to focus is consistency. If your visitor arrives on your landing page through a weather-based ad, that same weather-based specificity should remain throughout: headline, subhealine, image, body copy, and call-to-action.

4. SMS (Text)

The fourth place to use weather-conscious marketing is in SMS/text messaging. Though this method needs to be exercised with tact -- after all, nobody likes getting texts from a business trying to sell them something every ten minutes -- SMS also has one of the highest ROIs … as long as they’re relevant and timely. As MDG Advertising discovered, “72% of consumers respond to calls to action in marketing messages they received within sight of the retailer.” By its very nature SMS marketing is personal, which is exactly why weather personalization fits so well.

5. Email

Lastly, don’t count email out of the weatherizing process. Naturally, emails are best for longer deals or advertising campaigns, instead of the near-instant notification of text messages. Advanced segmentation features allow you create contact groups based on “Geolocoation” easily. The best way to use weather crafting your subject lines and calls-to-action around current weather conditions or forecasts: “It’s gonna pour in [Blank] … get ready now and save 15%.”

Whatever the weather …

Yes … the weather matters. And it matter more than you think. In the increasingly flooded marketplace of online advertising, personalization is king. What’s more, the key personalization question probably isn’t what you expected.

How do you get better results in your online marketing?

Just check the weather.

For more content on the power of data -- weather or otherwise -- subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog. Seven days a week, we publish content aimed at making marketers do their jobs better. 

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