Leveraging the real-time marketing beast

Aaron Goldman, CMO at 4C, considers the opportunities that another bout of bad weather offers for marketers geared up to react quickly with bespoke campaigns. 

Weather maps show that by the end of the week temperatures in some parts of the UK are once again set to take a frightening plunge. In view of the dramatic weather changes in recent weeks, bookies including Coral are already pre-empting a White Easter.

When the #beastfromtheeast weather phenomenon originally struck it rapidly became the talk of England as it trapped countless workers at home and caused school closures across the country. While the chaos created an opportunity to get cosy at home, it also created an opportunity for brands and agencies to embrace real-time marketing.

With the distinct possibility of more disruption as we enter the Easter break, it could well be a case of third time lucky for many brands. Marketers who have sat on the periphery and wondered how they can jump on these real-time moments have a unique chance to prepare for the unexpected.

The power of real-time marketing is snow joke
The way people interact with brands and make buying decisions is more immediate than ever. People have the tools and the information to make purchases virtually anytime, anywhere. In fact, the consumer path to purchase gets shorter every year, while also becoming less linear. This has forced brands to find ways to engage customers at the most relevant moments possible, rather than bombarding them with messages timed around a marketing calendar.

UK marketers have had success with real-time marketing, especially around sporting events, TV shows and ad, and elections. However, the weather represents a huge opportunity to engage with customers at a moment when they’re looking for products and services that will be useful for them.

Don’t give your customers the cold shoulder

Effective real-time marketing turns unexpected events into opportunities to serve customers’ needs in the moment. As the #beastfromtheeast3.0 encroaches, marketers should be looking to use the multitude of online engagements that have happened since the first snowfall to respond rapidly and intelligently with campaigns designed to raise brand awareness and even revenue.

Hotels and B&Bs have an incredible opportunity to reap the rewards of the cold snap by using Snapchat’s recently released new Snap Map feature that enables app users to view and share photos and videos from a specific location to reach Easter travelers and commuters who may be left stranded.

Retail brands could assist customers by featuring foods and supplies would be helpful to have on hand during the bad weather, and promote what is in stock at local stores.

Technology companies could showcase specific products that are designed to help manage a productive remote workforce, including unified comms, cloud applications, new laptop hardware and the like.

One brand that did jump on the opportunity to engage consumers affected by the first Beast from the East was O2. The telecoms provider launched out-of-home poster ads asking if motorists were feeling “stuck”, using traffic data to show an empathetic message when vehicles slowed to speeds of under 10mph.

Weather-synced campaigns are on fire
Great examples of real-time weather-based campaigns aren’t limited to the most recent snowstorm. 4C recently worked with a multinational fast moving consumer goods company well known for baking products.

The brand wanted to reach consumers when they are more likely to bake – which is when the weather is cold. Custom messaging was triggered on Facebook and Instagram to key cold-weather audiences, resulting in a 45 per cent increase in click through rate (CTR) to the website and 14 per cent more efficient cost per click (CPC) in driving web traffic.

Similarly, OVO Energy deployed Facebook Ads during a bout of cold weather to persuade potential new consumers to switch their pay-as-you-go tariff. Their agency, Merkle|Periscopix, selected temperatures below 8 degrees and rain as the triggers and created bespoke messages related to the weather conditions to further drive relevancy with the audience. The results were strong, with a 327 per cent higher conversion rate (CVR) and 43 per cent cheaper cost per acquisition (CPA) for new customer signups compared to non-synced campaigns.

Maintaining seasonal relevance
Of course, with the clocks having gone forward last weekend, and consumers eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring, its important to remember bad weather isn’t the only opportunity to engage with customers in real time.

Amazon’s #NowItsSummer store is another good example: a weather reactive store that presents customers with a very different array of products and offers based on whether or not the sun is shining. On a bright summer day, customers are offered flip flops and beach towels. If the following day is a washout, a tantalising range of umbrellas, anoraks and Wellington boots takes centre stage.

To win the battle for attention, today’s brands need to pre-empt their customers’ every want and desire. That’s the reality of the massive real-time marketing opportunity that businesses in almost every sector must learn to leverage. Whether it’s the #beastfromtheeast3.0, a tube strike, or a sports game, brands have to connect with real-time relevance to meet modern consumer expectations.