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The Downside of Life on the Beach: Missed Opportunities in Climate Targeting

Mary Kathleen Sullivan April 06,2016

I’m a spoiled email marketer who’s been let down lately when it comes to my inbox. I’m spoiled by a great job, an awesome family, and—most recently—a year-long stay at a sunny beach in Costa Rica. I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain—but I’m feeling a bit of email disenchantment lately because, even though I’m soaking up the sunshine every day, I’ve spent the past five months receiving emails about long coats, furry boots, and winter sports gear. Not a single retailer whose emails I’m subscribed to has picked up on my recent move and changed my content accordingly. And I can assure you that five months without relevant content feels like a really, really long time.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised—as a marketing strategy consultant, climate targeting was never much of a priority in my recommendations. I knew that, relatively speaking, climate-specific targets were much smaller segments, and the cost seemed to outweigh any potential benefit. For some businesses, this will always be the case—I can’t claim that climate targeting is guaranteed to turn around your revenue numbers overnight. However, it’s important to consider that the lack of engagement experienced by “alternate climate” subscribers, who haven’t received relevant content in months, will likely put them into an inactive segment. By the time spring rolls around—and conventional seasonal merchandise is relevant for them again—they’ll likely be long gone in terms of their engagement.

If we want to build strong relationships with customers beyond those in our largest segments, it’s time to figure out if there’s value in this type of segmentation for your business. Here are a few tactics I’d recommend for getting started:

  1. Put customer zip codes to good use.
    When a customer creates an account or places an order, they provide their zip code— and, lucky us, it’s usually stored in an easily accessible database. First, run some numbers based on general climate patterns in these zip codes to see what percentage of your file likely WON’T be interested in your content. Then run a test where at least one module in your email features alternative-season content, and gauge your results to decide if this is something worth doing on a consistent basis.
  1. Apply climate segmentation.
    If you have access to full interaction data, assign climate segmentation to your file based on where customers are when accessing your most recent emails. This may seem like an onerous task, but try it at least once if you can—you may be surprised at the results. Remember to give customers at least one piece of climate-appropriate content, and track both engagement and disengagement each time.
  1. Utilize a contextual marketing tool.
    This allows you to understand exactly where a customer is when they open your email on their mobile device—and serves them appropriate content based on the local weather. Again, test this approach out to deduce if the long-term investment is worthwhile.

By starting out with these three key steps, it’s easy to figure out how much climate-specific attention is worth your while, and move forward with your messaging from there.

Finally, for all my “alternate-climate” friends, I apologize for my previous lack of attention. I promise to do my best to keep those puffy coats and snow boots out of your inbox until the season is right—and lots of warm weather-friendly content lined up until then.

Now, if you’ll excuse me—the beach is calling.

Tags: Digital Strategy, Climate Segmentation, Email Marketing, Segmentation

About The Author

Mary Kathleen Sullivan

Mary Kathleen Sullivan

Sr. Marketing Strategist, Shaw + Scott (New Jersey) Mary Kathleen is a true champion in digital marketing. She is well recognized for her ability to generate incremental revenue, particularly when it comes to customer relationships. With over a dozen years of email marketing experience, she is a specialist in lifecycle marketing, advanced segmentation, and personalized campaign development. She is an energizing force, engaging clients through opportunities in emerging technologies, strategic enhancements, and data-driven decision-making. Mary Kathleen has worked with leading brands including L.L. Bean, Staples, Under Armour, Capella University, American Family Insurance, MetLife, Columbia Sportswear, Modcloth and lululemon. Before Shaw + Scott, she served as a Senior Strategic Consultant with Oracle Responsys.