Smart Marketing Rain or Shine

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Your 27-year-old Humanities major still lives at home and has no job prospects and no healthcare. Gas prices are going up. Taxes are rising. Your bank account's starting to feel a little light. Oh yeah, and it's raining outside.

Everyone knows to look at customer behavior when crafting a marketing strategy—but what about the impact mood has on buying habits? Macro-economic factors have a very real influence on purchasing patterns—and so does the weather. If you don't have any extra cash lying around, you're not going to be able to buy that Gucci handbag you've been lusting after; and if the weather is foul, all you want to do is get home and start watching some Netflix with a bag of potato chips and some white cherry Powerade. (Well, that's what I would do, anyway.)

“These considerations have a very real, traumatic effect on people's psyches, all of which has an impact on mood—and mood impacts people's decisions around buying, particularly discretionary buying,” says Chris Paradysz, cofounder and CEO of PM Digital and Paradysz. “Of course, you can't control a person's mood, but you can make sure you're aware of the internal and external factors that impact it.”

According to recent research conducted by Paradysz and its sister company PM Digital, there's a clear link between Winter 2014's much-storied awfulness and a marked decline in retail sales. Major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kohl's both saw lower sales at the beginning of the year. But we're not just talking in-store. The report found that online and catalog sales were also down. While mobile activity and Web surfing was up overall, conversion rates for direct-to-consumer marketers saw a decrease of about 8%, while offline response rates fell by roughly 10%.

It's not just that consumer didn't feel like going out to stores to buy things—they didn't feel like buying at all. Marketers who consider how their customers are feeling—and who are flexible enough to tweak their marketing plans to suit—are more likely to see results.

Of course, marketers can't predict the future. But they can detect meaningful trends and use them to inform their strategy.

“You can't control what happens tomorrow,” Paradysz says. “But predictive patterns are the next frontier for marketers who want to be more precise, efficient, and careful about how they apply their dollars and investments.”

The value lies in accessing statistically significant data and using it to make real-time decisions, whatever that means to you—whether it's instantly in-the-moment via social, or reacting to changes in regional environments within 24 or 48 hours. Having learned, for example, that your consumers are more open to email deals when the weather is nice and they're out for a Sunday stroll in the vicinity of one of your stores—that's the kind of data you can use to adjust your email strategy for the better. The important thing is to focus on the truly pertinent data, and not be swayed by seemingly important irrelevancies.

“You don't want to do anything just based on a few comments you saw from customers on social media,” Paradysz says. “Otherwise, you're making decisions that are rash and emotional and not based on sustaining something with some degree of predictability.”

In a sense, it's about creating the perfect storm—in a good way—of traditional data (for example, buying behavior) mixed with real-time reactions to your marketing activities and an awareness of more variable macro-factors, like the weather or stock market trends. That's when marketing gets seriously relevant.

“Relevancy in its purest definition doesn't just mean sending out the right message at the right time—relevancy is about context, and context is incredibly important to consumer psyche,” Paradysz says. “We're just now at the point where data is helping us get there—to be more appropriate, more targeted, and, of course, more relevant.”

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