Do you 'optimise' more than you'd like to think? Are you a regular 'utiliser'? Then it's time to kick the habit, says the late great Herschell Gordon Lewis.
While days, weeks and months can often blur into one, there are certain events in our lives that stand out personally – but which also have a huge impact on our behaviour as consumers. Whether it’s having a baby, moving home, getting married or retiring, these are all examples of life events triggers which marketers can use to create more effective campaigns.
If content is king, context is queen
We all know how important the three ‘Rs’ can be – reaching the Right Person with the Right Message at the Right Time. However, life events marketing adds a fourth ‘R’ – Right Context. Understanding the context of a consumer’s behaviour is incredibly valuable.
Take digital advertising, for example. Programmatically driven campaigns will typically use intent data (derived from search history), transactional data and perhaps demographics to drive campaign targeting by segment. This is great up to a point as, for example, a retailer will be able to identify women aged 18-30 interested in bedroom furniture.
However, with the addition of life events data it is possible to identify women aged 18-30 interested in bedroom furniture who are in the midst of buying a new home. This added layer gives you not only the motive for their behaviour but also the timeline to their purchase – homebuyers are more likely to buy furniture in the month after the move. With this kind of factual context brands can maximise the relevance of their ads and target homemovers with the products they need at the exact moment that they need them. We call this ‘marketing in the moment’ and it’s a method that can have a massive impact on ROI, in our experience creating a return of £12-£28 for every £1 spent.
The approach isn’t only relevant to obvious market sectors such as financial services (for mortgages and home insurance) or furniture either. Insight into the changes in consumer behaviour triggered by life events brings up many other interesting factors that can inform marketing campaigns – for instance, many people get a bigger mortgage than they need so they can consolidate loans, buy an expensive holiday or a suite of home entertainment products. Similarly, pregnancy can trigger much more than the buying of a buggy and baby clothes. Think new home and life insurance.
Data and digital push life events marketing to a new level
Life events marketing isn’t a new marketing technique; it’s been a successful direct marketing approach for 15 years and, in fact, in a study by the Royal Mail last year, 50% of marketers recognised life events as a new sales opportunity, with 70% also recognising that life events provide a reason to engage with customers.
What has enabled life events marketing to shift up a gear, though, is the advent of Big Data to identify consumer life events in real time, and the rise of digital channels through which brands can use this data to reach consumers ‘in the moment’ when the need for their product is at its peak. Marketers can collect their own customer life events data through multiple channels, but can then enhance this with third party factual data to better inform retention campaigns. The growing bank of quality third party life events data can also help marketers with acquisition; for instance, reaching known homemovers using online advertising, social media and digital TV, delivered programmatically – and track them as they move through the homemover cycle.
This element of tracking consumers as they move through the different aspects of a life event is hugely important as life event triggers are not just about one day, or one action/transaction, such as completing on buying a house. This may happen on one day, but the build-up before completion day and then the subsequent after-effects are huge, with the different stages across the whole process causing different and distinct consumer behaviours. So marketers now, with the realtime decisioning available with programmatic advertising, can adapt messaging and follow consumers as they change their life event status – ensuring maximum relevance over time.
For instance, with homemovers, we have identified that there are six core consumer segments that people track through – Pre-Movers, Move-Makers, Move-Planners, Movers, Move Nestbuilders and Move Homemakers – each relating to specific behaviours and consumption patterns.
Life events marketing in practice
This was the start point for a campaign we worked on with a leading bed retailer which knew that people moving home are three times more likely to buy a new bed – and indeed also spend up to 50% more on homeware. Using additional data we further divided the six core segments above into 12 customer groups bespoke to the retailer, bringing in other factors, such as whether people were first-time buyers or downsizing retirees.
We also used real time data monitoring to explore the optimum time to get in touch with homemovers. Too early and furniture is the furthest thing from someone’s mind, too late and they’ve already gone elsewhere.
The initial trial delivered an ROI of £16:£1 and we identified 62 customer segments to boost targeting further going forward. The retailer has now adopted homemover marketing as a central element in its overall marketing strategy, delivering campaigns across a variety of media channels – both on and offline.
The other important contributing factor to this success was the optimisation of creative and messaging according to segment and careful tracking of response so that all aspects of the campaign could be tweaked to enhance results further.
Indeed, messaging is key as emotion tends to play a role in most life events and this can heighten consumer attention to communications they receive which tap into what they are going through. For instance, in the Mother & Baby programmes we are involved in, we have identified that a significant number of parents change their car before or just after having a child. For the automotive industry a well-crafted message about the safety features or environmental benefits of their cars can engage parents at a sensitive moment.
So for any marketer looking to bring life-events into their marketing mix, what are the three most important points to remember?
- Data – recency of data is of the utmost importance and it should be factual, not inferred.
- Content – ensure communications are contextually relevant in terms of both timing and messaging.
- Omni-channel – the consumer journey is no longer linear so you need an understanding of where your customers are so that you reach them in the right way.
These are factors that can help in any marketing campaign, but in life events marketing their importance is greater than ever with data, in particular, being the cornerstone of success. The key learning is never assume – the data will tell the truths and provide the insight needed to inform a brand’s specific activity.
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