Tapping into Real-Time Moments

How can I adapt to meet the needs of today’s sophisticated, modern consumer?

What are the ways I can utilize data to better understand my customer’s purchase journey?

How can I move beyond best practices to achieve even better next practices?

These are all questions likely on the minds of life insurance marketers on the heels of this year’s Life Insurance Conference. For the 2016 LIMRA event, the theme was “looking long term”, with a particular emphasis placed on the need for innovation and overall strategic shifts in thinking in the life insurance space. As the consumer becomes more complex, their expectations for nearly any brand interaction – from retail to travel to insurance – have increased dramatically, putting a lot of pressure on life insurance companies to reimagine the customer experience and keep up with the changing tides.

As in other sectors, life insurance has caught on to the idea that data is really a crucial piece to strategy – more specially, to bridging the gap to their customers and becoming more relevant in times of high intent. More than just customer data, there’s a desire to leverage other third-party data sources to better understand what actually matters to people during their path to choosing insurance. And when a customer does make a choice, what are the ways to leverage data to continue improving the experience and build long-term loyalty?

One of the trends we’ve noticed as an agency is that many marketers are fixed on past data – i.e. how a campaign performed, or how a particular customer interacted. We use this type of data to help predict consumer behavior and develop strategies around the insights – and for that, it’s certainly valuable. But move a step further, and there’s an even more important opportunity to act during the actual moment of intent when a customer is either searching for content or looking to make a purchase. By implementing real-time data into marketing strategies, we can actually get ahead of the customer’s need to give them exactly what they want when they want it.

This real-time data I’m talking about isn’t as out of reach as you might think. Take for instance, something as simple as the local weather forecast. At the beginning of the week, we all receive the typical 7-day extended forecast, and those who check it more frequently can receive hourly, even quarter-hourly weather updates– a great source of real-time data. What’s the application to marketing? For a brand like The North Face, product sales are, in some ways, intrinsically tied to the weather, particularly during the winter months when demand for cold-weather essentials is at its highest. And when an untimely winter storm hit the northeastern region of the US in the month of October, our real-time weather data strategy turned some major results for the brand.

During the week of the storm, our paid media teams leveraged hourly snowfall in various areas estimated to be hit the hardest. Through time-sensitive, geo-targeted search campaigns, the brand was able to utilize the data to provide customers with real-time information and relevant products to protect them from the storm – our algorithm increased their bid indexes on products like boots, winter jackets, hats and gloves automatically according to changes in the forecast. They also applied weather and location-specific content and copy that spread awareness of the storm. As a result of the week-long campaign, The North Face saw a year-over-year increase of 95% in paid search sales; but more importantly, they were there when their customers needed them the most. By identifying and acting on this critical “moment in time,” the brand surpassed revenue goals and likely gained some lifelong loyal customers.

Weather is just one type of data we use to develop more relevant, timely marketing strategies, and the concept can be carried across just about any source – from sports statistics and game scores, to election polls, to health and wellness data. The more we can tap into real-time life moments, the more impact we can have on our customers when it really matters.

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