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Smart Segmenting Watch: You Sell Umbrellas When It's Raining


By Ken Magill

We’ve all heard of merchants segmenting their house files by how people shop or what they buy, but how about by weather?

Not “whether,” as in whether or not they do or don’t do something, but “weather,” as in what it’s like outside, or in this particular case, whether it’s raining or not.

Cincinnati-based Totes Isotoner has discovered it achieves a significant lift in email-driven umbrella sales when it targets recipients in areas where it is raining.

And whereas unexpected direct-marketing results can often be explained in hindsight, this one’s a head scratcher. After all, unless it’s a three-day soak, Totes Isotoner customers who order umbrellas online while it’s raining probably won’t get their order until the showers are over.

“I would like to say we’re rocket scientists, but when you try to sell an umbrella, it’s practical to tell people you sell umbrellas when it’s raining,” said Chris Reighley, director of e-commerce for Totes Isotoner.

Reighley said last year Totes Isotoner tested mailing against current-day, three-day and five-day rain forecasts.

“And when we tested it, strangely enough, when it was raining was when we had the most effect with it,” he said.

Reighley added that Totes Isotoner used the Farmer’s Almanac to split the U.S. into mailing regions.

“It’s amazing how that works,” he said. “It’s actually pretty darned accurate. They break the country into 16 different weather regions. We took our house list, separated it into the 16 regions and hit it when it was raining in those regions.”

Reighley said he cannot completely explain why people are more receptive to online offers of umbrellas when it’s raining.

“On one hand it makes sense because it [the rain] is top of mind,” he said. “But what doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand it, is if it is raining where you are and you don’t have an umbrella and you order an umbrella online, it’s not going to magically appear. It’s going to take a day or two before it ships out to you.”

But rather than trying to explain it, the folks at Totes Isotoner are apparently simply going with it.

Reighley said is being tweaked so that soon, its pages will change based on where the viewer is and what the weather is like there.

“We will eventually build it into [Google] pay-per-click where we’ll start flooding the markets with ads depending on where they are and what’s happening that day,” he said.

Reighley presented the findings on a panel at Bronto Software’s client summit in Chapel Hill, NC last week.

In a post-conference email exchange with The Magill Report, Kristen Gregory, manager of strategic services for Bronto, said weather isn’t the only top-of-mind event marketers can leverage with email.

“We definitely have seen that ‘trendjacking’ is a great way to get subscribers engaged - basically incorporating a topic that is currently top of mind into your marketing campaigns to gain attention in the inbox,” she wrote. “Depending on whether this is local or national news will influence how you segment your list.

“I've seen this in numerous ways relate to the weather—big brands honed in on the big snow storms last winter, proclaiming snow days, etc.  (I know we have a chocolate company that has to rejigger shipping methods based on high temperatures!)

“One particular client of mine leveraged the American Idol ‘Pants on the Ground’ chatter the day after airing using the song lyrics in the subject line and saw phenomenal open rates (over 80%) for their sale on jeans.”

The marketing possibilities the Internet offers never cease to amaze.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Jordie van Rijn
Date: 2012-04-18 03:31:54
Subject: Sunny rain

A dutch e-commerce site tested to send based on sun / rain and it showed that people order more during rain (they dont sell umbrellas). The rationale? People in their house during showers and tend to spend time at their computers if they aren't outside enjoying the sun.