Today, there is considerable opportunity with real-time deals and messages to drive consumer interest and purchases in-store.
Responsive businesses can now anticipate customer demands, shift inventory and use dynamic pricing strategies to adjust prices in response to market conditions — like they often do in cases of unexpected extreme weather.
During November’s brief polar vortex, clothing stores benefited from a surge in demand for winter apparel. Previous bouts of arctic cold have led to increased sales for retailers who offered everything from gas generators and snow removal products to pantry essentials like bread and canned goods.
According to a 2014 Econsultancy report, real-time marketing is responsible for a 26 percent lift in consumer conversions, and 38 percent of respondents specifically cite weather-responsive marketing as “highly effective.” Examining how marketers have reacted to events like a polar vortex to drive sales, can mean greater success with and better ways to execute real-time marketing.
Mobile Reaches People With Time-Relevant Offers
Walgreens is a leader in weather-responsive marketing. While other retailers lost revenue during last winter’s polar vortex, Walgreens reported a 2.9 percent spike in same-store sales. Customers received weather-driven coupons via email or SMS, while non-customers saw these same offers in mobile advertising.
Walgreens uses a similar strategy on high-pollen days, sending customers SMS or email offers for allergy medication. A clever partnership with Pantene also leveraged local weather forecasts to provide geo-targeted suggestions for Pantene products, offering discounts at local Walgreens stores. The campaign resulted in a 24 percent increase in Pantene sales at Walgreens.
Walgreens subsidiary Duane Reade leverages beacon technology at certain locations to offer store-specific discounts. Shoppers can also use the Duane Reade app to create shopping lists and find the in-store locations of these items. If beacon-driven coupons are successful, the technology may be rolled out across Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide.
As Walgreens shows, brands can successfully use real-time data to boost sales regardless of the product category. Using real-time efforts like these can be a particularly useful strategy post-holiday when leftover inventory needs to be moved, discounts must be communicated quickly and all of a retailer’s competitors are in the same boat, so competition remains fierce. Offering the best coupon or incentivizing offer through mobile can be the best way to capture additional sales.
Social Provides Rapid-Response Opportunities
In real-time social marketing, responding rapidly is critical. Knowing this, sports apparel retailer Under Armour launched a “Winter Challenge” campaign to maintain sales and engagement during this November’s polar vortex.
Customers entered a sweepstakes for Under Armour gift cards and merchandise by pledging to perform routine outdoor workouts tracked in the MapMyRun app. A social leaderboard monitored the leading participants and Under Armour awarded prizes to these customers. This real-time social promotion drove brand engagement and connected the Under Armour brand to an event affecting their consumers’ daily lives.
A drugstore looking to move wellness products during a flu outbreak could, for instance, quickly crowd-source tips on Facebook and Twitter for how shoppers are keeping healthy and offer time-sensitive deals to participants. Domino’s Pizza UK offered a similar program that discounted pizza for a limited time, so imagine how eager someone with a cold might be to participate if they could receive a discount on pricey medicines.
Dynamic Pricing And Inventory Tracking Aren’t Just For eCommerce
New innovations and strategies in dynamic pricing updates and inventory tracking are now allowing retailers and brands to be more responsive than ever. They can now drive in-store traffic and sales in ways that were previously only available for ecommerce teams.
Tools as simple as Walmart’s Savings Catcher compares store prices with local competitors. If a competitor offers a better bargain on a snow shovel, Walmart pays their shopper the difference with a Walmart gift card. This trounces showrooming behaviors in real-time and encourages a return trip to the store.
Video advertising solutions can now deliver different products to different markets based on store inventory and feature specific store pricing. These videos use the same creative with programmatic deals inserted, so a retailer could deliver sweaters and jackets to snowy Chicago while sunny San Diego receives tank tops and sunglasses. Likewise, a store with too much post-holiday inventory could serve those offers while another in a test market for a new product can offer those.
With more advanced API technology and efforts to mine “big data,” e-circulars, rich media ads and other promotional content can be updated to serve different products and reflect pricing in real-time as well. Sears, for example, has long served regional-specific pricing, but can now reward loyalty club members by serving coupons via email on snow blowers to VIP customers based on store inventory, competitors’ prices and consumer behavioral data when the next polar vortex hits.
Extreme weather seems to bring out the most innovative thinking behind how to execute real-time marketing campaigns. Savvy marketers, however, will extrapolate the strategies behind them to grow their business year-round. To use real-time marketing effectively today means to stop thinking about just ecommerce or response on social media and shift towards supporting product launches, addressing seasonal needs, moving inventory and offering competitive pricing.