REI Scales New Personalized Peaks With Weather-Triggered Social Ads

Outdoor gear retailer REI is hitting the slopes with personalized local advertising.

The brand, working with dynamic creative optimization (DCO) platform Jivox, is running hyperlocal campaigns on social channels informed by weather data, interests and past purchases.

In particular, REI has been piloting a new Jivox product that allows brands to add new targeting dimensions to their dynamic ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Using weather – a targeting trigger not offered directly via Facebook – was especially compelling to REI, which recently ramped up its efforts in local markets.

For a time, members of the REI marketing team were checking the weather every day in various locations and posting content on Facebook based on whether it was snowing in Chicago or raining in Seattle.

But that was far too manual a process to scale, said Amy Ball, REI’s senior program manager for advertising.

“We all respond better to advertising when it’s relevant,” Ball said. “But being relevant and actually doing personalization can be really overwhelming.”

And personalization is only cost-effective if you can do it at scale, said Diaz Nesamoney, CEO of Jivox, which has supported REI’s digital display advertising for several years.

“If you’re not applying the right data, then the sheer cost, effort and time it takes to personalize might not be worth it,” he said.

Or course, weather data alone isn’t enough to do real personalization.

“We also use audience data,” said Nesamoney. “If it’s cold outside, but I’m not a skier, it doesn’t matter if I’m seeing something skiing-related, it’s not going to be useful to me.”

REI created three different ad variations to promote its ski classes and served dynamic ads based on a user’s location, weather conditions in that location and whether or not someone had taken a class with REI in the past.

But the messaging wasn’t just geared toward sales and sign-ups. REI was also looking to generate upper-funnel engagement and get customers excited for the ski season.

When a location experienced its first good snowfall, for example, REI would automatically serve ads on Facebook that linked out to a live snow cam at the resort nearest to a user’s location. Conversely, if the snowfall left something to be desired, REI might direct consumers to a nearby store location to get their gear inspected to make sure it’s ready for when the powder is better.

By introducing new targeting capabilities through Facebook, REI was also able expand its display KPIs.

“The [display] budget is primarily set aside to drive traffic and sales,” Ball said. “We’re still doing that, but we’re also able to focus more on re-engagement and the experience.”

During its social DCO pilot with Jivox, REI saw a click-through rate four times the Salesforce benchmark for Facebook ads of 0.86% in the US.

In future, REI hopes to go beyond real time with its weather-based targeting to get more predictive in its messaging using weather forecasts.

“Serving people based on the weather they’re experiencing right now is great, but we can’t ship products in an hour,” Ball said. “But if we know it’s going to snow three feet or rain over the weekend, for example, we can tell people to be prepared so that it’s more of a planned interaction with the customer, rather than saying, ‘It’s torrentially raining right now, want to buy a coat? It’ll be there in three days.’”

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