Moving: the life event marketers are overlooking
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you'll know that I moved into a new house recently. Thanks to the hot housing market, moving is a life event that many of you likely are sharing with me this year.
If you, too, relocated recently, you don't need me to expound on the pain of moving, from packing up to loading the truck to unpacking and wondering where the heck the wireless router is (I know it's at the bottom of a box somewhere, maybe in the garage).
But packing up my kitchen tools gave me plenty of time to think about moving as a life event and whether the retailers I regularly buy from would detect my signals that I was getting ready to move.
In particular, did Amazon, with its wealth of data and supposed mastery of predictive modeling, notice I had been buying moving supplies and give me any special treatment in exchange?
In a word, no.
Amazon didn't tell me about its Amazon Move program until I changed my primary address from the old one to the new one. I would have appreciated the 10% discount I could have gotten for buying boxes, packing paper, packing tape, bubble wrap and a big honkin' tape gun over six months.
Folks, this is a missed signal, a lost opportunity. A lot of marketers are looking for ways to make up the revenue lost in 2020 and make their numbers in 2021. My question to you, and the one I will help you answer: Is moving another way you can understand another important event in many customers’ lives and help them manage it?
Why spotlighting movers can matter
When you move, you spend a gazillion dollars on everything from supplies to replacement items to cartage costs. That's a big market when you take it to scale – it's an $86 billion industry in the U.S. alone. A little help and acknowledgement of the situation would be nice.
Here's where your newfound empathy can help, too. We learned during the pandemic that customers appreciate brands that can understand what they’re going through. Extend that empathy to customers who are moving (or, for our British friends, “upping sticks”).
Because moving is not easy, even if you can pay another gazillion dollars to have someone do all the work for you. And then you still might not be able to find the router until they unpack the last box.
Detecting the big move
An estimated 31 million people move every year. So, the chances are pretty good that many of them are your customers.
These three steps can help you get a move on for your customers:
1. Recognize the signals that indicate customers are moving.
Whenever you build a purchase series, you look for signals that customers send, either with their browsing and buying habits or by changing important information, as I did when I updated my primary address.
As I explained above, Amazon didn't recognize I was moving until I changed my primary address. But that could be intentional. However, I could have used that 10% discount a lot earlier given the quantity of supplies I need to pack and ship two households into one.
That intent signal is missing for many retailers. Did you get anything but new gas and electric bills the last time you moved? Sure, the New Mover File from the USPS is a direct-mail treasure trove of offers, but that’s a reactive strategy, not proactive.
Maybe your email program could be the new Welcome Wagon!
I've talked before about watching news broadcasts during the COVID-19 pandemic and how that can help you stay in touch with what's happening in your local markets. Although 2021 home sales are off somewhat from 2020, mainly because of historically low inventories, people will always buy, sell and build homes and move in and out of them.
2. Create an offer or program that shows value and empathy.
As soon as you identify your signals, look over your inventory to see what people buy. What are the hot items or logical combinations?
For an automated series you would look at combinations of moving supplies like the ones I bought, plus storage containers, furniture covers, cleaning and closet supplies, or home security.
Someone who buys cardboard wardrobe boxes, a multipack of hanging strips and a new mop and bucket and then changes their home address for delivery or picks curbside delivery in a new and distant location is telling you that the moving van is practically in the driveway.
What are the profit margins on those items? What kinds of incentives could you try to persuade them to buy from you and not Amazon? (Or, if you're with Amazon, you want your shoppers to buy the products in your Move program and not cheaper alternatives.)
Analyze what customers buy to support the move, and create a timeline that charts the first signals to the primary address change. Back it into a likely moving date and create a triggered email or series.
You could create a program like Move or just offer a nice discount with a message that says something like "It looks like you're moving! Here's a little discount to help out." Or "You are incredibly busy. We're here to help. You won't have to worry if you order from us because we're fast and accurate and we have the products you need."
Think through who your customer is and relate that to your products. What could you offer that's above and beyond, that arrives in time to help them along and can foster a higher degree of customer loyalty and appreciation?
Here’s another idea: Give these subscribers a break. Consider changing your regular cadence, offers or offer to pause mailings for a few weeks. I can tell you that one of the bad parts of moving is that I did not check email much. When I came back up for air, I had over 300 emails in my inbox.
Result: mass deletion event. Sorry, Woot.com.
Don't force customers to buy things they don't need. I’m going against conventional retail wisdom, but remember you're dealing with people who are probably stressed out with the move. Unless your data tells you otherwise, keep recommendations as relevant as possible.
As someone who just moved, I don't need anybody to try to sell me extra stuff. Don't test my patience with things I don't need!
But, speaking of testing ….
3. Test, test, and test – and then launch and refine.
As with every automated program – and yes, this does need to be automated! – you will come up with theories to test offers, redemptions, message voice and tone, frequency and cadence if you send more than one email, and on and on.
Test everything in your program on a small audience to be sure you nail it before you launch. The things people buy for a move are not impulse purchases. And, as I noted before, moving is stressful. Be deliberate in how and what you say, be considerate with your messages, and learn how your audience receives them, acts on them and redeems your offers.
Then, roll it out as fast as you can. This is an excellent candidate for agile marketing. Put something together that reflects care and value. Then launch it, test it, and build on it.
Nobody knows how long the housing boom will last. But people will always move, so a program like this will always be useful.
Bubble-wrapping it up
Got some free time? Help me unpack boxes! But beyond that, remember that life events like moving, whether up the road or across the country, affect what we do as marketers. How can you take a problem and solve for it? That's your job as a marketer. We watch the news, we see a need, and we figure out how we can use our brand and products to meet it.
Even if you don't have products that could help customers manage their moves, you can send a note to acknowledge a signal like changing a primary address or preferred store or business location.
You don't always have to sell something in your emails. Like a birthday email, it's a feel-good message that says, "Welcome home!"
Here's one last reason you should be looking for intent signals like these: They tell you if you need to update your models that use demographics like location or income. My new neighborhood has a vastly different demographic from my old one. That means the retailers who track me will need to rescore my records. That also should factor into your customer modeling.
Hey, I just found the router!