Millions of people shoveled their way out of it. Millions more tracked it from afar, read the headlines in the paper or Tweeted about it. Yes, last week’s snowstorm “Nemo” proved to be one for the record books –and not only because it dumped two-and-a-half feet of snow over most of southern New England. Nemo also solidified the role social media plays in our national discourse, and for me, it elevated The Weather Channel as a champion of today’s digitally-connected customer.

Granted, many forecasters disagree with the tactic. But, this past November, The Weather Channel began naming winter storms. Why? Because according to this press release, The Weather Channel believes there are multiple benefits to doing so:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.

Plus –and this is no mere coincidence, of course –during the hype cycle leading up to the blizzard, whenever someone Googled “Nemo storm updates” (or something similar) they were bound to encounter a story high on the search rankings. Meanwhile, #Nemo started trending on Twitter, the “Nemo” tag was born on Instagram, water cooler conversations at work began to focus on Nemo, etc.

From a marketing perspective, The Weather Channel is doing lots of things right with its storm- naming initiative, and it’s clear the organization is tuned in –and responding to –the interests, needs and channel preferences of its digitally-connected, social media-savvy audience.

Will retailers take a page from this playbook? Let’s hope so. After all, today’s sophisticated, empowered consumers increasingly expect retailers to be responsive and engaged . . . and they also expect coordinated multi-platform customer experiences that involve both on- and off-line channels.

Sure, providing this kind of integrated, data-driven experience presents significant challenges, and in order to succeed in this new frontier, retail marketers are going to have to re-think (and re-tool) several of their traditional practices and procedures. But, every part of that effort is worth it. Intelligent, omni-channel marketing offers an unprecedented opportunity to connect with individual consumers in exciting and innovative ways.

As Rebecca Bucnis, Director of Consumer 360 at Teradata, explains in this podcast, retailers who adopt a data-driven, customer-centric approach reap a wide range of benefits, including:

  • New levels of insight. When retailers improve their channel intelligence, they learn how to better serve their customers and enhance their appeal to prospects. For instance, after customers make a buying decision, they often return to sellers for additional information. Intelligent, data-driven marketing helps you better understand what information your market needs and how it prefers to access that information.
  • New revenue opportunities. When customers return for more information, why not offer something new (shoes to match the pants he just purchased, a warranty for her new electronic device, etc.)? Data provides the insights you need to take advantage of new revenue opportunities.
  • Smarter use of marketing resources. Retailers practicing intelligent, data-driven marketing don’t need to waste time, energy or funds on unnecessary pitches. They can cut back on mass marketing (“say and spray”) efforts because they’re confident they can make the right offer to the right buyer at the right time.

In addition, intelligent, data-driven marketing also leads directly to improved customer satisfaction.

“(Customers) start saying, ‘Oh, I feel like they (retailers) finally understand my needs, they know what I’m doing and they’re listening to me,’” Rebecca says, adding that ultimately, the pay-off is competitive advantage and customer loyalty.

Are you using data-driven marketing to enhance your customer experiences? Take a lesson from The Weather Channel. Listen to the market, keep your customers at the center of all you do and engage. Measure and track your performance so you learn how to improve your approach, and oh . . . if you live in New England, you might want to keep that shovel handy for at least another month.