Time to pull the trigger

Time may be relative, but when it comes to marketing propositions it is one-dimensional – your offer either hits at the right time or it does not. Consumers tend to be in-market at specific moments, depending on the buying cycle for a product or service – weekly grocery shop, annual insurance renewal and so on.

Yet time has also been the most difficult targeting variable to use. The key to getting an offer in front of a consumer at just the right moment is down to spotting a trigger event – moving house, a birthday, a contract renewal date.

Evidence from a new survey carried out by GI Direct suggests that marketing is getting better at using data to generate trigger-based offers via direct mail. It found that 58 per cent of consumers say they have received a mailshot in response to a trigger, such as a specific purchase, level of spending reaching a particular point or a demographic change.

Patrick Headley, sales director of GI Direct, comments: “Almost any company collecting even basic customer data has the opportunity to carry out trigger campaigns. These campaigns communicate with customers at a time when they are more likely to make a purchase.”

“Timing communications on this level can make a great impact on the recipient and incentivise them to spend more. Our newest survey shows that consumers really do take note of properly timed trigger mailings,” he says.

The survey asked respondents if in the last year they had noted at least one or two companies sending them marketing offers in response to a specific trigger. These were identified as birthdays, purchasing, moving house or similar events. The majority have received a time-based offer of this sort.

Demographics play an important role in determining who will be targeted, however. The relationship between age and trigger-based offers is linear, with the older generation receiving nearly twice as many items as the young. For those in the 18 to 24-year-old group, four out of ten had been mailed.

In early adult life (25 to 34), this rises to around half of consumers. By mid-life (35 to 44), levels of receipt are near the average for all consumers. But the rate of trigger-based contacts continues to accelerate, with two-thirds of later life adults (45 to 54-year-olds) getting time-driven contacts, peaking at more than seven out of ten of those aged over 55.

The study recognises the clear link between the length of relationship and consumption among consumers and the rate of mailing. Over time, consumers build a web of relationships and leave an ever growing data footprint behind, making it easier to recognise a lifestage or buying cycle.

But this does reveal that marketers risk missing out on purchases made by younger consumers which may be the start of an important long-term relationship. Headley says: “The findings clearly show that trigger-based campaigns are now being carried out by businesses, but that more effort needs to be made with younger consumers. Marketers need to work harder to establish relationships with the younger generations – and gather accurate data on these consumers – if they are to connect with them on this level.”

Geo-demographics are also a factor in receipt of trigger mailings. A close relationship would appear to exist with property. In London and the South East, which have the fastest-moving market and highest number of transactions, 65 and 63 per cent of consumers respectively have been trigger-mailed. This falls to 47 per cent in Yorkshire, which has the lowest population movement in the UK.

The findings provide an important reason for marketers to buy into time-based data sets, such as insurance renewal dates. Whatever the reason, the majority of consumers recall trigger marketing, which is half the battled in gaining a sale.


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