5 May 2016
Weather Targeting for AdWords – The Ultimate Guide
Google Adwords is the biggest and most widely used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform with clients ranging from multinationals to small local businesses. Providing campaigns are correctly set up, intelligently targeted and well optimized, Adwords is one of the most effective ways to grow your customer base and generate new leads at low cost.
Adwords offers plenty of inbuilt targeting options, such as geo, day-parting, behavioral, demographic, device, and dynamic re-targeting to name a few.
However, if you’re a weather-sensitive business, or if you’re an ad agency marketing a weather-sensitive product, then running a weather targeted PPC campaign is something you will to want to consider.
Weather targeting – the practice of triggering ads, modifying bids and changing creative based on the viewer’s weather conditions - can yield significant uplift in ROI for many businesses.
Although weather targeting is not offered within Google AdWords, weather targeting tools such as our own WeatherAds platform enable you to add weather targeting to your existing AdWords campaigns effortlessly and at low cost.
WHICH PRODUCTS AND SERVICES WOULD BENEFIT FROM WEATHER TRIGGERED ADS?
So why is weather targeting so effective, and what products and services would benefit from it? Weather is one of the most accurate datasets in predicting purchasing patterns, because it is the single biggest influence on consumer behaviour after the state of the economy. The weather affects what we buy, where we go, what we wear, what we eat, and how we feel. This is discussed in more detail in our article ‘How Weather Affects Consumer Behaviour and Purchase Decisions’– a topic too big to cover in this blog post.
In short – weather has a massive effect on the sales of numerous products and services across a wide range of industries. There are of course products which are fundamentally weather related – sunscreen, ice cream, hot and cold beverages, paddling pools, barbecues, rain coats, and so on. However, as most retailers will know, vast swathes of stock are to some degree weather sensitive. The UK Clothing sector in the UK alone has a weather-driven swing factor of around £800 Million. Below is a graphic illustrating just a few of the industries that are weather-sensitive.
Because weather affects purchase behavior and elicits certain needs and responses within consumers, day to day changes in weather can also affect clicks and conversion rates for AdWords campaigns running on both the Search and Display Networks. For instance, the weather will affect a consumer’s decision of whether to go to a restaurant or to order a takeaway, to walk into town or to order a taxi, to book a sun and sea holiday or plan a staycation and so on. Products and services in the sectors shown above can drive significant sales lift through deploying weather targeted pay-per-click (PPC) AdWords campaigns.
A look at WordStream’s breakdown of the Top 10 highest spending industries on Google Ads, reveals seven of the top ten as having some weather-sensitivity, with the top 3 – insurance, retail, and travel & tourism all being highly weather-sensitive markets.
THE ADVANTAGES OF WEATHER TARGETED ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
1. Increased Click Through Rate (CTR)
2. Improved Quality Score & AdRank
3. Lower Cost Per Click
4. More Conversions (sales/ leads)
Running a well thought out weather targeted AdWords campaign will pay dividends in a number of ways. The most obvious, is that your click-through rate will go up. Countless case studies have shown that weather sensitive businesses will see a surge in click-throughs when their ads are shown during key weather events.
The second benefit is that because your ads are more (contextually) relevant to the viewer, your quality score should benefit, and your AdRank should improve. This in turn will, in time, push your overall cost per click down – meaning you can compete for the same ad slots with lower bids.
However, arguably the most tangible benefit of running weather targeted Adwords campaigns is in driving more sales. When a brand has a PPC budget of $10,000 it means they are buying $10,000 worth of clicks. Those clicks are guaranteed. What is not guaranteed is the quality of those clicks, ie, whether those clicks will result in conversions (be that a purchase, subscriber, lead, or whatever your landing page’s unique goal is.)
Weather targeting helps convert more of those clicks into acquisitions, by only displaying ads at those times and in those locations where conditions are right to induce a positive response to your product. On top of this, weather targeting can help increase brand recall because of the relevance of that ad to the consumer’s environment, mood, and desires at a given moment in time.
HOW TO SET UP WEATHER TARGETED ADWORDS PPC CAMPAIGNS
Weather Targeting or bidding by weather is not a capability that is included within the Adwords dashboard, so we recommend using a 3rd party weather targeting tool such as WeatherAds which syncs with your existing AdWords account. You can quickly and easily import your Adwords campaigns into the WeatherAds dashboard, and create weather targeting rules for these campaigns. This saves a lot of time, effort and resource compared to using scripts – and in the long run becomes the cheaper as well as the more flexible option.
A second option - If you have a degree of technical expertise and experience of using scripts, plus a lot of time on your hands, - is to set up a weather targeted campaigns using Google Scripts. However, there are a number of drawbacks to this method, which we’ve summarised below.
Main Drawbacks of Using Sripts with a Weather API
Cost - OpenWeatherMap have recently changed their pricing policy, so you now only get 50,000 calls for free. This may not be enough calls if you are running a large scale campaign, so you will start to incur charges.
Data Limits - Google Adwords scripts has a lot of limitations. Even just running weather targeted campaigns for the USA can breach the data limit.
Matching Cities – you have to manually match Google’s unique city Id’s (around 33,000 globally) with OpenWeatherMaps list of cities. This is a huge undertaking. Any location that is not matched will output an error which will terminate the script.
Extra Modifications to Code –Google’s scripts tutorial demonstrates an overly simplistic set-up. It’s likely for instance, you will be running multiple campaigns at once (unique campaigns for different weather events). This means that you will need to augment the Google Script with hacks and modifications to parse the required amount of data. In the above example, PMG had about 65 spreadsheets with weather rules with staggered scheduling over a period of several hours.
Lack of Precision – Even to run a campaign for the USA effectively, you will be dealing with roughly 17,000 cities/ towns. This amount of data is difficult to work with, so you will likely have to target at a county level – making weather targeted campaign far less accurate, and reducing your end ROI.
WEATHER AND CONSUMER PSYCHOLOGY: HOW WEATHER IMPACTS THE SUCCESS OF YOUR MARKETING CAMPAIGN
So we’ve now covered the benefits of running a weather responsive Adwords campaign, the types of businesses that would benefit from it, and the practicalities of setting one up.
Now I’d like to delve a little deeper into how past, current, and forecast weather signals can be used as a powerful targeting dataset. Let’s explore some of the ways that weather can be a psychological driver of consumer behaviour, and how it can be used by marketers to improve the effectiveness of their advertising.
Weather not only shapes demand for certain products and services from a utilitarian point of view (e.g. “I need to buy suncream because the sun is out and I don’t want to get burnt”) but also by influencing a consumer’s emotional state.
Here’s an excellent research-based article about the emotional and cognitive responses elicited by different types of weather conditions, and how that drives consumer purchase behaviour. Below we have outlined the main 3 principles:
1. Creative That Resonates With Current Conditions Performs Better
If a marketing message relates to the conditions the viewer is experiencing, that ad will have more impact. In other words, if someone is outdoors in the snow, an ad for a new type of jacket which has warming properties will work better – particularly if the image and text within the creative relate directly to the cold. Likewise, on a hot, sunny day, ads for skincare products such as sunblocks will perform better as it’s easier to picture your skin being damaged by the sun when you are in direct sunlight.
2. Low Temperatures Increase a Desire for Psychological Warmth
If someone is physically cold, this can intensify their desire for psychological warmth and comfort. An example of this would be a study into the correlation between box office ticket sales for films, and weather. The study found that ticket sales go up for ‘feel-good’ films such as rom-coms when the weather is cold or wet, as romantic comedies produce a warm, happy mood. So for a streaming or DVD rental website this is a valuable insight in terms of weather targeted advertising. This also translates beyond films into various products (hot chocolate, romantic novels on a cold day etc)
3. Desire For “Social Products” Is Influenced By Ambient Temperature
When people are exposed to the cold, they seek ‘social’ activities and products that engender a feeling of psychological warmth. When thinking about weather targeted AdWords campaigns, products, services, and apps that have a social element may do better on cold, wet, or snowy days. For example, events that have an element of group participation, such as tickets for films, gigs, theatre or restaurant bookings, as well as social networking apps and platforms.
WEATHER TRIGGERED ADVERTISING CASE STUDIES & CAMPAIGN ANALYSIS
As we’ve already discussed, daily weather events generate an abundance of marketing opportunities. Local businesses and multinational brands can use weather events to enforce their brand message and Calls to Action (CTA). Weather targeted pay-per-click (PPC) search and display advertising has been shown to elevate user engagement and yield higher return on investment. By using a PPC weather targeting tool such as WeatherAds, it’s incredibly easy to build weather responsive advertising campaigns in minutes.
Here’s a few case studies of brands that have achieved incredible lift by utilizing weather triggered PPC search and display campaigns:
Optimizing AdWords Based on Local Temperatures Increases Walmart Sales by 27%
A cooling product sold in Walmart was advertised through AdWords with bids up-weighed and down-weighed based on ambient temperature triggers. When temperatures rose over a certain threshold, website traffic spiked and both online and offline conversions increased.
By adjusting budget and bids when temperatures increased, and reducing or pausing campaigns as temperatures dipped, a 27% increase in in-store Walmart sales was achieved.
Weather targeted Adwords campaigns can elevate both online and offline sales.
Bravissimo Increase Sales Revenue by 600% through weather targeted PPC Campaign
Swimwear retailer Bravissimo saw a correlation between sales of their products and daily amount of sunshine. They ran a 3-month pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign for the UK by using a weather targeting app for Google AdWords. The campaign only appeared in areas experiencing sunny weather.
PPC-driven sales revenues for Bravissimo’s swimwear range increased by 600% during the 3-month campaign, and conversion rate of browsers to buyers increased by 103%
Although their PPC ad spend remained the same, Bravissimo were able to increase their return on ad spend (ROAI) by a factor of seven, by incorporating a weather targeting element within their Adwords bidding strategy. This shows that because weather-responsive ads are more timely and relevant, they are more likely to trigger a direct response from the audience – as evidenced by the 103% increase of website browsers to buyers.
Seer Interactive Increase Double sales and ROI Through Weather Triggered AdWords Campaign
Seer Interactive work with a client whose products are weather sensitive – with the window of opportunity limited to only a few months of the year.
They created a number of duplicate campaigns for key cities in the US, split according to weather targeted criteria. This empowered them to programmatically adjust bidding and budget logic according to changes in weather across the targeted cities.
This strategy enabled the client to remain profitable longer into the spring season by down-weighing bids in areas with waning demand, and increasing paid presence in regions where the weather was still advantageous to sales. The result was a 100% YOY increase in revenue and return on ad spend.
By modifying your bids in accordance with latest weather information, your advertising budget will go further and you will see significantly higher returns on your ad spend.
Major QSR Uses Weather Triggers to Boost Lunch-Time Footfall by 124%
A Major QSR sought to reach mobile audiences near its physical stores at lunch times, to promote their selection of hot soups, sandwiches and salads. Ads were targeted with meal options that were generated based on local weather conditions.
When temperatures dropped below 60 degrees, ad creative promoted the restaurant’s hot selection of fresh soups; while temperatures above 60 degrees would trigger creative focused around the brand’s cafe salads and sandwiches. Soups-focused creative was also served when weather events such as snow or rain appeared.
The campaign exceeded the clients benchmarks by 124%, generating an above average click through-rate (CTR) and measurable sales lift in the targeted markets.
Which? Magazine Drive Subscriptions using Weather Targeting
Brainlabs used an A/B testing platform to assess the impact that weather, amongst other variables, had on conversions (subscribers). They found that users were more likely to convert when the weather was poor and used this information to dynamically change bids in relation to weather within Google Adwords.
Results: Weather bidding resulted in a 4% increase in conversions
Lessons: Even products and services that are ostensibly weather neutral, may be impacted by weather in some way. In this case, it is likely that during periods of bad weather, consumers were more likely to want to stay indoors and access product reviews. It always pays to run analysis and A/B split-tests to understand pairwise relationships between your conversion goals and various weather conditions.
Walmart Increase Mobile CTR by 80% with Weather Targeting
Walmart used weather signals to target on-the-go consumers within certain geo-fenced areas of their physical store locations. Their ads presented relevant product offers.
Results: Adding weather triggers produced an 80.7% increase in CTR for the ads, (rising from 0.57%CTR to 1.03% CTR). Swimwear specific ads had a CTR of 1.85%, proving that mixing weather signals with hyper-local targeting, along with a more targeted creative, will produce elevated results over just geo-fencing.