Tailor'd Design

Weather sits at the sweet spot between content and commerce. But it’s also information app companies and marketers can harness to deliver what users want in a way that is both timely and valuable. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Trish Mikita, VP Digital Media Strategy at AccuWeather, a weather information and digital media provider, to discuss the company’s focus on platforms and partnerships that deliver accurate weather content and data in the proper context at the appropriate moment. They also explore AccuWeather’s broader mission to make weather data, and its mobile app, genuinely helpful and useful—and the learnings along the way every app marketer should know.

Peggy: Welcome to the Mobile Growth Podcast, where frontline growth marketing experts share their insights and experiences and expertise so you can become a better mobile marketer. I am your host, Peggy Anne Salz from MobileGroove where I help my clients grow their revenues and audience reach through content marketing. And on my watch here in this series, I will be introducing you to the people who know how to drive growth because that is what they do. And because of that, we have them as part of our roster of incredible and accomplished UA ninjas and people and companies who help them as well. And it's all about achieving those results with the tools, techniques, just the tips, and all of that, you will only hear here on Mobile Growth.

So without much further, I just wanna jump in and welcome Trish Mikita. She is our guest today. She's VP Digital Media Strategy at AccuWeather. Trish, great to have you here on Mobile Growth.

Trish: Thank you so much, Peggy. It's nice to be here.

Peggy: I watch AccuWeather a lot. I've written about your app. I've written about your advances and internet of things. We'll get to that. Just watching it. What you do is you offer an app that we all know, but it's also really a mission in AccuWeather, to be useful. And I'm just wondering off the top, how you balance that with marketing because it's not really necessarily about pitching us and hard sell to us. It's more about telling us how and why we need you in the first place.

Trish: Absolutely. I mean AccuWeather has evolved from providing those custom forecasts for businesses to becoming the global leader in digital media, whether related big data, predictive and prescriptive analytics. You know, our message around superior accuracy, and that's usually our marketing statement, isn't just marketing. We have the independent studies to back up that claim. We are the most accurate. We are hyperlocal. We are focused on the accuracy; therefore, we are useful and save people's lives through our product.

So we wanna be available in any product that you can access to weather to do that mission.

Peggy: So you do wanna be useful and that's where it comes in. I think that you shine just for what you do, but also, in the case of unfortunate disaster situations, critical weather, dangerous weather conditions, that's also where you're gonna be that go-to app, that brand in my hand. How do you work all of that, however, in the campaigns because you don't wanna scare people in saying, "When you wanna be prepared for the worst, you use us." You wanna have a different approach, maybe. How do you get that across?

Trish: In our campaigns, just explaining the different features that we have, whether it's our minute by minute forecast or the fact that we do have the watches in mornings in a hundred different languages and dialects, that we're there to help with those things. Our radar is also part of our campaigns, we're pretty, quite frequently, to help people plan their days.

Peggy: And what about the campaign creatives and the campaign approaches? Because literally, your content is really fresh, it's weather. It's always changing. But then you have to communicate that in campaigns through creatives, you know, through the radar, keep that all fresh and interesting. Maybe you can give me some examples?

Trish: We have the intelligent targeting and the segmentation. We can use your location and the weather that's happening in those locations to help with the campaign as well. And obviously, changing the creatives when…seasonally, but the great thing about MinuteCast is it's moved by minute precipitation, that works year-round, changing out from a snow to rain is pretty easily done in the creative. But it's really telling people when it's…that sunny day, when it is sunny, or helping people be prepared for the storm when we know a storm is coming is part of the messaging.

Peggy: And it's also just about the campaigns to me, the user, I mean, I would imagine it's also important to your partners, people that you're working with, people who sort of build on top of that weather.

Trish: Yeah, absolutely. You know, like we said, you know, every person has that question that they want answered, and everyone talks about the weather, so it's that universal language that is really easy to be in the dialogue every day. So the campaigns really help that, because everyone's talking about the weather every day.

Peggy: So what do you look at as sort of your North Star metric here, when you're saying, "Okay, this campaign is working well, I need to dial it up. Or this one, I need to optimize." You must be looking at something. I don't know if it's probably usage, engagement. What types of KPIs are you following?

Trish: You know, we're always looking at daily active users, page use, impressions per user, video of use, but we really focus on retention as well, especially in where I've been focused more recently in the product world. You know, we can spend all that money getting user acquisition and spending all the money on at-the-store optimization, but once we get them there into the product, if we can't retain them, what's the point? Trying to help that lifetime value number is also pretty key.

Peggy: And I guess you have a pretty interesting LTV curve, right, because it's not something like a game where you say, "Oh, you know, D30, where am I at?" It's different. What does that look like for you, that calculation?

Trish: So it's pretty interesting what we found with our retention. We focus mostly on the 90-day retention. Because of the weather and how variable it is, if you happen to download our app when you're in the middle of a snowstorm or when there's a hurricane coming ashore, it's different than if you happen to see our app when you were planning for a wedding or a different event in your life, right? So we've seen how when we acquire our users and what features they engage with right away, how well we retain them. And so that's been pretty interesting information for us.

Then we focus on those different personas and really creating experiences around each one of those personas that when they get into our app and use for the first time, we are answering that question that they have.

Peggy: I love talking about personas and you probably…you brought it up yourself when people look at your app, and I know when we have to go to break, so just hang in there, Trish. We'll be right back. Listeners, don't go away. We'll be right back with Trish Mikita and talking more about AccuWeather.

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Peggy: And we are back. Welcome back to the Mobile Growth Podcast. Of course, Trish Mikita, VP Digital Media Strategy at AccuWeather, our guest. And Trish, right before the break, we were talking about something I'm excited about, because, you know, when you go deeper in the funnel, you have to also go deeper into psychologies, psychographics, all that cool stuff. And you have personas for weather app users. I'm just wondering, can you give me an example of that?

Trish: Yeah. I too am really excited about it. We just finished up a project, working on personas. We came up with our five top personas of people who use our app. And you know, I'll, kind of, go through an example of one, and one would be an outdoor worker, someone whose livelihood is dependent on the weather. Whether they get to deal with that asphalt today or if they have to wait till tomorrow, or whether they're painting outside or whether, you know, we have roofing customers that need to know whether they need to do that or not.

And so many people not just use us and our enterprise solutions services to make decisions about their business, but they're using our consumer apps for that as well. We know that. We look at things with what type of decisions do they have to make. Are they short term or long term? Are they high stakes or low stakes? And these are high stakes things. These are people's lives, livelihoods. There are safety issues. So a lot of different like weather data needs and what that persona may need differently than another persona per se.

Peggy: And that, I guess, feeds back into, sort of like, your messaging, your creative, that whole approach to that particular audience target group.

Trish: Yes, because that whole audience group may also…we know other apps that they also tend to use. So other experience that they're comfortable with and familiar with. So you know, being similar to that comfort level there is also important.

Peggy: So anything, any milestone you're particularly proud of in these campaigns that you'd like to share? Maybe an example?

Trish: I think that just starting with some of the campaigns around the personas per se and really  focus on the product piece for the persona, but I think some of the campaigns that we are excited about is really trying to help our users understand the MinuteCast feature. We're gonna be starting a new campaign around our snowfall probability product as well, and that's something we're innovating on and explaining to users how to really understand the confidence level around snowfall forecast.

Peggy: That's really cool. Because I use your app. I use it on an iPhone, so it's not filled in, so I really made an effort. And I'm based in Europe where there are other alternatives and I'm always amazed by that, that I can sit there and, sort of, amaze my friends, "In about 2 hours, this is gonna happen," and it's like magic. So I get what you're saying there about understanding the features and how to use them, get the most out of them.

Of course, the other feature that you're getting the most out of that I can see is really new platforms. I mean, you are the weather on Alexa. Tell me about that and a little bit about that platform and how that is maybe impacting, you know, how you can advertise or educate around that aspect of your service.

Trish: Yeah, that's really what…I'm really excited about what we're doing with our voice products and our bot products. We've been doing Alexa for a very long time and we're doing some others now and our bots have gotten more mature and we're actually gonna be retrofitting some of our Alexa products with those new mature bot models. They are definitely getting more intelligent.

Our goal here is to not just to have a decision-tree of canned responses. I don't want every answer to be…when you ask what are the current conditions or what the forecast is for tomorrow, for it to just rattle that off, right? And some of our more sophisticated bots, which we'll be putting back onto Alexa, can answer those other questions. When will it start raining? Do I need to bring a jacket? How people are actually interacting with them, we've been listening to the questions that people are asking our skill, and when we don't have the answer, we're like, "Well, we should have the answer to that," and really take it the next step of being help…help people answer the question that they're coming for and not just giving them the weather so they can figure out the answer for themselves.

Does that make sense?

Peggy: Absolutely. It makes perfect sense because I'm planning, I'm not necessarily asking about the weather. I'm asking can I take a specific action because of what the weather is.

Trish: Exactly.

Peggy: And that's not just offering an answer, that's offering a device. And that is pretty cool, because if I think about, Trish, that goes back to your mission of being useful. What about the challenges as, you know, being a digital marketer and dealing with these platforms, getting the most out of these platforms. It's a little early days, but I would like to know, you know, just how does that change everything?

Trish: You know, we love dabbling with all of these different emerging platforms of…because weather is such an obvious fit for so many of them. But the monetization piece, hoping that the industry matures enough for that to come, obviously. I found myself asking Alexa what the current conditions are where I normally would have gone to my app and opened the app and looked at that. So that's taking away from maybe an app view, so we have to think about how the products can be complementary of each other and how they work together.

Peggy: That's a good point. Because you're removing the friction which is what apps did, and now voice might remove the friction from apps, so you have to think about how to do it creatively, not cannibalize, complement. It's a tough journey. Maybe you can give me a little bit of an idea for advice for other marketers, how and when to explore that fit with IoT and how to deal with the fact that it's different from apps and can potentially also complete with them. I mean, should they jump in any way?

Trish: Yeah, I mean, I say jump in any way. We're very much a try it and let's see if the audience is there and they want…if the audience wants to consume your content in that way, the monetization will follow. If all of our users stopped using our apps today and only started asking Alexa for the weather, we will be able to sell against that as well. Do you know what I mean? Once the audience is there, I think that there's a place for you to promote whether it's a sponsorship or whether it's to promote other products that you do need to dig in a little more and get a fuller experience, but I really very much think it's get in, figure out the new product, how users are using it, so that you can grow and learn as that new initiative grows as well, you're growing with it.

Peggy: So what are the positive or potential, rather, monetization models for these platforms? I hear sponsoring a lot.

Trish: So sponsoring, absolutely. Obviously, now, we're doing a podcast, I think there's also podcast opportunities and you can see that model developing as you're getting critical mass and number of people listening to each podcast, you have the opportunity. Brands wanna be associated with those things. We have a premium brand being AccuWeather, associating ourselves with other premium brands are a great fit.

Peggy: So I'm excited because I get regular releases, actually, from AccuWeather. So I see what you're doing. I see connected cars, lots of stuff going on there. Just in a nutshell, Trish, what's next? What are you most excited about?

Trish: Again, our bots are coming along and I'm really excited about them and how we can interact with them with actual questions, but excited about the connected car. Our AccuWeather Go product of a weather along a route is very exciting. I've dreamed about the day when I'm getting in the car, ready to go on a two-hour trip and go, "Oh, you know what, I should wait a half-hour because my trip will be so much better if I just hold off and let that weather pass through my route." I'm really excited. As a user, I'm excited about our AccuWeather Go product.

And you know, we're just continuing to innovate. I'm excited about the snowfall probability and again, we've got some podcasts, we've got some more personal assistant products coming out and you know, always want to work with the wearable companies and we're doing some health and weather and how your fitness relates to the weather and how to improve your overall health.

Peggy: And also, I guess, pushing some boundaries on how to bring that back into something that you can monetize, because at the end of the day, it's for you, about creating a campaign that's either going to monetize the service for you or, you know, somehow help out that ecosystem of partners that you're building up because a lot of people, as you've said, you have your enterprise solution, others. Is there anything that you see on the horizon in formats or ad tech that you're saying, "Hey, this is gonna move that forward as well?"

Trish: There are always people that are playing around formats and ad tech. I think that using weather to help display the right ad is always a great thing. We really are doing a lot of weather-related big data and predictive and prescriptive analytics and helping other companies with that as well. It goes a little bit beyond even ad tech, but helping other companies using that data. So we're pretty excited about some of that with AccuWeather too.

Peggy: So we have to have you back, Trish, because I certainly wanna hear what you're up to over there. But in the meantime, how can our listeners keep up with you and maybe find out more about what's going on over there at AccuWeather?

Trish: Well, you know, we have apps. I would say download our iOS, our Android app. We have a Windows app. We've got…take a look at our Facebook Messenger bot, we've got Google Assistant Action, and we've got that skill on Alexa that's gonna be improved here real soon. We've got products out there that I hope everyone would play around with and enjoy and figure out when it's gonna rain next and when the next snowstorm's coming. We'll be there to help them with that.

Peggy: And that's a wrap of today's show. Thanks for listening to this episode of Mobile Growth and a quick reminder to visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete listing of our upcoming events. And don't forget to use the very special promo code MGSPODCAST30 for 30% off your offer. And remember, no matter what kind of app or business you have, this is the destination for everything you need to move the needle on growth. So until next time, make it real, make it matter, and we'll talk to you soon.