FjordI’m a day from starting my holiday. My wife and I are heading to Norway to explore fjords, learn about Viking history, and soak in an abundance of high-latitude sunlight. At the same time, my experience over the past few days of packing for my trip has made me recognize just how many perishable moments exist in the space of 24 hours.

What’s a “perishable moment?” Let me explain.

Most every year we take a big trip somewhere. We travel light, lugging our belongings on our back. We don’t book but the first few nights of wherever we stay, to avoid being “trapped” in some lackluster tourist oubliette. Nonetheless, every year, I seem to find some new piece or another of gear that promises to make traveling easier, or more efficient.

The other day, I went and picked up a bunch of travel supplies at my sporting good store:

  • 2x ultra light packing cube systems
  • 2x double combo cable locks
  • 2x regular combo locks
  • 1x ultra light mesh stuff-sack
  • 1 GoPro wireless remote
  • 1 Multi-tool (to replace the one that went missing in my black hole of a home office)

This list isn’t extensive but given that these six items are all travel-related, one might infer that I’m taking a trip. Now, if I were in the shoes of the email marketing manager at that sporting goods store, I’d want to know what kind of products my customers are buying, from which categories, and at what frequency. If I could pull together data from these sources, I might discover a perishable moment that warranted an email. So, let’s see what a mockup of what my purchase and email history in the store’s marketing database might look like:

Lens Perishable moments chart

From a superficial glance at this table, one might assume that I like to rock climb and that I get cold easily. What this doesn’t show is that I returned all of the jackets because they didn’t fit. With a closer look, perhaps one could make the inference that my purchases for the jackets were the result of a 25% off coupon—I bought them all at once and tried them on at home intending to reap the 25% off coupon on the one that fit the best. As it turns out, none were for me.

But if we step back and examine the entire list of items, their purchase source, the fact that I didn’t open emails about cycling, but that I purchased climbing and travel gear… well, then the assumption I’d make is that I’m heading on a trip, possibly to a cold place, to do some outdoor climbing. Maybe to a foreign destination, as I might not buy luggage locks otherwise. One more assumption I could make is that the trip is coming up quickly: luggage locks are not something you buy a month in advance; they’re something you discover you need a few days before you leave because you’ve lost the key to your lock or you simply misplaced the lock.

So, that scenario is painted from a number of assumptions, but they’re all based on empirical data. And that’s reason enough to see that I have an opportunity to entreat my customer with an opportunistic marketing message with a subject line along the lines of the following:

  • “Boarding will begin shortly, do you have everything you need?”
  • “25% off in-store any last minute items before your big trip!”
  • “The right gear for the right rock!”

The idea is that I’m making an educated guess that the customer is traveling somewhere, they might be rock climbing, and the trip is probably starting in the next 72 hours.

Perishable moments are opportunities derived from the careful analysis of cross-channel data to make the right assumptions or inferences, and then by testing the results with a series of targeted emails. For a perishable moment to be uncovered you have to have access to data, lots of it, and from multiple sources. Another dimension that’s missing from the simple table above is the customer’s web browsing history; plugging that in would’ve uncovered the fact that I shopped for deals on the outlet site, looked at warm hats, mittens, umbrellas, and rain jackets. The pattern of purchases, the emails I opened—they all infer that I’m taking a trip somewhere possible cold to do some climbing. (In truth, the gear was for climbing in Tahoe not Norway, but I am taking a trip, and I do rock climb, so the assumption is mostly right and would still yield, at the very least, an open.

Perishable moments don’t have to be this complex. They can simply be assumptions about the patterns of our lives, and the fact that we all have routines. The average person goes to work between 7–8 AM. Maybe he or she is riding a train, or stuck in a car, or on a bus commuting to the office. These moments are great opportunities to connect the commute to something simple, an “eye-opening deal,” a “wake up to savings,” something that brings together the routine and the opportunity.

Perishable moments are just that—fleeting. To capitalize on this concordance of place, product, price, and promotion, you’d need to ensure that your messages arrive in the recipient’s inbox in a timely manner. Fortunately, users of SparkPost know that our industry-leading deliverability and throughput mean that latency is, frankly, a non-issue. And SparkPost’s powerful templating API lets marketers create dynamic offers that leverage a wealth of behavioral data and programmatic rules for data and assembly within the body of the message.

Perishable moments like those reflected in the story of my upcoming trip to Norway may be brief, but with the right data and deliverability, they can be very rewarding opportunities for successful marketing.