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IBM ports weather data to AWS Data Exchange feed

Marketers can now tap IBM's Weather Company data feed at the AWS Data Exchange. The question is, will they know how to use it proactively to execute timely campaigns?

On Friday, IBM's Weather Company made its weather data feed available on the AWS Data Exchange, which could become a more widely used tool for marketing personalization.

Weather data, when layered on demographics and geolocation data, can make more targeted, personalized marketing offers. IBM tried to make this case with its own marketing and e-commerce products, but sold those in 2019.

IBM held on to Weather Company data that it had acquired from the Weather Channel in 2015 for $2 billion. It still is widely used in IBM's vertical-specific clouds for airlines and other industries, said Dave Olesnevich, head of product for IBM Watson Advertising.

Now, the Weather Company's data feeds will be available to marketers and other interested users through AWS. AWS customers in verticals such as consumer goods, pharmaceutical and apparel can see how live local weather data by ZIP code, 14-day forecasts and other trends data can inform marketing campaigns as well as influence supply-chain machinations.

"If used correctly, and if placed in the right spot, I've always felt that this data was actually a really good pickup for IBM," said Constellation Research analyst Liz Miller, who noted that while IBM has mostly pulled out of the customer engagement application business, it maintains valuable weather data accompanied by sophisticated analytics.

Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty
Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty discusses IBM plans for subsidiary The Weather Company at CES 2019.

"I don't think IBM is giving up [on weather data]; I think it's the final salvo in the old strategy that IBM had two decades ago," Miller said. "I think this is more an admission of IBM understanding where it can fit in this larger ecosystem, and rightfully understanding that AWS has a mature market. In this type of marketplace, why not take advantage of the fact they're already partners?"

If used correctly, and if placed in the right spot, I've always felt that this data was actually a really good pickup for IBM.
Liz MillerAnalyst, Constellation Research

To use AI effectively, Olesnevich said, users need data. IBM has numerous assets deployed in the AWS platform, so it made sense to add its weather data feed to its AWS lineup.

"We work well with them," Olesnevich said. "IBM's mission is to grow AI for business. Whether you're using our AI, Amazon's AI or [your own], you need data to feed that out. If we have a super-high-value data set that we're supplying to your models, that helps your model's performance."

Miller said it will be up to marketers to use the weather data proactively -- and not reactively, a la "it's raining where this customer is today; let's show umbrella ads for a week."

Customer experience leaders in travel and insurance will certainly be the first to find the data useful, Miller predicted. But companies will need to think about how they will apply the weather data to their workflows; it's not something companies can switch on and expect dividends to roll in.

"We still need smart people to be able to say, 'Hey, listen, this is a really good place where we could be using forecast data, and data from the Weather Channel, to really start to understand where our customer segments could use some new recommendations,' and then kind of then begin to map and train the AI on what that means," Miller said.

The Weather Company data packages will be available via a yearly subscription and that ranges from $10,000 to $21,000. Pricing is subject to change.

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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