Availability to Shop
The most obvious way that weather can affect sales is by changing consumers’ availability to shop. In the winter when roads are treacherous schools and businesses can close, which gives people that would otherwise be busy working the availability to shop when they wouldn’t normally have this luxury.
Conversely, stay-at-home parents may, actually, have less availability to shop on these “bad weather” days because their school-aged children are now home and require supervision. So, depending on who your target audience is, snow days can either increase or reduce sales.
But this simple change in availability isn’t the only way that weather can affect sales!
Prolonged periods of any type of weather (hot, cold, rainy, snowy, dry) can cause consumer needs to change, requiring that consumers purchase things that they wouldn’t typically be in the market for otherwise.
For instance, when my husband and I lived in Texas, the area went through a really serious drought. Local ordinances were put in place to conserve water, which meant that you were no longer allowed to wash your car at home and could only water your grass on certain days for limited hours. We found ourselves suddenly needing things that we had never purchased before (car wash packages, drought resistant grass products, etc.) The weather turned us into a new kind of consumers.
This is an extreme example, but even less drastic weather changes can affect online buying behaviors.
A much more subjective difference is how consumers’ moods change in response to weather. Think of how you typically feel on a gray rainy day or a bright warm day filled with sunshine. These subconscious changes that we experience on a daily basis as a result of the weather trickle down to everything we do – when we wake up, what we eat, whether we want to go run that errand, how much time we spend outside, and so on. These changes also affect us as consumers – dictating whether we spend money on goods and even how much we spend.
But the tricky part here is that different weather will affect people differently. Some people will face gloomy weather and not be motivated to do anything, even shop online. Others will immediately pull out their laptops, tablets, or smart phones and just shop all day because they don’t feel like going out and doing anything else. Similarly, some people will face wonderful weather and be motivated to buy the things that they’ve been meaning to get to tackle projects, while others will ditch the devices and just go outside and enjoy the weather, putting off purchases for another day.
Spending more time with something makes you more sensitive to the things that you love or hate about it. So, when the weather moves us inside or outside or causes us to spend a lot of time in our cars or home offices or anywhere else, we’ll be more sensitive to the things we find there. Our perceptions as consumers are skewed as we spend more time in certain situations or using certain products.
A beautiful summer that sends people on road trips can result in consumers finding the need to upgrade their cars to ones with more space or towing capacity in the same way that a bitterly cold snowy winter can result in consumers needing more home office storage solutions.
So, what does this mean for your online business? Well, essentially it means that buying patterns can be shaped by things that are out of your control, and you really can’t predict how they’ll be affected. So, while you can’t exactly plug the current temperature and UV index into some sort of tool or algorithm to get projected sales for the day, it does mean that you have one more data point to look at when analyzing geographically segmented sales. You can use this data while forecasting and in conjunction with your existing marketing efforts. Remember, more data is always better than less data and even though you can’t chock up all sales fluctuations to the weather, you should be aware that it’s a silent player in your sales strategy.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!