A seasonal temperature just 1°C higher or lower than average typically causes a one percent fluctuation in sales, according to recent research.
With the UK retail sector being valued at roughly £300 billion, this equates to a potential loss of £3 billion caused simply by the weather. Weather-affected sales account for around 4.5 percent of overall sales, a number that could determine a profit or a loss for many retailers.
Most obviously, weather has a marked influence on what consumers buy: items such as sunscreen and hay fever medication tend to fly off the shelves in summer, whilst rain jackets and umbrellas quickly sell out when the weather takes a turn for the worse. It has also been proven that after exposure to sunlight, consumers are more willing to self-indulge, meaning they are likely to pay more for goods and services.
Weather also impacts consumers’ decision to postpone or fast-track their purchases. During a mild autumn, for example, many will delay buying winter clothing, whilst during an unseasonably warm spring, consumers will commonly fast track their purchases of gardening equipment.
Weather also has an impact in terms of the channel shoppers use, substituting high street shops with online stores and shopping centres when the weather is bad. When temperatures drop, the general trend is that an increased number of consumers stay indoors and shop online. However, each city in the UK reacts slightly differently to temperature elevation in regards to their purchase behaviour.
This data again suggests that the impact of weather on online sales is geo-specific and dependent on the weather patterns usually experienced within these locations, as well as the attitudes and culture of consumers.
However, predictability of weather is not a trait the UK processes, and the British weather gods don’t hesitate to make the dramatic swing from ‘ice creams to umbrellas’ within a matter of hours. It is not just a matter of whether the weather is hot or cold, sunny or cloudy, wet or dry – the critical issue is how quickly and efficiently retailers can align themselves to dramatic changes or unseasonal weather.
In order to ensure that this doesn’t dampen sales, retailers need to adapt quickly, and the more insight they have into customers’ needs the better. Customers will respond well to recommendations that match their requirement and mood which, as discussed above, may be largely influenced by weather.
Truly effective personalisation results in improved customer engagement, loyalty, and spend; but only 30 percent of customers feel that they are getting their desired level of personalisation. While many businesses are putting a greater emphasis on data collection, they are not effectively employing the data to understand customer preferences and implement truly tailored messaging.
Machine learning, AI, and pattern recognition can help marketers in a variety of ways. One of the biggest challenges facing retailers is how to personalise messaging to individual prospects and customers so that it most strongly resonates with the recipient.
By tapping into AI and machine learning, retailers can remove the guesswork involved and introduce dynamic, instant personalisation according to the weather in each location. For example, an email widget can be used to display a range of different promotions, each responsive to the weather data available for each customer’s location at the time.
Machine learning and AI should be seen as essential tools that enable truly granular and predictive marketing, promising more engaged customers, better conversion rates, increased sales and the ability to be agile, even in the face of changing weather.
The technology can optimise weather-specific campaigns by providing the right target audience for each campaign, the specific times to reach out to them and measuring their true impact. If a specific campaign is underperforming, AI will automatically detect areas of concern and re-adjust existing actions, allowing for quick reactions to changing customer needs. Once enough data has been collected on a certain campaign, the technology can recommend turning on its self-optimising feature to automatically decide the correct customer mix for each campaign action.
Until the ideal match between every campaign and customer segment can be found, businesses are potentially missing out on improving brand awareness and increasing sales opportunities. This is where continuous testing bridges the gap, as it enables businesses to maximise the effectiveness of their messaging.
The correlation between weather and sales offers great potential for retailers. Using the right tools, retailers can not only tailor their marketing campaigns according to the changing weather, they can also react quickly to the change. AI creates the agility marketers need in order to tailor campaigns according to the constantly changing weather. If the sun makes a surprise entrance during the latter half of the day, companies can instantaneously roll out messages on sun-screen or even a really cool pair of sunglasses.