While it may be difficult to predict the weather, predicting how the weather impacts consumer purchases is becoming easier.
During his SXSW panel called Blizzards and Beer: How Weather Affects What We Buy, Vikram Somaya, General Manager of the WeatherFX division at The Weather Company, discussed the influence of weather on sales.
The Weather Company gathers data that powers over a thousand mobile apps and other companies that experiment with historical, current and forecasted weather conditions in their businesses (yet another example of the power of data APIs). But a key consideration in analyzing weather data is the locale. For example, weather in New York City has very little bearing on a person living in San Francisco.
Many of different weather variables—such as temperature, precipitation, dew point, pollen count, cloud cover and UV—influence what activities we do throughout the day, and they also impact our mood and our likelihood to buy certain things. “It’s been shocking to us how either explicitly or implicitly weather always becomes a part of the decision process,” Somaya said.
His team initially attempted to answer broad questions as related to weather and buying patterns. Does a cold snap in Denver actually result in more sweater sales? Or, what do people buy on a really humid Miami day with lots of cloud cover? These questions turned out to be fairly elementary. This Big Data the company gathered gave Somaya’s team insight that “blew our minds.”
Based on the weather conditions, Somaya said, “We could answer questions like, if it’s a Friday in Miami in January the last week of the month, this is the SKU of raspberries that mothers are going to buy. Not only could we tell that information with an astounding degree of accuracy, we’ve built platforms that we can actually provide messaging back to these companies so they can talk to the consumer.”
As opposed to marketing to consumers based on web history and past purchases, Somaya believed that using weather data to help nudge a person down the funnel is perceived as less creepy. After all, anyone can know the current weather conditions by simply opening a window or stepping outside. Marketers don’t have to call out the weather in an advertisement or a million-dollar campaign; weather just is.
Procter & Gamble is one company that used WeatherFX’s weather data effectively in marketing its Pantene shampoo. Somaya’s team built a model they referred to as the “frizziness index” to determine how hair was impacted by the dew point, humidity, temperature and precipitation in a particular city. A corresponding advertisement for a Pantene shampoo that combats frizziness was displayed in the background of the Weather Channel app.
“We were working with large retailers and were looking at instant results. What was amazing was that every one [of the shampoo’s sales] spiked immediately,” Somaya said.
Weather is a variable that has a direct impact to our daily lives. It affects everything. It determines the clothing we wear, where happy hour will be and the items we purchase. The forecast is certainly sunny for retailers and businesses that take advantage of this and other types of Big Data to help analyze and drive consumer behavior and sales.
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Image via Vikram Somaya.