If there is one thing characterises this country perhaps more than any other, it is our seemingly endless fascination with the weather. From a quick catch-up with colleagues about yet another miserable grey morning to sharing a few words with a shopkeeper about a surprise spell of sunshine over the weekend, it is our perennial go-to topic when it comes to small talk. More than anything else, us Brits seem obsessed with the fact that, despite endless up-to-the-minute forecasting, the weather just never seems to be able to make up its mind.
Only last week, I found myself foolishly trusting clear skies in the morning and getting caught out by a sudden bout of midday showers. Even more foolishly, I’d left the house with only a light jacket, and figured that I’d need to get hold of something waterproof – and potentially a lot warmer – if I was to make it through the rest of the week without feeling any more of this season’s ill-effects.
But with the cold and the rain also came a revelation: wouldn’t it have been a great opportunity for a retailer to capitalise on my mistake with a well-timed, weather-based communication? And, given my overwhelming desire at the time to simply fend off the weather at all costs, wouldn’t it have been an almost guaranteed win for that retail brand to see a direct return on their savvy outreach?
I’m not the only one who would have found such a timely message useful. Our recent consumer research suggests that weather-based updates are the second most useful marketing message a customer can receive from a brand, with more than a quarter saying that they would value real-time communication sent through from brands that is dependent on the changing weather conditions. Moreover, as weather-based messages were second only to those containing product offers in terms of preference amongst consumers, it’s clear that there is an opportunity for intelligent brand marketers to leverage real-time weather-based offers and drive sales with their customers.
Weather-based marketing isn’t necessarily just for the big brands, there are a number of tactics that can be employed by independent retailers to boost marketing efforts here. In the age of smartphones, most people now have instant access to their emails whenever and wherever they are. This means that brands can feel confident using email – constantly referenced as the most trusted marketing channel by customers – to entice the mobile shopper. Furthermore, with many customers browsing on mobile while they shop in-store to check and compare prices between a range of different sellers while they are on the go, smaller and online-only retailers can make use of more sophisticated tools, including overlays and basket abandonment technology, to tempt shoppers away from whichever brand has the greatest high-street presence.
This is, of course, a tactic that makes a lot of sense for clothing retailers – one only has to look at the spike in sales of umbrellas during a downpour, or the empty racks of sunglasses during the bright summer months. But even for smaller retailers offering a more niche product set, it can still be a great way to spark a sales boost, as long as you’re prepared to get creative. For example, a warm spell just ahead of the weekend may prompt a gardening supplier to promote hedge trimmers as people are likely to want to take advantage of the sunshine while it lasts. Likewise, our current cold snap presents a great option for a boutique homewares store to promote their new line of personalised mugs, as people turn to the comfort of a cup of tea to warm themselves up.
But while weather-based promotions are a great option to marketers, they must continue to resist the temptation to overload shoppers. While direct communications are increasingly possible in the modern age, it’s important to remember that shoppers are now receiving more marketing materials than ever before, with 60% saying that they only read marketing messages which are relevant to them and provide value to their lives and shopping habits. This is certainly something that makes weather-based messages so effective, as the relevance and value is often immediately clear – if it’s pouring with rain, it isn’t difficult to recognise the benefit of an offer of free shipping on waterproof coats. However, customers will soon switch off if there’s a new message every time there’s a change in the weather – particularly if the unpredictability of our seasons is anything to go by.