To boost sales, make sure your marketing is as changeable as the weather

By Suzanna Chaplin, CEO, esbconnect

Just as the weather influences people’s moods, so it also impacts our buying behaviours, providing retailers with new opportunities to drive sales. Indeed, Mintel research shows nearly 60% of us will change our shopping habits if it rains or the temperature rises. It is no exaggeration to say that taking a proactive approach to weather shifts allows merchants to shift more stock based on consumer mindsets – and that smart retailers should be looking at how to secure incremental revenue by triggering activity according to the atmospheric conditions. 

Today, with access to real-time weather feeds, it’s possible to place short-term, contextually relevant messages in front of consumers, carefully calibrated to align with their thinking and encourage buying. And a prime channel for this is via email. 

This most immediate and personal of media can use weather data to trigger a campaign or send relevant messages based on specific conditions. In the first and most basic instance, it’s about developing different messages for different weather. It’s raining? Then a footwear retailer can promote wellies. It’s sunny? The same retailer can focus on sandals.  

Alternatively, it is possible to set up triggers around conditions reaching a certain threshold. Using pollen count data, campaigns can automatically be activated for products that can help hay fever sufferers when the count gets high.    

Retailers can further refine their approach by overlaying geo-targeting. From regional and county levels to store proximity, location data can deliver precision and relevance for localised, weather-triggered messages. And by incorporating store data into the message, consumers can be alerted to their nearest retailer to drive visits and offline purchases, not just online ones.  

Making it work

The key to getting results from reactive marketing is in selecting the right promotion for any particular moment. As weather patterns change, you can focus on surfacing products based on the weather we’re actually having – not just the weather we might expect at this time of year.

It is easy for retailers to become too focused on seasonality and get stuck promoting an inappropriate product. But while this year’s warm September hit demand for autumn clothing, savvy retailers took advantage of this to promote clothes and products that reflected our needs and desires during the warm spell. 

Email offers the dynamism and immediacy to ensure timely and contextually driven messages. Factor in the ability to enhance targeting by overlaying demographic and behavioural data, which means sales can be influenced – even when it’s seemingly the wrong time of year to promote certain products. Taking advantage of opportunities to tweak the messaging can help engagement, even when the weather results in a natural downturn in interest for a given product.

Travel is another pertinent category. It stands to reason that people are more likely to book holidays when it’s dark, wet and cold outside, and accordingly, travel-related email volumes rise when it’s cold and fall when warm. However, to boost holiday consideration for a travel retail client during quieter times, we tested new email copy specifically developed to be used when the weather’s good. With an emphasis on the current climate, it focused on getting recipients to imagine they were really on holiday and experiencing everything this entails.

And the result? The click-through rate jumped by 21%. By using the weather context, our client found it could still engage people, sell the idea, and encourage bookings at a time when conventional wisdom counselled against sending out a call to action.   

Adopting a cross-channel approach

What works for email also works in other channels. Just as marketers look for coordinated channel planning around their activity, rather than approaching their routes to market in isolation, weather triggers can be applied across channels. By creating customer pools ahead of campaigns, we’ve used this thinking to drive emails for a retailer while providing the social teams with the data to deliver duplicate supporting messages. Increasingly, for example, programmatic Out-of-Home is being used to deliver weather-triggered advertising. 

So, when it comes to relevant, timely messaging, retailers should let the weather help influence their activity. The data’s there, and the dynamic nature of many channels means the delivery mechanisms are available too. With a little planning, weather triggers can become another weapon in a brand’s marketing arsenal, helping them develop a more proactive and sophisticated approach and take advantage of opportunities to grow sales.