Marketplace Meteorology: If You’re Not Paying Attention to the Weather, You May Have Your Head In The Clouds

Punxsutawney Phil was recently spooked by his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter to the dismay of all but the most devoted ski bums. But let’s set folklore aside and look at how vital long-term weather forecasting and real-time conditions are to the retail marketplace. In case you’ve had your head in the clouds, forecasting the implications weather has on consumer spending has become big business.

From retail to ski resorts, consultancies specialize in predicting the long-term weather forecast and its specific affect on a variety of businesses. In the home improvement industry, a late spring in 2014 resulted in lackluster retail performance in seasonal categories. And, counter to the groundhog’s thinking but based on the best science, the nation’s largest retailers are hedging their bets that an early spring will be sprung upon 2015 and are managing their merchandising accordingly. Based on the best models available in the third quarter of 2014, the consensus was that spring 2015 will be early and warm. As a result, seasonal spending in home centers are expected to rise 15-20% for this year versus last, with contingency plans readying for up to 25% growth in categories such as lawn and garden.

Managers of products with seasonal sensitivities should use advanced forecasting to partner with retail customers to optimize their positions within seasonal planograms. Yet, it’s not just the season ahead that marketers are considering.The intersection of big data and weather is being used to record behavior and set algorithms to help marketers align their brands to the most opportune, weather-targeted buying behaviors. Real-time digital ad targeting has stretched beyond the weather websites. Ad networks are now allowing brands to deliver ads that are designed to align with the current conditions or short-term forecasts within an individual consumer’s geography. As one example, Pantene successfully targets ads to women to help them tame the frizz on humid, “bad hair” days.

It’s been reported that $3 trillion in annual spending is driven at least in part by weather. As the reality of climate change sets in, seasonal variances will be more commonplace. Meanwhile, scientific models for forecasting the weather are advancing, allowing us to predict longer-term implications of macro weather patterns two or more seasons in advance. To avoid being left out in the cold (forgive us, the pun was there for the taking) on positioning your brand at the intersection of weather and consumer behavior, put down the Farmer’s Almanac and stop your Groundhog Day celebrations. Instead, take a look at the science and big data available, and be sure your brand has the agility needed to make fair-weather friends with consumers.