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How the temperamental British weather affects Online Sales

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The weather is central to British life. We curse it, we praise it, and we do both in equal measure when the snow hits us. Rain and Sunshine affect the mood of the nation and grabs headlines of the red tops. It causes traffic chaos, droughts, floods, and poor clothing choices on a weekly basis. Being a heavy focus of endless debates in offices and other such places of small talk up and down the country, it is inevitable it will have some impact on the shopping habits of us Brits.

Bloody weather

The recent record breaking run of wet weather had people in a mad depressive haze and was ‘almost apocalyptic‘ for wildlife. Not absorbing much Vitamin D for 2 months, there was even a submission to FoundLabs to move the office to Ibiza. I’m still waiting to hear back on that one.

The wet weather has now been followed by this mini heatwave, which has preceded the start of the Olympics here in London this week. The city is back to its jubilant best, and soggy feet seems a distant memory for Londoners. But what does this waxing and waning of the British psyche mean for digital marketers?

Forget the Google dance, it’s all about the rain dance

It has been known for some PPC analysts to to pray for rain, almost doing an Indian rain dance around the end of November to bring on the downpours. This kind of undesirable weather usually lowers footfall to high street stores and increases online sales. This holds true in many cases, and is seen on many retail campaigns. Huge shopping centres somewhat dispel some of that myth, but anyone who has been to Oxford Street or other old style high streets on a regular basis would rather avoid getting wet.

One such case of exploiting variable weather was capitalising on the huge surge of breakdown cover applications during the early December snowstorms in 2010. The heavy snowfall brought many motorists to a halt, whilst breakdown campaigns soared. However,  the snow actually hit pre-Christmas online sales hard, as many were worried about snow delays affecting their online deliveries. A more recent example is how the recent unprecedented rainstorms affected the amount of holidays booked in sunnier climes to a degree of 20%.

Online stores are now the main shopping resource for many and trusted for use by a greater number of customers each year. So the affect the weather has will have a lesser impact overall. For the current wet weather, this ended up being poor overall for online marketers, as the public’s mood turned to an almost zombie-like depression. (Any PPC Analysts doing a rain-dance now will perhaps incur the wrath of their peers!).

Dramatic weather conditions can be a boon for paid search analysts.

Here are some ways a PPC campaign could be changed:

  • Focus on fast-moving trending products: A paid search analyst can take advantage of fast moving trends by simply trying new keywords. Reports from on-site searches, and data from tools can be used to find these keywords.
  • Ad Text Variations – Adjusting ad messaging to appeal to certain moods and grab attention.
  • Bid Optimisations – Keyword or Ad Group bids can be changed after analysing data from sales, profits, stock and ROI on a daily or even hourly basis.

Plan part of your SEO content strategy around the weather

In-depth content could be produced in advance of any season, but it is best to know what products you will be aiming to sell. It may be possible to produce some generic content based on expected weather conditions, then complete this at a later date.

You could also have contingency content plans in place alongside your standard strategy, and store those for a ‘rainy day’. Maybe your goal at the start of the 2012 campaign was to push flip-flops in June. This standard strategy would need to be adjusted, otherwise if you are pushing flips flops through an automated email during wet weather, you may annoy your customers.

It’s important for any SEO content strategy to remain flexible. Perhaps you had a plan of attack that involved extolling the benefits of your new summer range during May and June. As the UK had the wettest 2 months on record you would really need to adjust the message to focus on sun-seeking travellers. Email and other content could run alongside this targeting stylish lightweight raincoats and more sensible waterproof shoes.

For me, it’s time to grab an ice cream, crank up the air-con and pray that the current sunshine levels hold out long enough not to spoil beach volleyball on Saturday night. Let’s hope that the welcome return of the sun, and British Olympics success can return the bounce to UK consumers.

  • Joana Ferreira

    Hi, I just came across this article while doing some research. You make some good points, although I think I can add one more to your points on PPC. Why not incorporate weather data into your PPC campaigns so that your adverts are displayed depending on the weather?— weatherFIT will let you do that http://www.weatherfit.co.uk 

    • http://keithhorwood.co.uk/ Keith Horwood

      Yes – I’ve had a similar idea too! But that looks like a great tool that the PPC team should check out. Thanks!

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