4 Jun 2014
How Weather Affects Consumer Behaviour and Purchase Decisions
Weather has the biggest influence on consumer behaviour after the economy, according to the British Retail Consortium. It affects consumers’ emotional state, drives their purchase decisions, and dictates how much they are willing to spend. The effects are far more pervasive than the obvious examples that spring to mind; ice cream selling on hot days, and umbrellas when it’s raining.
In reality, weather affects practically every consumer purchase decision. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, what car we drive and even what type of house we buy, can all be determined by commonplace fluctuations in weather. Understanding this relationship can pay huge dividends for both brands and performance marketers. This data can be leveraged to market products at the most profitable time and in the most impactful way. By executing weather based marketing campaigns, brands can gain a real competitive advantage.
Weather affects consumers on 3 levels; their purchase method, their mood, and their product choice - each of these are covered below.
Effect of Weather on Purchase Method
On the most basic level, weather affects which channels consumers use to make purchases. For instance, during warm and sunny days, bricks and mortar stores often enjoy more footfall, whereas during periods of inclement weather, traffic to online portals can increase. However, much is depended on seasonality, industry and product. This study found that on wet or cold days there was a 12% increase in website traffic for retailers in the home & furniture, wholesale, and clothing verticals - compared to that on warm and sunny days. However, interestingly there was no significant difference for big box retailers. Because weather driven demand varies with industry, it is critical that brands and advertisers have insights on how various weather conditions affect product sales, as well as methods of purchase.
Effect of Weather on Mood
The second way in which weather influences consumer behaviour is through its effect on mood. Studies show that temperature, humidity, air pressure, snow fall, and, especially sunlight can have a huge impact on a consumer’s mind frame and by extension their spending. A 2010 study by Kyle B. Murray revealed that exposure to sunlight dramatically increased levels of consumption as well as the amount spent per item. Experiments show consumers would willingly pay 37% more for green tea and 56% more for gym membership after being exposed to sunlight. Similarly, a study by Persinger and Levesque found that 40% of mood evaluations were accounted for by a combination of meteorological events; in particular, barometric pressure and sunshine. Many retailers are savvy to this phenomenon and use bright halogen lighting which mimics the effect of sunlight in their stores. Consumer mind-frame can also be determined by seasonal weather events – so if there is snowfall in late October then this could get consumers into the Christmas spirit early and therefore boost pre-Christmas sales.
Effect of Weather on Product Demand
As well as affecting our mood, our propensity to spend, and our preferred channels of purchase, weather is a critical driver of product demand. The food and drinks, pharmaceutical, and fashion industries are most heavily affected by this phenomenon. Luckily, weather-driven demand can be predicted with unerring accuracy - with identifiable trigger points. For instance, if temperatures reach over 18 degrees in the UK, supermarkets know that there will be a 22% increase in fizzy drinks, 20% increase in juices, and 90% increase in garden furniture. Likewise, a 1 degree F drop in temperature in the US can lead to a huge increase in sales of soup, porridge, and lipcare products. Supermarkets leverage weather intelligence on a daily basis to guide stock management decisions – and now advertisers are also beginning to use live weather data as a way of contextualising ad campaigns.
However it’s not just FMCG’s and low involvement products that are affected by weather. Weather can actually influence purchase decisions on high value, high involvement items like cars, houses, holiday bookings, high-end fashion apparel, and insurance. A weather-driven PPC campaign for a Toyota 4x4 which only showed during snowy weather, achieved exceptionally high click through rate. Holiday bookings have been proven to be inextricably linked to periods of inclement domestic weather, and this article shows that weather has a huge influence on what type of house or car you buy.
Weather has a deep-rooted effect on consumer psychology and purchase behaviour. By cross-referencing point of sales data with historical weather information, brands can gain a deep understanding of these nuanced relationships. Armed with these insights, marketers can implement a weather-responsive marketing campaign to deliver much more targeted and impactful promotions. Used intelligently, weather is an easy win for marketers.