Dressing Your Website for the Weather
When the first flakes of a snowstorm start falling in Philadelphia, it doesn't take nearby Home Depot stores long to position shovels and rock salt up near their front doors. At the same time, if a heat wave is blasting Phoenix, shoppers walking into their local Wal-Mart will be tempted to buy air conditioners, kiddie pools and slushy machines.
Wal-Mart in particular has spent a lot of time and resources compiling an immense amount of data on what consumers prefer to buy in certain weather situations. Imagine the retailer’s surprise when it found that sales of strawberry Pop-Tarts rose seven times higher than normal when Hurricane Charley approached the Florida coast in 2004.
While brick-and-mortar retailers can respond rapidly to changing weather conditions, online merchants have been shut out of these sales opportunities because they often lack the control to change their websites quickly and easily without IT support. Websites often deliver the same customer experience regardless of a visitor's location or weather.
There were very real obstacles for online retailers until now. The development of dynamic merchandising technologies and cloud-based platforms allows them to overlay geo-location with real-time weather data. They can then leverage this insight to deliver a more relevant message to each website visitor. With access to data and ease of website implementation, other retailers can catch up with giants like Wal-Mart.
For example, an outdoor clothing retailer is able to use weather-based targeting for website visitors located in Seattle — a city where rain is commonplace — to promote rainwear via numerous compelling tweaks to its site, including:
- a geo-targeted banner ad that offers a price discount on raincoats;
- badging that draws attention to products with waterproof features;
- a weather-targeted hero image that reflects the visitor's physical environment to strengthen the connection to the messaging; and
- an additional incentive of tax-free shipping where applicable.
By knowing how weather influences shopping behavior, online retailers are empowered with the necessary tools to drive increased sales. Since inclement weather may make going to a brick-and-mortar store less attractive, online retailers may not have to rely as heavily on discounting items or free shipping promotions to convert transactions. Since certain well-known brands like GORE-TEX may be in higher demand, retailers can easily highlight those products for consumers visiting their website from a rainy location.
It's clear that for online retailers to remain competitive they can no longer serve up a one-size-fits-all shopping experience. A recent Forrester Wave report stresses that in marketing there's a great need for agility and the ability to adapt even faster to buyer behavior — not only where visitors come from or what they're looking at, but also their local context such as weather and proximity to retail locations.
As smartphones and tablets continue their meteoric rise in popularity with shoppers, the need for more personalized website content to meet consumers’ expectations of relevance in real time will only intensify. The deployment of real-time weather data and geo-targeting is one way that online retailers can keep pace with consumers, turning raindrops and snowflakes into higher conversion rates while optimizing their acquisition investments.