Weather Impacts on Retail - General
People are generally more open to marketing messages and more willing to shop in sunny weather. However, between online and brick-and-mortar environments, people are more likely to shop online in cold, cloudy, windy, rainy and snowy weather.
In our endeavor to find out how different weather conditions impact a consumer's decision to drive to a store and buy a product versus purchasing it online, we began by exploring a wide variety of marketing resources. Since we were looking to create an in-depth analysis on this topic, we started by examining marketing resources such as Merkle, AMP Agency and MuteSix, in an attempt to find relevant case studies.
As none of the papers in question addressed the issue, we turned our attention to business and marketing publications, looking for articles and reports written on the topic of weather-driven consumer behavior as it relates to online vs. brick-and-mortar retailers. This strategy proved to be successful as we came across many essays, reports and other publications that quoted scientific research conducted by universities around the world. We restricted the geographic scope of our project to the United States and sought to identify only scientific studies that analyzed the habits of U.S. buyers. However, despite our best efforts to outline the consumer behaviors that characterize this group alone, we found that researchers who looked into the correlation between weather phenomena and buying behaviors observed similar trends for the Chinese, British, and Canadian groups.
For the US, we were able to find an analysis which focused on the buying habits of people living in Seattle, and we started with that since it was the closest to our geographic scope. Nevertheless, we still made sure to go through the other studies mentioned above. We sought to find out whether the conclusions that the researchers arrived at by studying the buying behavior of the Chinese would be consistent for other countries. By comparing the results produced by different studies, conducted on culturally diverse groups, we wanted to see whether consumers' responses to weather conditions could be universal and thus see whether these results could be used to describe US consumers as well.
We found that the correlation between certain weather phenomena and certain moods seemed the same throughout different cultures. Regarding specific aspects such as how they relate to online purchase behaviors, it isn't the culture that determines such actions, since climate characterizes a region. As different areas in the United States have different weather, people who live in sunny areas may have different online purchase behaviors on a rainy day compared to people who are accustomed to rainy weather. Since the weather in the United States is not uniform, we found it safe to include studies made on other cultures living in regions characterized by different weather. We encouraged this thought because as far as we could see, marketers and business analysts working with businesses based in the United States also found these studies useful in creating business strategies, even though the researchers had conducted them on culturally different groups, located in other parts of the world.
Furthermore, even though we sought the most recent studies, we also decided to include papers that exceed the 2-year limit, and because the e-commerce sector has been evolving quickly in recent times, we did not go beyond that limit with studies that contained e-commerce specific data. However, regarding studies that tackle the issue of how weather affects people's mood, we decided to include them regardless of the publication date. Since the correlation between mood and weather phenomena appears to be consistent throughout different cultures, this indicates that it is characterized by universality. Therefore, we assumed that changes in how weather phenomena and mood correlate only occur very rarely in history. As a final note, some of these studies include data about retail, wholesale, and grocery stores.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WEATHER AND MOOD
Weather is known to influence attitudes, which in turn has an impact on buying behavior. For example, exposure to natural light is known to elevate the mood by stimulating serotonin production in the brain. A Canadian study concluded that people who are in a better mood tend to spend more. On a sunny day, people are willing to pay 37% more for green tea and 56% more for a gym membership. In another study, Weather FX concluded that, in autumn, below average wind speed is linked to increased ice cream consumption. Cloudy weather causes buyers to spend more on alcohol, tobacco products, and coffee.
It appears that the correlations between weather and moods are universal; higher temperatures help people who suffer from depression by elevating their mood, while windy weather or lack of sun tends to impact depressed people negatively. Generally, heat and rain increase aggression and suicide peaks in spring and early summer for both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
People respond differently to weather based on their personality and based on the climate they live in; people in Seattle and people in Miami will react differently to sunny weather, as the first is accustomed to rainy weather, while the latter is more familiar with hotter environments. People are more influenced by marketing messages in warm weather, especially around 75-77 degrees. Warmth, comfort, trust and a feeling of contentment are all related, and this is why people trust advertising more in summer months.
In the summer, consumers are more open to suggestions and are more likely to conform to the trends that are popular with their groups. Poor weather on the other hand typically decreases brick-and-mortar sales.
Humidity and precipitation can contribute to a negative mood and result in a lack of willingness for people to leave their houses and shops. Sunlight can have a positive effect on people's openness to shop outside their homes, regardless of temperature, humidity, snowfall, and sunshine (primarily). These weather phenomena have the most impact on people's willingness to leave their houses and engage in retail shopping.
A study behind a paywall analyzes the biggest European online fashion retailer; although it does not provide specific numbers in the abstract, it mentions that sunshine, temperature, and rain have a significant impact on daily online sales.
People in Seattle prefer to shop online on rainy days, and cold or rainy days generally see a 12% increase in online traffic for clothing, home, furniture, and wholesale retailers compared to warm and sunny days which favor brick-and-mortar sales. However, response to mobile ads is slowest in rainy weather.
SNOW AND WIND
Generally speaking, cold weather will lead to an increase in online sales, but for regions where people are used to cold weather, the increase in online sales will not be as significant as it would be for those who live in warmer areas.
Wind, snow, ice, and low temperatures will increase online shopping, as people would rather stay indoors. They are prone to making impulsive purchases and even pay more on certain items.
In the generally rainy weather of Seattle, people prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar location on a sunny day. Online orders are fewer on sunny days, particularly for home and furniture products, and clothing. Nonetheless, people are more responsive to mobile advertising on clear sunny days.
WINDY AND CLOUDY DAYS
People who tend to have a change in mood on windy and clouded days will likely avoid leaving the house but rather engage in online shopping to elevate their mood. They respond slower to mobile ads in this type of weather.