The changing seasons has always had an effect on consumers, determining what products they’re looking for and even which activities they enjoy. But is it really as straightforward as this?
In today’s article, we’re going to discuss how weather impacts consumer behavior and what that means for your seasonal marketing strategy.
Type of Products
The way warmer weather impacts consumer behavior is most easily examined by what products and services they purchase during or in anticipation of those times. You need only take a moment to imagine what your customers look like in spring and summer and track what they buy compared to what they look like in winter and what they buy to get the most basic idea of these differences. Of course, the purchases may not happen exactly when you expect them to — spring fashion and accessories start becoming available in late February and early March, yet 43% of consumers don’t begin their spring wardrobe shopping until April, right when you might be ready to switch your product out for summer offerings. Part of the key to capturing sales will be to understand when your customer is actually looking for your warm-weather products.
Products for Summertime Activities
Take some time to understand what your customer base does during spring and summer. Are they buying what they want to get fit in April, grabbing camping gear in May, and heading out on vacation in June? Are they preparing for a major cleaning in April, gardening in May, and then take a Caribbean vacation in June or July? What do these activities require in terms of tools, equipment, clothes, and food?
Speaking of food, you can also see major habit differences when it comes to flavors and preferred foods in warm weather. Gingerbread and peppermint may reign supreme in cold weather, but in the summer, consumers prefer to get outside and grill their food; in fact, it’s practically a national pastime for the biggest summer holidays, Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. They want cold drinks to help them stay cool. They also tend to experiment more, both with flavors from brands they trust (last year’s S’mores Oreos and Doritos Roulette Chips, which garnered 68% interest and 62% interest respectively from a survey by Instant.ly) and flavors they’ve never tried from niche brands that make their way into mainstream palettes.
Other things to consider are when kids are let out of school and whether there’s summer camps in your area: They’re more likely to spend on keeping their kids active and entertained (more than $1,000 per child) with camps (34% day camp, 27% sleep-away) and mini-outings such as pool clubs and amusement parks (41% of families and 77% of families, respectively) You also need to consider when parents want to start shopping for back-to-school supplies and clothes. It may be strange to think that parents are looking as early as mid-July, but you don’t want to miss out on prime opportunities.
Also, warm weather can bring strange weather — does your area get a lot of rain, or major storms like hurricanes? Make sure you’re offering things applicable to the smaller weather trends inside the warm weather spectrum. For instance, if warm weather means thunderstorms in addition to being hot and dry, as with the Southwest, you could follow the examples set by Michaels and Pantene. For the latter, they watched microclimate trends to choose when to market it’s Smoothing anti-frizz products (for spikes in humidity) or volumizing products (dry heat). For the former, they keyed into weather reports and pushed their products just before rainstorms, which traditionally lead to customers staying inside to work on crafts.
It’s worth noting that studies emphasize a reduced number of coupons purchased online during cold and adverse weather, while sunshine can have positive effects on purchasing stock (among other purchasing behaviors, mostly because consumer confidence gets to be quite high, as with last year. A roughly 10° increase can affect mood positively, which in turn can lead to increased online purchases (i.e. just above 45% in Houston specifically). You also need to be aware of projection bias, which is to say, customers will buy some hot-weather favorites before it gets hot, and won’t buy them once it is hot.
Shifts from the Great Recession
The economy is on the upswing, but there’s a lot that’s changed about how people want to spend their money in the wake of the recession. There’s a new focus on what can’t be loss with economic shifts — experiences and memories. That means that last August, rather than the typical sales Macy’s expected in line with the last decade, there was instead a shift to spending on apps, automobiles, healthcare, and housing which left the department store hurting. In fact, clothing sales are less a year round purchase, and more a bi-annually purchase. For summer, clothing purchases tend to be made in April.
Perceptions of “Warm” Differ
You need to understand how the weather in your region affects your customers. Simply, different parts of the country experience different types of heat. For example, dry heat in the west and more humidity in the east. Perceptions of warmer weather will also differ from person to person. Below we’ll take a look at some regional and personal consideration in regards to warm weather.
To start with, it’s worth noting that if you conduct any international sales, which months qualify as warm or cold could be the opposite of what you expect. Remember to market to your international regions appropriately.
But regional differences apply to much more than just which hemisphere your consumers are in. Depending on where a customer lives, different degrees of warmth can lead to different actions. For instance, in springtime in Boston, if it’s warmer than usual (about 60° F) consumers will begin buying warm-weather products, although this will vary as the temperature naturally varies. Meanwhile, warmer than usual in Chicago is significantly warmer than Boston before customers will start buying summer dresses (about 70° F). Bump that up to 80° F in Chicago, and you’ll actually see a statistically significant increase in the number of convertibles sold, yet in a city where it’s always warm, like Miami, you won’t see the same kind of lift in sales.
And in some, places hot means much, much hotter than others, to the point where what’s considered hot in New England (e.g., 80° F) is a cool day in Texas or Arizona. In fact, at the height of a normal summer, that may be downright chilly compared to the highs in those areas (100° F or more). The language you use and when you use it is going to make a huge difference in how customers consider your brand with regards to trust and interest.
We mentioned before that some always feel hot, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss average temperatures that customers find comfortable. Just consider where people put their thermostats. To make matters more complicated, however, you have to take humidity into account. The U.S. Department of Labor has said office temperatures need to be kept between 68° and 76° F with humidity ranging between 20% and 60%. At home, most people are comfortable between 70° and 75° F during the day, but drop that to as low as 65° F at night throughout the summer. Most often, people are trying to combat the natural humidity that summertime brings. Compare that to the average 68° F most prefer during the winter with humidity levels between 30% and 40% to combat dry winter air. Given these numbers, and how much lower they are than the average temperature in spring and summer, and you can start to develop metrics to help determine when “warm” weather hits, as well as what becomes “too hot.” It’s also worth noting that air conditioning can have a big impact on your customer’s budget — on average, 40% of a household’s power bill is the result of temperature control, but that rises to more than 50% when you get into certain types of regions, such as California.
Defined by Health
Aside from consumer preferences, you may be wondering about how well different generations will thrive if warm and hot weather. Here, again, is the purview of your market research, because that will simply vary from location to location, not to mention the personal health of the consumers in question. However, we can point to the National Weather Service Heat Index, which illuminates the temperatures at which human health — especially for the very young and the very old — are at risk. Depending on how your region trends with regard to the index can determine how you market certain products. If you sell outdoor equipment, you can emphasize products that help provide cooling shade and hydration. If you sell children’s games, you can emphasize keeping your kids active and engaged while keeping them safely indoors. Hypothermia is a real risk that leads to fatalities, and gearing your offerings around this serious subject can position your brand as one that cares.
Now that you have a clearer picture of how warmer weather impacts consumer behavior, you can better tailor your market research and your weather marketing strategy. You need to understand how weather impacts consumer behavior in your audience in particular and for your industry in particular, and from there you can course correct your current or future campaigns.