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Weathered Statistics

Never mind the high-minded snoots; it’s perfectly natural to talk about the weather. We chat about it because it’s a shared experience, and after a weekend of fresh snow at the turn of March, I’m sure I could stop any fellow Chicagoan on the street to commiserate. It’s been a harsh one, for sure.
That weather elicits predictable responses isn’t just valuable for small talk, though. It’s hugely valuable to businesses, and a new age of advanced statistical analysis is honing in on consumer behaviors to optimize returns.
AccuWeather, commonly recognized for its free online weather news and forecasts, offers enterprise solutions that mobilize large sets of historical weather metrics going much deeper than temperature and precipitation. In tandem with historical sales data, businesses can use AccuWeather’s services to uncover consumer behaviors influenced by weather.
While some findings are to be expected—consumers buy more snow blowers when heavy snowfall is predicted—other findings are more nuanced. For example, in some instances geographic location appears to alter sales predictors.
“For one cluster of cities in California, minutes of sunshine was a strong predictor of sales for a given beverage, but in another city a combination of temperature and humidity was the strongest predictor,” said Casey McGeever, AccuWeather’s vice president of enterprise solutions.
Extending the beverage example, she explained that weather even affects sales within a product group, noting “certain flavors like peach and lemonade are impacted by the weather differently than flavors such as apple and berry, because people assign desirability of flavors differently based on the weather.”
In short-term advertising, these insights are key to maximizing impact.
“Companies may utilize demographic information to target their customers, but without information on weather, they are missing out on a large percentage of their business potential, often 20 percent or more,” McGeever said.
Chief revenue officer Marie Svet conceded that while AccuWeather’s weather analytics services have not yet found a home with any clients whose explicit business is editorial, their clients are increasingly turning to editorial formats to share stories and promote their brands.
“With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, advertisers want to find ways to constantly integrate into a user’s life so they try using sponsored stories or more contextually relevant marketing to accomplish this,” she said.
“With predictive analytics, advertises can use data to identify which products that consumers respond to and when. They can create a message for this consumer during this time and advertise this product at the time of the weather event.”
AccuWeather’s Weather-Triggered Marketing service uses these predictive analytics to suggest the best times to deploy social media messages, newsletters and other consumer outreach.
Though AccuWeather doesn’t currently offer automated weather-based mailers, a competitor called Skymosity boasts automated, weather-triggered email campaigns that adjust merchandising based on location and forecasted weather conditions.
For online marketers,  Skymosity has a few other handy tools on the horizon. They will soon offer online advertising automation, adjusting the bid logic for Google Adwords to coincide with current and predicted weather, as well as site targeting technology that will adjust website content based on the local weather conditions for each individual visitor.
PR professionals could use these technologies to time an email pitch to coincide with a forecasted weather event, or target pitches only to certain areas; content publishers could present a uniquely relevant web experience for each reader, all based on consumer habits discovered through predictive weather analytics.
Weather may be unpredictable in the long-term, but in the short-term, the value found between the lines of weather analytics and consumer behavior serves as a great normalizing device, allowing marketers to make the best of “bad” weather and to get a head start when “good” weather is on the way.
Even if a business’s success isn’t directly tied to the weather, these analytics offer competitive advantage. Indeed, one national retailer I reached out to declined to comment, citing proprietary business strategy concerns.
So the next time someone bemoans weather chatter, pay no mind. Weather’s not just interesting—subliminally, it’s at the core of several of our daily decisions, and whether  we realize it or not, brands sure do.

About Stone Hansard

Hansard is an associate features editor and features writer for Cision Blog, covering trends in journalism and content marketing, innovative new editorial platforms and more. He is also the supervisor of Internet Media Research at Cision, and occasionally covers jazz for Prior to joining Cision in 2010, he was the music director at WVFS-FM, the alternative radio station at his alma-mater, Florida State University. Give him a bowl of fancy ramen and a Bulls game, and he’s a happy camper.

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