For Weather-Based Marketing, the Forecast is Profitable

This month’s wintry mix of rain and snow may bring more than timid drivers, school delays, and slippery streets. When you open your smartphone’s weather app, you may find yourself drawn to an image of a steaming hot cup of coffee at your nearest Starbucks or be subtly prompted to book a vacation to some tropical paradise. It’s not just serendipity; marketers have been using weather apps to delve into how our behavior changes as the forecast fluctuates for years. The reasons why are more fascinating than the weather itself.

AccuWeather’s daily reach is upwards of 2 million (rivaling that of Facebook’s) and is readily available via smartphone, desktop, tablet, TV, radio, and newspaper. It is even broadcast in elevators, shopping malls, and digital displays around Manhattan. The ability to reach such a broad audience is marketing gold in and of itself, but it also provides ad agencies with one of the most powerful pieces of information.

Every time you open a weather app your exact location is sent to the weather company (or their parent organization) servers so that they may provide the most accurate meteorological conditions for your area. When an advertising agency pays for this information, in turn, it allows them to target you for geographically-relevant ads.

When you think about how many of your daily decisions revolve around the weather and how often the app may be opened, it begins to make marketing sense. Last year more than half of all companies used location data to target consumers, spending more than $16 billion in the process. Almost ¾ of consumers responded to calls-to-action if they were received while near the location advertised. The second highest ranked weather app Weatherbug has uncovered a 15% increase in foot traffic to retail stores when the temperature is between 61 and 75 degrees; while months with temperatures above or below this range have a 10% drop.

A major investor in weather-app based location data is the medical/pharmaceutical industry, who may post an ad for the most recently recommended allergy-relief medication near your weather app’s local pollen count or may even boldly suggest you get a second opinion on your recent diagnoses.

Pantene hair products researched consumer behavior on “bad hair days” and found that women often altered their hair care routine on such days. The company then launched their “Haircast” campaign over IBM’s Watson Ads (IBM also owns the Weather Channel) to send alerts warning consumers about “bad hair weather” then suggesting the consumer visit their neighborhood Walgreens. This partnership resulted in a 24% increase in sales of Pantene products at Walgreens stores.

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