Did retailers feel the burn or cash in on the heatwave?

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July 2019 marked the hottest month in history as a heatwave scorched much of North America and parts of Europe. While many US e-commerce brands cashed in on the opportunity, offering code “HEATWAVE” as a promo for online sales, brick and mortar stores didn’t necessarily see the same lift. However, that doesn’t mean real-world retailers can’t capitalize on the hot weather.

The sunshine giveth and the sunshine taketh away

While many stores saw a drop in foot traffic during the heatwave, others (particularly those selling picnic goods, barbecues and other products focused on enjoying the weather) enjoyed a boost. In the UK, which also saw a major heatwave, retailer Argos saw a boost in sales for products including slushie-making machines (up 163 percent week-on-week) and outdoor toys (up 75 percent week-on-week). The heatwave actually boosted sales at H&M as shoppers scrambled for the lightest, coolest outfits on the racks at impulse-buy prices.

For some shops, the heat was just the thing to boost sales, not because they were selling seasonal wares, but because they offered an air-conditioned haven. As one retail sales director observed, “Everyone is saying it’s too hot for the pool right now and is coming into the store. We found our back-to-school shopping is starting even earlier. Everyone’s getting in that school mode, so we’re excited by it.”

Other retailers weren’t able to enjoy the bump from the steamy temperatures as some shoppers found it too hot to even venture outside. These businesses even saw special orders waiting on shelves for more comfortable weather.

So how can brick and mortar shops beat the extreme temps?

Regardless of whether your business sells seasonal product, or even if your stores offer air conditioning, there are ways in which all retailers can benefit from elevated temperatures. Back in June, we posted a blog and infographic about the warm weather traffic patterns. Blis research revealed that in warmer months, consumers tended to head out to beaches and amusement parks, creating new marketing opportunities for retailers – even if fewer folks were out shopping.

Retailers, both DTC and omnichannel, can benefit from these trends by adjusting their marketing strategies to account for them. For example, investing more of the budget in both mobile and out-of-home can have tremendous benefits as consumers spend more time outdoors. In summer, people don’t want to spend all day sitting home in front of their TVs and desktops, choosing to visit outdoor attractions and cafes. Media that engages away from home-based screens will capture shoppers on-the-go.

This is a strategy we covered in our recent #RealRetail reports. According to the report that surveyed shoppers in EMEA, OOH advertising is strong for influencing impulse purchases. Among shoppers aged 25-34, 67 percent said ‘yes’ to going in-store after seeing an OOH ad. Those who said the ad resulted in them actually making an in-store purchase were influenced mostly by road-side billboards (35 percent), followed by digital screens (20 percent) and ads on the side of a bus (20 percent). A full third of respondents admitted they were influenced to shop in-store after seeing an ad on their mobile or desktop.

Adjusting creative messaging to respond to the social aspects of spring/summer is another successful tactic. Focus creative on sunny, beach-y or leisurely scenes to get show shoppers you share their enthusiasm for the warm weather. In a heat wave like we had in July, images of cool waters or frozen treats might be effective, too. If your marketing team can react and move quickly, reminding shoppers about your AC or offering cold beverages (even ice water) in-store might be a helpful way to coax home-bound shoppers away from the sofa.

The sun may shine a light on new opportunities

Retailers shouldn’t assume the heat is going to harm retail business. Yes, some shoppers may prefer to purchase online, from their air-conditioned home in extreme weather, but others may just be looking for a reason to venture out. Consider promoting in-store or curb-side pickup if you don’t think you can capitalize solely on walk-ins. At the same time, don’t write off foot traffic! Rumours of Main Street retail’s death are greatly exaggerated, and in fact, people still love to shop in brick-and-mortar stores – so keep urging shoppers to come in.

The dog days of summer may be more challenging for some retailers than others, but behind every challenge is a new opportunity. Even if your traffic is declining in the withering heat, rely on customer data and real-world intelligence to find new and innovative ways of reaching shoppers, wherever they’re seeking relief! Retailers could find that the summer sun may shine a light on new ways to win customers.

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