Now Is The Summer of Our Seasonally Flighted Content

8/15/2011 12:02:00 PM


Even in an age of jet travel and cloud computing, real clouds and jet streams--in other words, weather and climate--remain major factors driving economic dynamics at every level. For many retailers especially the vicissitudes of climate can massively impact their businesses, the way they relate to their consumers, and the pace of their development.

From a lemonade stand set up by neighborhood kids to fully-booked schedules for air conditioning installation teams to outdoor events canceled because of high temperatures, summer in most places of the US brings with it a host of constitutive economic dynamics. With triple digit temperatures and excessive heat warnings hitting the US hard from Idaho to Texas, Nevada to Maryland this week and last, some of these seasonal dynamics have become especially pronounced, while still other challenges arise for individuals, communities, businesses, and governments. This post addresses how the heat wave may be impacting retailers in particular and how they might respond effectively and efficiently.

Some of the current events, blog, and image content for “Heat Wave”--a trending topic across the US from July 19, 2011. Source: Google News.

Some relatively obvious retail areas have been and will be significantly impacted. For example, merchants who sell portable air conditioners nationwide or local HVAC repair companies have probably seen major uplift in purchases and requests for service. This month has hit the highest levels of searches for “air conditioning” on Google in over half a decade.

Indexed query volumes for “air conditioning” from January 2004 to present. Source: Google Insights for Search.

Meanwhile, the indexed volume of searches on Google in the US for “water parks” and “ice cream”--which consistently demonstrate peak seasonality in the dog days of summer--have already attained record highs in terms of indexed search volumes this month.

What are a few suggestions or best practices for retailers to consider as this heat continues to unfold? If you are a retailer who provides goods or services that address heat relief, craft ad text and creatives to speak directly to current events. For local outlets seen as places to escape the heat socially --cafes, movie theaters, water parks-- highlight this capacity, especially in any mobile-specific campaigns you have. For display and search initiatives, add a few flighted ad groups or campaigns with heat relief-specific language.

Of course, heat relief goes well beyond water slides. Take some time to consider how the services and goods you provide can or do provide heat relief--and be sure to communicate this in any locally-targeted campaigns or ad creatives. Think about your site’s visitors or shop’s customers. How is the heat impacting their behavior? If you have social media channels, reach out to users and initiate conversations. If you have a brick-and-mortar presence, be sure it is a welcoming place from the heat. Heat--and relief from it--will be a top of mind priority for everyone affected by the heat.

Perhaps you are a laundromat in Chicago right now that has AC. In this midst of a heat wave this usually unremarkable fact might suddenly cause you to stand out--and it might be worth mentioning in locally-targeted ads. If you are crafting a campaign driving awareness around an outdoor concert series in Nashville, it may make sense to explicitly highlight the free, cold bottled water you will be offering. Additionally, some consumers may purchase items from home, rather than brave the heat. With very different temperature extremes, Snowmaggedon 2011 drove a similar dynamic in the retail sector. This could be selling point for those competing from a pure player space against brick-and-mortar establishments.

Looking beyond this current heat wave, and as national consciousness rises around climate change and attendant weather patterns, more and more consumers are seeking to stay cool, while saving money and carbon. For retailers that source their energy from renewable sources, now could be a key time to start highlighting this difference. For those that don’t, now could be an ideal moment to begin considering investment in these sources for the future. The impact of heat waves may remain long after the weather itself has turned cool again. One particular complex of economic factors illustrates this fact powerfully. The current heat wave has significantly damaged US corn, soybean, and wheat crops, driving up these commodities’ prices. It appears that these increases are already impacting livestock prices. This could, in turn, impact a range of retailers involved in food service through the rest of the year. Such a scenario serves as an object lesson: As retailers prepare longer-range plans, they should consider the possible chain of impacts that ripple out from a major heat wave--or any significant climate event.

Posted by Paul G. Nauert, The Google Retail Team


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