How Retailers Can Use IT Systems to Increase Sales Despite Bad Weather

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By: Pam Baker|

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Untimely weather affects sales of seasonal and stock goods more than you might think. Customers aren’t as inclined to buy snowblowers or heavy coats in October if the weather is still warm, for instance. They’re also not as likely to come to the store on days when it’s snowing. These are long-established trends in shopper behavior, yet stockholders chastise retailers for blaming dips in sales on weather.

Retailers Battle the Weather With Flexible IT Systems

But what are retailers to do? It can be difficult to plan for any major shifts in the atmosphere, even with forecasts and data from the past. According to a KPMG and Ipsos Retail Performance white paper, “the weather is significantly different from one year to the next on 75 percent of … days,” leaving plenty of room for error even when aggregating past data for predictive analytics.

It turns out the best weather equalizer is technology. There’s no weather controller yet, but service providers have developed the means to control its outcome on sales in real time. The key is to have sophisticated IT systems in place to offer the greatest flexibility for any circumstances.

Those IT systems should encompass inventory and supply chain management because both are critical to attracting and retaining customers as well as controlling costs. Since inventory and supply chain systems have already moved from forecast-driven to consumer-driven models, adding some additional flexibility can push real-time responses to new heights.

How the Right Systems Can Help

Adding store autonomy can greatly enhance response times since it enables the local store manager to change merchandising and product mix according to weather conditions. Retailers might want to offer special weather services such as free store-branded umbrellas, hot chocolate or discounted delivery service for all purchases made during bad weather. Customers may be tempted to come in and buy more if the hassles of bad weather are mitigated by the store.

Store managers may be able to swap inventory with one another or a warehouse, too. In this way, stores can quickly stock shelves with goods that match weather conditions as they occur. The right IT systems ensure that retailers can communicate with each other and their vendors swiftly and effectively, managing orders with ease.

Visibility into changing weather conditions specific to individual stores enables marketers or store managers to push additional mobile offers to drive traffic to the store despite weather conditions. Temporary online offers and website specials can also be used to offset a decline in store traffic due to weather — but you must be prepared to handle any increases in traffic from such deals.

According to the KPMG/Ipsos white paper, “The online offering should be exploited instantly when hit by adverse weather. Marketing and communications through online should be increased to shift seasonal stock.”

The Bottom Line

In-store customer traffic analytics can enable individual store managers to quickly change loss leaders and in-store signage to leverage the customer traffic that is in the store. By altering the strategy to promote items befitting the weather, customers will be tempted to buy more stock items when they don’t have the desire for seasonal items. For this strategy to work, however, the IT systems in place will need to analyze popular items, track inventory in real time and be flexible enough to adapt to sudden changes.

From inventory and supply chain systems to store and customer analytics, IT systems with flexibility is the name of the retail profit game. Instead of fighting the weather, work with it and watch your sales rise no matter what the temperature is outside.

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About The Author

Pam Baker

Freelance Writer

Pam Baker is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Georgia. Her published credits number in the thousands, including books, e-books, e-briefs, white papers, industry analysis reports and articles in leading publications, including Institutional Investor, CIO, Fierce Markets and InformationWeek, among many others. Her latest book, "Data Divination: Big Data Strategies," has been met with rave reviews, was featured in a prestigious National Press Club event, is recommended by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for business executives and is currently being used as a textbook in both business and tech schools in universities around the world. Baker is a "big-picturist," meaning she enjoys writing on topics that overlap and interact, such as technology and business. Her fans regualrly follow her work in science, technology, business and finance.

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