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Spending Can Rise With The Sun, As Long As It’s Not Too Hot

July 29, 2023 | Corinne Casagrande

by Corinne Casagrande , SVP, Strategy

Marketers have plenty of options to broadcast messaging in harmony with the weather.  Programmatic prompts can help temper or surge media spend if it’s hot enough (or snowing).  Advertisers of products with a strong weather dependence feel the impact when they serve anything from video to a billboard based on a temperature trigger. For the rest of us, do the effects of weather show up in sales in a sneakier way?

There’s some evidence to suggest the weather might affect consumer behavior in categories without overt seasonality. Sure, every brick-and-mortar retailer knows that bad weather keeps people at home. But the effects on ecommerce require more digging. With NOAA predicting that most of the U.S. will have a hotter summer than average in 2023, how are consumers affected by rising summer temperatures on a macro level?

Several studies have established that as exposure to sunlight increases, so does serotonin (your good mood hormone). That biological response is both measurable and intuitive; translating it to consumer behavior is trickier. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, “The Effect of Weather on Consumer Spending” by Kyle B. Murray, found that exposure to sunlight increases consumption, with consumers spending more on sunny days. This could be extrapolated to suggest that higher temperatures might correlate with increased spending.

Sun is generally good for sales, but excessive heat is a wildcard. Any discomfort impairs consumers’ ability to think, which could either lead to a pullback or impulse spending. Plenty of psychological research suggests that discomfort impairs cognitive function and leads to less rational decision making. Consumer data provider Netbase Quid reviewed the effect of heat on purchases and claims that higher temperatures make consumers clamp down their wallets. But an inability to think rationally also means you have trouble projecting future needs, which might lead to adding more items in your cart than usual.

There’s evidence that sun-induced serotonin might halo online. Even if you had a wonderful, sun-filled trip, sitting at home in front of your computer to write the review in the rain might even lead to poorer reviews and ratings. “How rainy-day blues affect customers’ evaluation behavior” in the International Journal of Hospitality Reviews from 2022 found that customers tended to assign lower overall ratings and attribute ratings when it was raining as they wrote their vacation reviews.

That rain on ratings is unfortunate because customer reviews are important in brain-sizzling summer heat. When their brains look for shortcuts, consumers rely more on social proof. Netbase Quid also claims that consumers went with the herd and chose products with more social proof when in a warmer room.

As Prime Day rolls around on July 11 and customers start bargain hunting on a beach or scrolling deals while pretending to work in an air-conditioned room, marketers might want to peek at the weather.  If you see any strange geographical sales patterns, you might just be able to blame El Nino.