No doubt weather impacts marketers. A colder or warmer than average season may help or hurt a business, depending on the industry. A warm winter could cut into the revenues at a ski resort, for example, while a cold spring or summer will impact outdoor recreation.
At RKG, we are noticing the effects of an abnormally warm March 2012 on year over year performance figures. NOAA noted that March 2012 was the “warmest March on record in the contiguous United States.” Chicago, Illinois experienced mid-June-like temperatures from March 17th to March 22nd 2012 with 60 degree lows!
March 2012 vs. March 2013 Differences
Naturally, our first inclination was to dive into our data to see how these weather changes may be impacting paid search performance, aka demand-driven marketing. Specifically, we pulled performance for clients in outdoor-focused verticals, mainly in the pet, pool, outdoor spring/summer sports, and gardening spaces.
The sample set of clients showed a 20-40% dip in clicks and a 20-30+% dip in sales from the warm March 2012 to March 2013 (as compared to an overall 13% lift in clicks and a 21% lift in sales across RKG's client base). The impression and traffic declines indicate a change in demand (folks are not quite ready for spring outdoor fun, while snow is still on their deck.) And, for the folks that made it to some of these seasonal sites, we saw a decline in closing ratios year over year. People were looking around in chilly March, but were not quite ready to make a purchase.
United States Regional Weather Differences
The weather maps below show YoY March temperature differences, by region. Notice the Pacific and Mountain areas experienced ‘average’ to below average temperatures in 2012, while the mid to east areas were warmer than average. In contrast, this year, the mid and east regions (minus Maine and other north eastern states) were cooler than average.
It’s interesting, if we dive into regional click trends for clients in the same sample set of outdoor-related verticals, we see a similar trend. (See map below for paid search click-trends year over year.) In red, the Pacific and Mountain regions were not hit as hard in terms of paid search traffic declines (and were actually up in some instances) from March 2012 to March 2013. Whereas the mid to east regions (in blue) observed a steep decline in traffic (and for some clients, a drop in conversion rate). No surprise, this March doesn’t feel like June!
April 2013 Recovery!
The (obvious) goal is to ‘recover’ the lost March sales in April. Folks still have pools, dogs, outdoor sports to play; they just weren’t ready to be outside in the colder temperatures. RKG is primed and ready to capture pent-up demand as the weather shifts. We are using all the tools in our possession (extensive keyword coverage, PLA optimization, bidding adjustments, appropriate device/geo/network targeting, and more) to make the most of April.
The good news is we are beginning to see the tide shift this week as the weather is warming up. We are excited to see the sales lift continue.
We are curious, what are other folks seeing in the outdoor space?