Winter has traditionally been the enemy of retail: All those blizzards and icy roads invariably keep potential shoppers home in their living rooms, rather than cruising the mall. But now that online shopping has become a mainstream fixture, retailers can actually use terrible winter weather as an opportunity to boost online sales.
As Google’s Retail Blog points out, when the snow hits and schools, offices, and roads are closed, “the web becomes one of the few outlets still available to people for communication, work, and entertainment.” And retailers with a strong web presence can benefit heavily as a result. Case in point: The East Coast has been hammered by blizzards since Christmas, stranding travelers and would-be shoppers.
But what could have been a disastrous month for retailers was no such thing — in fact, numbers were much higher than expected. And much of the credit for this pleasant surprise goes to the Internet. As GRB notes:
Apparel retailers in Philadelphia actually saw a mid-week search peak on the 27th when they were in the middle of one of the worst blizzards. In fact, most retailers still posted gains in the month of January.
In the Midwest, Chicago was one of the cities that really got the worst of it with 70 mph winds, around 20 inches of snow and temperatures in the double digits below zero. From our Insights for Search tool, however, it’s clear that product search interest in the shopping category has picked up significantly in this metro area over just the past couple weeks and is continuing an upward trend into early February.
While none of this comes as much of a surprise, it can all be translated into a clear manifesto for any retailer that wants to weather-proof its sales (and survive in the modern retail market): Make sure you have a strong online presence, and maximize the attractiveness of that presence to customers. Once you’ve done that, you can sit back and let Mother Nature do what she will.
Graphs courtesy of the Google Retail Blog