What a difference a year makes. While the 2014 holiday season was marked by the hashtag #snowmageddon with photos of cars buried under snow, this year's holiday season will be remembered as the warmest December on record. Temperatures on December 12 and 13 even broke a 142-year-old record across the eastern U.S., reports AccuWeather. The unseasonably warm weather has turned many shoppers off from the typical holiday shopping. Sales of cold-weather items like boots and heavy coats have been particularly dreary. Sales of women's boots in New York, for instance, are down 24 percent for the first half of December, reports Planalytics, a weather analytics firm.
Interestingly, the companies likely to benefit from these unseasonable temperatures are analytics firms like Planalytics. Whereas merchants in the East Coast could reasonably expect temperatures to drop during the winter months, this year might give many business owners pause. Business owners have already embraced data-driven approaches to everything from supply chains to targeted marketing. Weather-driven insights are next.
Companies already make weather-based decisions. Ace Hardware used location-based mobile ads before and after snowstorms to pitch items like shovels. Two years ago, Twitter partnered with The Weather Channel on a weather-based ad targeting product.
And let's not forget that IBM announced it was acquiring The Weather Company this past October. IBM acquired the Weather Company's digital assets, including its Weather Channel mobile app, weather.com, as well as the company's forecasting data and technology. Combined with Watson, its artificial intelligence business, it's easy to imagine retailers utilizing Big Blue's data analytics and reporting tools for weather-based decisions as well.
Whether we'll see sophisticated weather-based solutions from other tech firms remains to be seen, but the message is clear: ignore data insights (even weather forecasts) at your own risk.