Has the sun hurt your web conversions?

Has the sun hurt your web conversions?

We’ve all tried it – the sun’s out so we sneak into the garden with our laptops, switch on the high contrast theme and try to do some work…but it ain’t easy. After a while you give up and sulk inside to get some work done, or promise yourself you’ll try again when the sun goes down. People don’t use computers when it’s sunny – it’s just a fact that we web marketers accept: good weather = poor web traffic. But is it the case?

With the rise of mobile browsing is it in fact now the case that people would rather sit outside and shop on their mobiles rather than get in a hot car and traipse round the shops? Or are we over thinking it, and does the weather have no impact on our browsing?

Well I’ve read the papers, studied the stats and OF COURSE the weather affects our browsing! In the UK, the number of people searching for ‘really warm scarves’ is higher in December than June in the same way that more people buy BBQ food in the summer months and Christmas puddings in the winter. Online retail is seasonal in the same way that offline retail is – but that’s not really the question is it? If a customer wants to know why their online conversions are down, we need to know if it’s because it’s sunny. From my experience, the terrible but honest answer is – it depends.

Case Study one:
We carried out work for one of the biggest leisure groups in the UK. In the middle of one of Scotland’s hottest summers, their bars and restaurants took in almost as much money as they did at the height of the Christmas party season. At the same time, visits to the websites took the biggest nosedive they had ever seen. When we were called into consult it took us less than an hour to prove that the weather was the cause of both events.

Using Google Analytics we found that the number of people searching for terms like ‘beer garden’ and ‘outdoor eating’ had increased massively, but room hire enquiries – previously the majority of their website conversions had dropped significantly. Speaking to the staff at their most successful venue we found that the number of pre-bookings had dropped and that the number of ‘drop-in’ customers had increased. This led us to conclude that customers were more spontaneous with their leisure activities when the sun was shining in the city, and even tracking it against cloudier weather we proved that the dip in web conversions was related to the good weather.

Case Study two:
One of our long term clients is a home interiors store selling designer wallpaper and fabrics. We believed that the company’s web traffic and conversions were also tied to the good weather. We worked to prove our hypothesis but it, as with any faulty or assumed conclusion, was impossible to prove with the statistics available.

We binned the assumptions and started to look deeper. Comparing year on year statistics and conversions we started to see trends, which none of our weather related research could match, nor did our day-by-day comparison. Then, we matched our statistics by days of the week, and compared moving holidays like Easter and half-term breaks. We started to see that in the weeks running up to designated holidays, home improvement sales increased, and dropped dramatically towards the end of these periods.

The results were undeniably seasonal, and indoor decorating appears to be a rain-or-shine activity!

It is worth taking weather into consideration – especially for regionally targeted websites, and looking into similar trends within your industry. What you should not do is make assumptions, or try to force your stats to prove the conclusion. But that’s the case with any good web stat detective work.

Have you come across weather related conversion trends on your website? Comment and let us know.

Related articles on external sites: Does Weather Affect Site Traffic & SEM Performance?

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