On Monday, February 2nd, the latest winter storm dumped upwards of three feet of snow in the North and Mideast. Thousands of people region wide found themselves calling it a ‘snow day’ and working from home. Unable to dig themselves out, half filled work places resulted in delayed orders and poor customer response times. The bad weather on January 27th alone was estimated to cost online retailers in the US an estimated $35 million in lost revenue.
An Adobe report, which analyzed data from over 400 major retailers throughout the US, attributed the significant drop in sales to several offices in the Northeast being closed. The $35 million loss estimate, from data presented by Adobe Cloud, accounts for 4.5% of all eCommerce sales in the country on an average day. This demonstrates how severe winter storms can have a dramatic impact on sales.
Retailers hit hard by recent storms are those who primarily rely on same-day or next day delivery of their products. Online grocers and clothing stores with overnight shipping options were industries that were hit hardest. Online retailers like PeaPod, an online retailer that offers grocery home delivery, had to cancel deliveries amidst severe weather reports. Shipping issues became a major headache for retailers in the North and Mideast, as reports from UPS, Purolator and FedEx shared that the companies would not be making scheduled pickups and deliveries for at least 24 hours in the Northeast due to severe and extreme weather conditions.
So what does this mean for online retailers?
It is paramount to note the importance of preparing in anticipation of a storm. Although a norm for traditional brick and mortar stores, this holds true for online retailers as well. As we have grown accustomed to the extreme weather and severe storms that come every year, it is critical that retailers do the most to not let it hamper the accessibility and functionality of their website.
It is critical to have a contingency plan in place. Ensure your customer support team can manage and handle customer inquiries. Additionally, if necessary, provide a notice on your site for your delay in shipping times and less accessible customer service lines. This may help garner some sympathy from your shoppers, who might become frustrated if they cannot reach a representative.
With the groundhog’s prediction of another six weeks of winter, we are sure to get a few more days of bad weather coming our way. In anticipation, retailers can be strategic with their marketing campaigns. In analyzing back-end analytics and search box results, retailers can see what customers are searching for and develop campaigns accordingly.
Dungarees.net, which sells work clothes and boots, including parkas and thermal underwear, has developed a ‘winter storm procedure’ for its customers when severe weather warnings are issued. According to Darren Baldwin, their eCommerce Manager, the company has an automated system for sending out e-mails with winter-related messaging to customers in areas hit by snowstorms.
“Last week’s e-mail messaging was specific to a blizzard,” he says. “The key word is blizzard, blizzard, blizzard.” The e-mail messages featured warm clothing and a link to a blog posted on the retailer’s website on how to survive a blizzard. The open rates for this specific email campaign resulted in a surge of 20% higher open rates than normal, coming in at 25% versus the usual 18%.
By making the most of these weather conditions, some retailers experienced a surge in sales on a day that saw many American and Canadians stay home. With more consumers at home with access to their PC, tablets and smart phone devices, many took this as an opportunity to get a little shopping done. Many retailers who saw a surge in sales, are reporting their best day of 2015 yet.
Winter Storms can often have an economic impact. However, with the right measures in place, you can help turn a snow day into a payday.