Weather disruptions will boost US ecommerce by $13.5 billion in 2023
For years, weather has been a reliable indicator of consumer buying behaviors. Seasonal changes cause spikes in demand for cold and flu medicines every winter, and sunscreen sales jump when temperatures rise. A changed forecast can also impact routine daily schedules, as consumers may opt to stay home due to weather events such as rain or snow. In the past, this meant lower commercial activity — but today, the activities that people engage in at home have become increasingly digital. A modestly rainy day can push more people to shop on their phones or computers, multiplying taps on the buy buttons for everything from electronics to groceries and furniture.
Today, Adobe has released new data on weather events’ impacts on the digital economy. The new report combines the most comprehensive view of ecommerce via Adobe Analytics — covering over 1 trillion visits to US retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories — with weather data from the world’s most accurate forecaster — The Weather Company, an IBM business. New insights show how weather events that keep people at home, including rain, snow, and wind, impact consumer spending online, as well as the engagement opportunities it presents for brands.
A $13.5 billion boost to US ecommerce
Adobe expects weather events will add an additional $13.5 billion to US ecommerce in 2023, after driving a $13.1 billion increase in 2022. To put these numbers in perspective, weather alone could result in more consumer spending than Cyber Monday, which at $11.3 billion was the biggest online shopping day of last year. Of the $13.5 billion expected in 2023, rain will contribute the most at $8.7 billion, followed by wind ($4.4 billion) and snow ($250 million). Each of these weather events are expected to impact shoppers in different ways:
Rain has the biggest impact on boosting ecommerce spending
The effect of rainfall on ecommerce peaks when consumers experience between 0.8 and 1 inches of rain (generally, approximately 3 hours of heavy rain would lead to 1 inch of rain, per The Weather Company). Once rain reaches this level, online spending is boosted by 4.4%.
By comparison, rain at roughly half that level (between 0.4 and 0.6 inches) boosts ecommerce by 3.7%. The effects of rain is greatly amplified on weekends, where the boost to ecommerce nearly doubles. And while rain drives online spending all year long, the impact is felt most prominently in the fall, when even a drizzle will boost ecommerce by around 5%.
Wind drives up ecommerce spend, but only to a point
When wind hits 15–20 miles per hour (mph), online shopping sees a boost of 3.5%. However, the impact on ecommerce drops past a certain point. As speeds rise to the 20–25 mph range, the boost is only 2.3%. Beyond that, activity actually drops — once wind accelerates past 25 mph (which the National Weather Service considers a threat to people and property) consumers become distracted, and their interest in shopping declines, with ecommerce falling by 6.7%. Wind speeds in excess of 30 mph see online shopping drop even further, at 22.1%.
There are differences across regions as well, with variations dependent on individual cities‘ frequency of experiencing strong wind activity. In cities such as Atlanta, where wind is less common, ecommerce falls by 30% past the 25-mph mark, and a staggering 90% past the 30-mph mark. By comparison, consumers in America’s Windy City are generally undeterred by even powerful gusts. Chicago online shopping actually increases by 6% past the 30-mph mark.
Snow impacts ecommerce unevenly across the country
Snowfall’s impact on online shopping varies considerably from location to location. In cities such as Austin and Charlotte, where snow totals are low (less than 20 inches per year), even minor snowfall becomes a distracting event, and ecommerce activity begins to drop after the first inch of snow. If snowfall hits 10 inches in these cities, online shopping falls by nearly 30%.
On the other hand, in cities where snowfall is more common, such as New York City and Seattle, snow pushes consumers to take precautions, and many will stay home, boosting ecommerce as a result. For instance, 6–8 inches of snow increases online spending by 4% in these locations.
Weather insights provide new opportunities for brands
As more of our daily lives move online and the digital economy expands, it is critical for brands to proactively prepare for moments when ecommerce activity will pick up. Weather events that keep consumers home and boost online spending present opportunities for retailers to better personalize and deliver great experiences across digital channels. Capitalizing on weather can yield returns comparable to big online shopping moments such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Brands can use weather to personalize products that are offered to customers, as well as targeting promotional offers. Rainfall could inspire retailers to engage shoppers with cozy products like throw blankets and robes, or restaurant chains to deliver custom promotions for comfort foods. Plus, during moments when online activity is experiencing weather-related boosts, brands must ensure that customers are enjoying at-home experiences across digital channels, ranging from their main websites to their mobile apps. Instead of focusing on storm clouds, brands should see every rainy day as a golden opportunity to delight customers and drive long-term brand loyalty.
Adobe provides the most comprehensive view into US ecommerce by analyzing direct consumer transactions online. The analysis covers over one trillion visits to US retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories — more than any other technology company or research organization. Adobe Analytics is part of Adobe Experience Cloud, which over 85% of the top 100 internet retailers in the US* rely upon to deliver, measure, and personalize shopping experiences online.
*Per the Digital Commerce 360 2021 Top 500 Report
Costa is a senior analyst specializing in ecommerce who has spent the past few years digging into Adobe’s aggregated online retail data. He has worked on and released more than a dozen different retail reports, dissecting that data in a myriad of ways. Prior to joining Adobe, Costa worked as a pay-per-click analyst, which gave him an excellent overview of the digital world. This insight into how consumers and brands interact online, combined with an education in physics and mathematics, resulted in a rigorous, yet colorful experience analyzing ecommerce for the Adobe Digital Insights team.