How The Weather Channel Predicts What You'll Buy

The Weather Channel can already predict humidity, snowstorms, and whether there's a chance of rain. Soon, it could also predict your next purchase.

It's a hot August day. What are you thinking of? Based on where you live, and what day and time you check the weather report, the Weather Channel knows you've probably got an air conditioner, bug spray, or anti-frizz hair lotion on your mind.

A story in today's Wall Street Journal takes a dive into the large swaths of data that have recently been informing the Weather Channel's advertisers on exactly when, where, and to whom they should be targeting their ads, based on the weather.

By meticulously collecting information on user behavior patterns within 3 million locations around the U.S., each with their own unique microclimate, the Weather Channel has learned about some of the nuances that affect consumers' purchasing patterns in different parts of the country.

For example, the first unusually hot day of the year correlates with a surge in air conditioner sales in Chicago, but not in muggy Atlanta--there, people wait through an average of two hot days before heading to the appliance store. When the crafts retailer Michaels approached the Weather Channel about advertising on rainy days--when craft projects are popular--the Weather Channel found Michaels' sales increased not on actual rainy days, but instead when an extended forecast predicted rain within the next three days.

The Weather Channel, which currently makes half its advertising revenue in digital sales, will use the data it collects to bring its advertisers the ability to hypertarget customers in a way that was not possible before the smartphone age.

[Image: Flickr user VinothChandar]

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