Close counts.

At least when it comes to the impact of hurricane forecasts on shopping behavior.  

It’s not the storm itself that drives demand — it’s the prediction.

More specifically, it’s the media and, increasingly, social media fueled by the prediction that creates the “surge” shopping that inevitably precedes the arrival of a big storm.   

The buzz surrounding Hurricane Joaquin is already surging across the internets and social networks.  The predicted path — impacting the largest metro areas in the US — means that it’s more than likely going to be all Joaquin all the time for the balance of the week and into the weekend.

This will have a dramatic impact on consumer behavior and spending trends between now and Monday across the northeast and Mid Atlantic.

Buckle your seat belts, marketers!

Pop-tarts, Prepared Chicken and Padlocks

For most retail businesses, helping their customers in a time of need is a core value they take to heart; and making sure they have enough of the products their customers need when they really need it is at the core of that vision.

People understandably behave differently in advance of a storm and that translates into altered buying behaviors.

Sales of padlocks, prepared chicken, D-batteries (vs. C-batteries) and a whole host of other items (yes, even Pop-tarts) surge in advance of storms as people execute their personal weather strategy.

See:We can’t avoid hurricanes, but we can learn from them

See:A quiet hurricane season? Don’t bet on it! 

Hurricane Joaquin Update

At this point in the game the final path and strength of this storm is highly speculative.  The forecast models are very inconsistent and the final track could be offshore and the impacts relatively uneventful.

Still, as time goes on the probability of a landfalling storm has been increasing and the corresponding impact on consumers will be ramping up accordingly.

See: Hurricane Joaquin forecast 

4 Ways to Execute a Hurricane Marketing Strategy

Fortunately for marketers and businesses of all sizes, the technologies needed to implement a hurricane-proof marketing strategy to drive increased sales (and increased value for your customers) is now readily available.

Here are four things to think about in order to get in front of the forecast-driven sales surge in advance of the next hurricane:

1. Know your customers severe-weather behavior.

This can be analytical or anecdotal. The key is to understand your customer and understand what she will need, in relation to your services or products, when hurricanes threaten. Think outside the box here, it’s not always the obvious needs that could change behavior.

2. Develop a creative strategy.

Use the knowledge gained from step one to put in place the creative assets and the execution strategy needed to begin communication to your customers when hurricanes threaten. You’ll want to think about how best to market toward these unique needs. This creative strategy will typically be different than your normal marketing creative.

3. Monitor the weather.

Here’s some great resources to help with that:

4. Measure the result post-storm.

What worked? What didn’t? Use the learnings from your first storm to tweak your hurricane strategy for future storms. You’ll learn from each event and your plan will get progressively better with each event.

Note: I’ll be updating Forecast Factor daily as the storm progresses.

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