A key foundation of Planalytics value-add is the argument that actual weather motivates consumer buying habits a lot less than weather predictions broadcast on TV and radio. Therefore, Walshs meteorologists are certainly concerned with accurately predicting the weather, but they are even more concerned with accurately predicting the TV predictors. "Weather forecasters drive demand more than actual weather does," Walsh said.One group that wont be blocked by snow is the U.S. Postal Service. But "dark of night" is nothing compared with the obstacle of e-mail. To read more about the postal services e-woes, click here. When hurricane patterns start to emerge, just about all professional meteorologists can spot them at about the same time. "Our team and the major weather services are looking at the same things, but they wont come out and start talking publicly until theyre really comfortable with the prediction, until they can pretty much see the whites of its eyes," which typically happens about 72 hours before the hurricane will land, Walsh said. "From a retail clients perspective, the best storm is the one that threatens, but doesnt hit. They get the surge of business, but not the destruction," he said. But even a hurricanes prediction impacts different clients differently, and that has to come through in Planalytics analysis reports. "When hurricane reports come out, people are standing in line, waiting to buy things," Walsh said. "But theyre not thinking about buying designer fleece. Theyre looking at plywood." 7-Eleven has been using weather-predicting tactics for years and now plans on bringing temperature-sensing RFID into the mix. To read how, click here. For 7-Eleven, Planalytics analyzes buying patterns and makes some unusual suggestions. When a hurricane is predicted, it recommends stocking up on magazines and other entertainment items. Why? Parents fearing evacuations want to be able to quickly keep children occupied and happy during a potentially long and very tense evacuation. "We know what people do when a hurricane threatens," Walsh said. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.
Given the fact that TV forecasters generally rely on professional weather agencies such as the National Weather Bureau or AccuWeather, how is Planalytics able to predict accurately and earlier? Walshs answer is that his team cant predict earlier or more accurately, but his team is willing to reveal those predictions (to paying clients) a lot earlier.