There are a lot of things that can affect sales on your ecommerce store: a burst of press from a viral post, new SEO magic that increases page rank, the holiday season, or even changing consumer trends. However, one unforgiving factor that online merchants have to battle is the weather.

With all the weird weather we’ve experienced over the years (Polar Vortex, Snowmageddon, flooding) let’s take a look at the many ways Mother Nature affects ecommerce.

Shopping Patterns
It can work both ways: if it’s too cold, rainy, or excessively hot to get in your car and make a trip to the store, consumers tend to sit back and do their shopping online. Extreme weather conditions like blizzards and snowstorms that keep people inside prove to be a good opportunity for online sellers, since bored consumers get to spend more time browsing, pricing, and buying. It also facilitates more transactions from consumers who do not shop online often. Conversely, data shows that in cities like Seattle (which is known for rain), on sunny days consumers tend to abandon the online world and head outside to enjoy the weather.

There’s also the question of connectivity. Make sure your 3PL (Fulfillment partner) integrates with your ecommerce platform (3PL for Shopify, 3PL for BigCommerce, 3PL for Magento & 3PL for WooCommerce) so when the weather gets so bad that it causes power outages, or knocks out telephone, broadband, and satellite services, then your online shopping offering does not take a hit. Bad weather can also cause problems to retailers’ servers, causing the site to slow down or go down completely. Yikes.

Shipping & Deliveries
It can be difficult to transport things when the weather gets really, really bad. Unforeseen changes in the weather can cause the supply chain to come to a complete standstill, and orders cannot be fulfilled in the promised amount of time. Even if you are experiencing good weather, your customers across the country may be under a blanket of snowfall and your logistics partner may be forced to cancel deliveries to the area. In those cases, there’s not a whole lot merchants can do when weather delays packages in transit, except to apologize to customers and keep them updated on tracking info and new delivery times.

Suppliers & Staff
The same problems can arise if your warehouse staff are stranded due to bad weather and can’t make it in, or if your suppliers and manufacturers have weather-related problems that make it difficult for them to send out a consignment. Forecasting stock levels and planning ahead can help to an extent in these situations.

The best way to combat these issues is to have a solid disaster recovery and inclement weather policy in effect for every facet of your operations – including vendors, internal staff, and your fulfillment provider. Understand what your carriers’ and fulfillment partner’s plans are so that you’re not caught off-guard at the most inopportune time (even if the weather surprises you!)