Weather data sparks retail innovation to help bottom line

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Bison Schweiz AG brings weather down to earth for retail

At Bison Schweiz AG, we’re constantly reinventing our products to meet the changing needs of our retail customers. When we saw the opportunity to integrate weather data into our electronic store label (ESL) solution, Bison ESL Manager, we jumped at the chance.

What does weather have to do with retail?

Any gardening store manager can tell you that flower sales will almost certainly spike on a sunny spring day, while rain dampens the effect. At a convenience store, the manager knows that snow dramatically increases demand for de-icing windshield wiper fluid. Based on these fairly intuitive connections, the stores will often adjust pricing on seasonal items and update displays to move more products off the shelf.

But what if a retailer could dig deeper into the correlations between sales and the weather—not just on a seasonal basis, but day by day?

Reorienting ourselves toward the user

The topic of weather came up during a design thinking workshop with IBM. We used empathy maps and as-is scenarios to really focus on the challenges retailers face and their emotional needs. In other words: What frustrates them? Which tasks feel onerous? What are the most satisfying parts of their job? What capabilities would renew their energy and excitement?

Here’s what we know: Bison ESL Manager customers are at the forefront of the retail industry, and they are constantly looking for ways to inch ahead of their competitors. They want to surprise and delight customers. They want to move products off the shelves. They are also extremely cost-conscious, aiming to do more with less staff.

Changing retail is about changing retailers

When customers adopt ESL Manager, they dramatically reduce the amount of time they spend updating labels, which could otherwise consume hundreds of hours each week. This newfound efficiency often transforms a store manager’s perspective. It allows them to step back more often and see the big picture. They start thinking more creatively and ambitiously about which products to stock and when, how to perfect the timing of promotions and how to deliver a truly delightful customer experience.

Bison Schweiz AG is forging a path forward for these innovative retailers by integrating a feed of localized weather data into ESL Manager. Patching in IBM Weather Company Data service from the IBM Cloud, this data makes it possible for stores to react in real time to changing weather conditions and forecasts, optimizing the display and pricing for higher sales.

For example, a garden center could offer tips on which vegetables to plant, given current temperatures. The store can even set the system to react under certain conditions, such as when the forecast reaches a significant threshold—say, a 60 percent chance of rain or temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius. The label could say, for instance, “Plant now before it rains next week!” or “Get 50% off on fertilizer with your purchase.”

The system also gives retailers a long-term view into sales trends versus weather patterns. By correlating the data, stores can learn which products sell under which circumstances and thus approach promotions more strategically.

Envisioning a data-infused future for retail

Imagine being a few steps ahead of the weather instead of scrambling to react to it. Imagine using weather data to better understand your customers. Imagine working less for better results. That’s what the IBM Weather Company Data service is doing for our customers. We think it’s a small but important step in moving the retail industry forward—one that is sure to spark further ingenuity and innovation for our customers.


For more information, read the Bison Schweiz AG case study.

Product Line Manager

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