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IBM’s New Weather Forecast Platform Can Predict Shifts in Consumer Purchasing Patterns

IBM’s newest platform, Weather Signals, is forecasting rain, shine and consumer purchasing habits, all at the same time.

The new AI-based predictive software was developed with insights from IBM’s subsidiary, the Weather Company. The venture aims to “make weather a more predictable business consideration” for brands across the board, by “moving far beyond the ‘if it’s raining, display rain coats’ model,” the company said in a statement. The platform is being marketed to a range of businesses, from retail to consumer packaged goods, services, hospitality, entertainment and travel and transportation.

Weather Signals merges the Weather Company’s historical, current and forecasted data with IBM’s Watson AI operational tool to create a roadmap for brands based on climate shifts. From small temperature fluctuations to seasonal weather conditions like windchill or humidity, the platform assesses how these changes could impact business. The data is detailed enough to predict an individual product category’s performance at a specific retail location, IBM claimed.

As brands and retailers have been quick to blame the weather for their ill-performing quarters and slow sell-throughs, tools like this could provide great insight and allow for proactive, rather than reactive approaches to product assortments and deliveries.

Businesses can apply the platform’s insights by making adjustments to their supply chain operations. For example, should a clothing retailer find out that a cold front is delaying the start of spring, it can re-frame its delivery timeline accordingly. IBM said that implementing these changes can increase efficiency and productivity, cutting out waste and allowing businesses to deliver products and services when consumers actually need them, rather than surely designating them for clearance rack days ahead.

“Companies instinctively know that weather impacts their businesses, but most rely on historical weather norms to make assumptions about the future,” said Kristen Lauria, General Manager of Watson Media and Weather. “Weather Signals provides powerful insight into the correlation between real-time changes in weather and corresponding changes in local business performance—even months in advance. That insight can potentially add millions to a company’s bottom line.”

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In order to further optimize the planning process, Weather Signals will be integrated with popular analytics and planning platforms like Tableau, IBM said. The interactive capabilities will allow planning departments to examine the correlation between weather and business performance, without the inconvenience of migrating data to a new platform.