When the cold is good for your business

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While many of us dread the cold knocking at our doors, some entrepreneurs welcome the winter season with open arms, more than happy to see consumers snuggled in bed with runny noses.

That’s because weather is the second biggest influencer on consumer behavior after the state of the economy. According to Weather Unlocked, 20 percent of all goods and services sold worldwide have some element of weather sensitivity, meaning weather affects their functionality and use.

“Forget about umbrellas and ice cream,” said John Armstrong, product director at Weather Unlocked, in an interview with Wamda. “The relationship between weather and product demand spans across nearly every industry including: food and drinks, clothing and fashion, travel, pharmaceuticals, insurance, etc.”

Products negatively affected by gloomy days. (Data via Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services (2010), visualized by Weather Unlocked)

According to Arabia Weather’s statistics, people are unsurprisingly more interested in checking the weather during winter. Viewership on both the website and app in the Levant region rose to 145 million in winter from 100 million in the summer of 2016. The previous year witnessed similar figures.

Businesses need to be well aware and prepared for weather changes so that they are better equipped and proactive with planning their consumer and sales approach, according to Fares Shaban, commercial manager at Arabia Weather.

Gas delivery apps

In Jordan, where most of the population depends on liquified petroleum gas (LPG) for heating and cooking, the average daily demand of gas cylinders rises during winter. According to the director of gas distribution agencies’ syndicate, gas cylinders demand rises to 200,000 in winter from 55,000 during summer.

Although gas cylinder suppliers are geographically allocated throughout the kingdom, ordering one is a burden. Consumers have to either randomly stop supplier trucks that continually roam the streets, or order over the phone and go through the hassle of describing an oftentimes confusing address.

To avoid the chaos, several applications were developed to regulate the process. Launched this summer, Jarra works as an Uber for gas delivery. The startup, founded by 15-year-old Fares Abu Shehab, organizes communication between service providers and customers.

The app allows users to send their requests across a network of distributors depending on proximity. Jarra now hosts between 25 to 35 distribution cars, and has been downloaded more than 3000 times on both Android and iOS.

Until now, Jarra is not monetizing. But in the near future, the company intends to add a commission fee on each cylinder sold through the app.

Lina Gas is a similar application in Jordan, as is Gasable, launched around the same time as Jarra. Gasable does not work on GPS, however. The supplier is manually contacted by the company which works as a mediator between supplier and customer.

In addition to refilling solutions, safety and tracking IoT device Clev-G was developed by Jordanian Layth Hamad to alert consumers about gas levels and possible hazardous accidents such as gas leakage and fire.

The innovation received an award at the GIST competition in June, but it is still not fully launched yet.

Online streaming

A 2015 Zenith Media report shows that in most countries television consumption significantly rises during the winter season. Online streaming in MENA seems to be picking up on the same trend.

“Over the years, we have seen a strong correlation between viewership and indoor leisure time that is mostly acquainted with weather,” said Tareq Abu Lughod, cofounder of Istikana, an Arabic video on demand platform.

The peak months of November through February witness 30 percent increase in total hours consumed on Istikana in comparison to the summer time.  

Although the content is ‘evergreen’, more advertising budget is spent during the winter season.

According to Armstrong, corporations and big conglomerates, especially the food supermarket chains, are the most successful in effectively using weather data. But seasonal patterns are crucial in allocating budget and devising marketing strategies for many companies, and should be better utilized among MENA startups. It would be a lost opportunity otherwise.

Feature image via Pexels.com

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