Weather apps have become such a regular feature of our daily lives, it's hard to imagine they didn’t exist before 1992. 

In this digital eBook, we explore how perceptions of what makes a ‘successful’ weather app have dramatically changed, and why weather apps today must show more than traditional ‘weather’ features to keep users engaged for the long term.

Weather forecasting has always focused on protecting people from changes in the environment by providing pragmatic behavior recommendations:

  • Dress appropriately if it's going to rain.
  • Avoid outdoor activities due to heatwaves or storms.
  • Wear sunscreen during peak UV hours.
  • Prepare buildings for high humidity levels and cold fronts.
  • Don't take the boat out in stormy weather.
  • Watch out for extreme weather events - wildfires, tornadoes, flash floods, etc.

However, before weather apps came along, consumers relied on non-real-time broadcasts of weather information delivered through the radio, tv, and newspapers. Alerts for extreme events were possible - but there was no method of continuously updating people when on the move.

 

Smartphones changed everything. Weather providers could suddenly function like ‘news’ agencies or ‘alert’ systems by informing consumers about weather changes in real-time. 

 

Better access to information also served to change consumption preferences for weather information: A 2019 market survey found that younger people are now most likely to check the weather on their smartphone apps than any other platform:

Weather App Survey

Climate Change Rewrites the Weather App Market 

 

As extreme environmental events become more frequent due to climate change, weather apps are functioning increasingly as early warning tools for extreme environmental events, like tornadoes, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and more. 


The weather forecasting market is also becoming increasingly competitive, which means the evolution of weather apps has become about much more than empowering users in itself. It’s big business: Analysts project the weather forecasting market to grow from 2.3 to 3.3 billion USD by 2025. Weather providers are vying for the attention of millions of users around the world every day.

Consumer expectations of what a weather app should look like in 2021 have been influenced by a number of key trends:

 

Trend 1: Growing Attention to Environmental Impact on Health

 

New research into the long and short-term impacts of unmanaged environmental exposure is emerging all the time. Here are just some examples of recently publicized research:

  • Studies find air pollution to be devastating for human health, especially when it comes to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, reproductive and central nervous system dysfunctions, and cancer. 
  • Harvard researchers found correlations between even small increases of historical PM2.5 exposure and COVID-19 mortality.

  • An environmental research team found hospital visits could increase by 0.5% per day for every 1 microgram increase in PM2.5, with an estimated $2700 increase in treatment costs. For a month-long increase of 10 PM2.5 micrograms, researchers estimate an annual addition of $680,000 in treatment costs.

  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is estimated to total $5.3 billion in direct and indirect annual costs. Allergy sufferers and care providers are both looking for ways to manage patient pollen exposure to minimize spending.

Trend 2: Increased Consumer Demand for ‘Wellness’ Tools 

 

Extreme climate events and a global pandemic have drawn more attention to the impact of environmental exposure on personal health. Consumers are now actively looking for experiences that help them make healthier choices as part of their daily decision-making.

 

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  • The global wellness market is estimated at $1.5 trillion, with an annual growth rate of up to 10%. In six surveyed countries, including the US, UK, and Germany, annual ‘wellness spending’ in health formed the majority at 43.1-64.6%. 
  • The global air quality apps market is projected to reach $398.4 million by 2021, at a CAGR of 15.3% during 2021-2027.
  • The US air purifier market was valued at over $1.0 billion dollars in 2020 and witnessed huge growth (57%!) last year. The market is expected to see double-digit growth figures over the next two years.

Trend 3:  Improvements in Environmental Reporting 

 

All the environmental awareness in the world means nothing without the ability to provide actionable environmental insights. For a long time, it wasn’t possible to provide location-specific and hourly updated air quality or pollen information, because of the huge unmonitored areas between monitoring stations, and the lack of granular or forecasting and real-time reporting capabilities.

 

Now that real-time accurate environmental data through big data and modeling is now available, there has been a change of perspective in the weather intelligence industry. Providers are now actively considering how to leverage new precise and hyperlocal environmental information for building ‘digital resilience’ - for families and businesses.

 

Learn More about BreezoMeter's Environmental Modelling

Consumers today expect to see not only a range of environmental features in their weather apps but to understand how different environmental factors combine to affect their safety, health, and wellness.

To illustrate this point, imagine the below scenarios, where a weather app provided only a partial picture of the environmental reality: 

 

Reporting 'Good' Weather During a Wildfire Event

  • A user's weather app reports weather conditions as ‘Sunny and hot with a gentle breeze’ but fails to note a wildfire 2 miles down the road from the user - putting the individual at risk of toxic smoke inhalation. 

Reporting Pollen Risk but not Air Quality Risk 

  • The weather app reports low pollen at the user’s location but fails to account for high particle pollution on account of a dust storm, leaving the individual compromised.

Communicating Storm Risk but not Pollen Risk

  • The weather app reports warm, rainy, and stormy weather. Because it's raining, the user assumes there is a low pollen count. However, a thunderstorm might be on the way - which risks breaking down and dispersing pollen in a dramatic way -  putting the sensitive allergy sufferer at risk. 

 

The challenge for weather providers is to show how environmental factors affect each other and combine to impact human health.

 

Businesses that fail to take the full environmental picture into account risk reputational harm and falling behind as their competitors leapfrog them in the marketplace:

 

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Environmental insights beyond traditional weather reporting are set to become key factors for building user loyalty and reputation among weather app users. 


The weather apps with the most engaging features and largest loyal user base will be the ones most likely to make more money through advertising and monetization: In an IBM survey, 93 % of business executives found that enhanced weather insights helped them increase annual revenue, and 68% preferred environmental insights over raw data as a service.

Air Quality, Pollen & Wildfire Reporting Become New Standards

 

In the same way that weather providers have embraced UV reporting, air quality, wildfire & pollen insights are becoming new basic standards for weather apps. The world’s biggest brands - Apple and Yahoo - have already adopted these new features within their native weather experiences, and are leveraging a new depth of environmental information to differentiate the experiences they provide. 


A 2021 white paper report from the World Meteorological Organization supports the prediction of major capability expansion to support critical decision-making and meet consumer demand for tailored and seamless weather and climate forecasts.

 

BreezoMeter in Yahoo Weather App 

Traditional ‘weather features’ on their own are no longer enough to compete as a weather app: Providers need to ensure they offer at least all of the same features as their competitors and ensure they’re delivering this information in the most engaging and trust-building way possible.

 

We believe the below-listed features represent the minimum feature checklist for weather apps going forward - but we also believe this list will continue to expand rapidly in the coming weeks, months, and years. 

Traditional Weather Reporting Features  (e.g. Precipitation, Wind, Humidity, etc.)
  • Real-time & Forecast Granular Air Quality Insights
  • Pollen Information Broken down by Species & Plant 
  • Dynamic Visualizations of the Environment
  • Wildfire Alerts & Movement Reporting
  • Health & Safety Recommendations Personalized for the Individual

Does your weather app tick all the boxes?

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