September 13, 2018

Waiting for Florence, Using Data-Driven Insights

The hurricane season is in full swing and the tropics are full of activity. For us in the Carolinas, Hurricane Florence looms large and residents are in the final stages of preparing for it.

Preparing for a major weather event is stressful, and not being sure of the outcome means trying to ensure you have nearly every possible angle covered. This inevitably leads to madness at stores, gas stations and the like. Constant speculation on the path of Florence in the days leading up to landfall grip our attention, hallway conversations are taken over by the wild lady approaching from the East.

Here at Valassis in Raleigh, it’s no different. We have Slack channels giving updates on what to do and what not to do, helpful tips on where gas is available, and comfort messages from colleagues in other locations. But what makes Valassis different from many other companies is that we also have a world-class data science and engineering team in house. The smart folks that I call colleagues found an opportunity to use some of our data-driven insights and location intelligence to shed light on how people are reacting to Florence.

In the Triangle area in NC, gas availability has been an issue in the run-up to the storm. There’s a well-known website/app that tracks Gas Stations in the area along with fuel availability and wait times. Our team took that a step farther to explore where the concentration of people checking that very well-known app and where they are located… voila!

Gas station fuel availability and wait times

This exercise shows the ability to hone in on a trigger (in this case a weather event) and provide real-time, accurate location-based intelligence.

Along the same lines…take a look at the week-over-week map of “where are people located that are looking at weather app/sites” below. Topic consumption allows us to identify areas where services or products may be in desperate need or would be more sparsely available. Blue indicates lower consumption than the previous week and red indicates the opposite.

Weather app usage, previous week vs current week

It’s not just the East Coast checking, the West Coast is also watching various tropical storms. What’s really interesting is the high consumption on the northern eastern seaboard, fellow East Coasters looking out and keeping abreast of what will be soon hitting their southern compatriots.

If you’re in the path of any of the impending storms, stay safe and see you on the other side!

Learn more about how we use our location intelligence to compel consumers to act through our Dynamic Mobile product.

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