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Consumers spend more than 100bn hours in shopping apps in 2021

TikTok live stream gets fizzy with it (Image: shutterstock)

Globally, consumers spent more than 100 billion hours in shopping apps in 2021, up 18% on the previous year, with fast fashion, social shopping and big brands leading the way.

According to the latest state of mobile report from App Annie, mobile shopping habits created by the pandemic have not only solidified, but have also grown.

The biggest growth markets for mobile commerce in 2021 were Indonesia, Singapore and Brazil, which saw growth of 52%, 48% and 45% respectively.

The report finds that APAC-based shopping apps have grown international downloads, shifting market share to non-native-based brands in many regions.

Across The Americas, overseas publishers grew in share of downloads. In the US, however, the mobile shopping market continued to be dominated by US-based brands (66% share), with only 34% from non-domestic brands.

Still, US-based apps lost 5% share of downloads to overseas publishers, driven by China, Canada, Australia, and Japan. In Brazil, Overseas-HQ-ed apps dominated 52% of all shopping app downloads in 2021, an increase in share of 11% YoY.

Retail brands are also losing share to non-local companies, most notably in regions across AMER as shoppers turn to overseas-based Shopping apps.

Prime Day changes

The report suggests that Prime Day had a big impact on mobile commerce in 2021 – but for more than just Amazon. Competing “Amazon Prime Day” Events Spurred Sessions Growth by 20% for Walmart & Smaller Savvy Players, it says.

While Prime Day was started by Amazon, nearly all major retailers piggyback with rival events as they compete for share of wallet. This year, Amazon held Prime Day 2021 in June (6/21 – 6/22) vs the October event period that was held last year, and competitive retailers followed suit.

Walmart held its first “Prime Day” event in 2020 called the “Big Save Event”, which ran parallel to Amazon Prime Day’s 10/13 – 10/14 event. Because of its success, Walmart ran “Deals for Days” in 2021 alongside Prime Day and saw 20% more sessions than the year before. Similarly, Target announced Target Deal Days, and Chewy hosted their Blue Box Event sale.

Food and drink digested

The food and drink sector also saw a boom in mcommerce across the year, the report shows, with sessions in food and drink apps hitting a record high of 62 billion worldwide.

The pandemic expedited usage of Food & Drink apps across the world. Despite concerns for a slowdown following regional re-openings, an increase in both supply and in demand pushed market growth further than ever. Globally, users spent 49% more sessions YoY in 2021 in Food & Drink apps.

After facing a decline in user sessions in India in Q2 2020 due to logistics issues arising from the pandemic, India bounced back to 12.1 billion sessions in Q4 2021.

Several regions drove high growth in Q4, including: the US (42% YoY), Russia (154% YoY), Turkey (75% YoY), and Indonesia — who saw over 9x growth YoY — surpassing user sessions in China.

Fostered by new players, partnerships, delivery, quick-fulfilment, user demand continued to increase through-out the year, with users spending more sessions than ever in Q4.

Delivering the promise

One of the chief things searched for in apps by consumers around food and drink was fast delivery. Turkish delivery company Getir hit nearly 7 million downloads worldwide in Q4 2021, up 105% from Q1 – driven by international expansion.

After making their first acquisition in July to expand into Spain and Italy, Getir acquired UK-based rivalWeezy in November just weeks before starting operations in the US — wrapping up 2021 with services in Chicago, NYC, and Boston.

DE-based Gorillas and US-based Flink are among several rapidly growing players both reaching over 1 million global downloads in Q4.

Social in the driving seat

Social media apps were star performers across the year, touching all sectors from retail to entertainment and beyond.

TikTok was a standout winner in per user engagement among the top five social apps commanding the most time spent in 2021, with growth hitting 75%.

It is notable that TikTok has seen the greatest in depth of engagement over four years and had a standout year in 2021, off the back of an already record-breaking 2020. Meta properties in India benefited from the TikTok ban  in 2021, with engagement deepening in both Facebook and Instagram by 15% and 35% respectively.

There is also a growing market for avatar apps, which is helping create new experiences in social that will play out across 2022. According to the study, demand for avatar social apps has grown amidst interest in metaverses

in 2021, particularly H2.

Among the three select avatar social apps including Litmatch, REALITY by Wright Flyer and ZEPETO, downloads grew 160% YoY. Litmatch emphasizes matching with friends and using a simple avatar — highlighting the overlap of growing demand for avatar-based apps, even without a metaverse component — 2 converging trends. Litmatch saw downloads grow 405% YoY amidst surging demand.

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