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Retail app use in US and APAC surges by 50% as shoppers now use apps all year round, not just at peak, study finds

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Shopping app users are becoming increasingly purchase-happy and 2019 is poised to be the biggest year in mobile commerce ever, with shoppers using apps all year round now, rather than just during peaks.

So finds the third annual report on mobile app commerce from US app marketing company Liftoff and fraud preventer Adjust. Analysing more than 90.9 billion ad impressions across 13.6 million installs and 3.9 million registration and purchase events between April 2018 and April 2019, the report found that the traditional ‘make-or-break holiday shopping season’ is dead as mobile users spend all year long.

Historically, retail app marketers are laser-focused on the holiday shopping season – from Black Friday through the New Year – to target consumers ready to spend. This year’s trends, however, beg the question: is holiday shopping still a make-or-break period for e-commerce? 

The cost to acquire a first-time retail app user hovers in the $30 to $45 range throughout the year, showing significant stability compared to last year’s more volatile and expensive landscape. Consumers are more comfortable on mobile overall, with year-over-year acquisition costs dropping by a third, while install-to-purchase rates have skyrocketed nearly 50%. 

With a growing number of global retail giants establishing their own annual shopping holidays — think Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days in May, Amazon Prime Day in July, and Alibaba’s Singles Day in November — users no longer need the winter holidays as an excuse to buy; they’re primed-to-purchase all year long. 

“Winter holiday shopping is still alive and well, from mobile to brick-and-mortar,” explains Liftoff co-founder and CEO Mark Ellis. “But our data shows consumers now spend steadily all year long, suggesting the traditional holiday shopping season won’t make or break a brand as it might have in the past.” 

In short, the data suggests that linking mobile advertising campaigns to traditional holidays is somewhat passé. For mobile marketers looking to get the best return on their marketing dollar this year, throw away preconceived notions and target users year-round.

Retail app browsing may be the new window shopping

In both APAC and North America, users are clearly open to exploring retail apps, with registration rates skyrocketing and acquisition costs dropping year-over-year. But the data points to a surprising new trend — “Mobile Window Shopping.”

While users install and register in retail apps with ease, the joint report shows a sizeable drop-off at the all-important purchase stage: APAC’s cost-per-first-purchase comes in at $31.26 (up 13.3% year-over-year), coupled with a low 10.1% conversion rate. The same is true of NAR, where cost-per-first-purchase nearly doubled year-over-year ($58.86), while purchase rates dropped off by nearly 60%. 

The driving force of this dropoff is uncertain, but it could point to a larger retail trend: the revival of brick-and-mortar. Digital-first companies like Amazon and Warby Parker are leading a move toward ‘connected’ physical stores, while research shows Gen Z consumers prefer browsing for deals on mobile and completing the purchase in-store. 

“For marketers looking to boost purchase rates, the key is to utilize the data they have, understand potential drop-off points and to segment and target properly,” commented Christian Henschel, co-founder and CEO at Adjust. “Brands can then create and deliver the perfect user interaction strategies for their marketing initiatives. This personalization is key to winning over fickle consumers and building long-term loyalty.” 

Savvy marketers can integrate shopping apps into a larger marketing strategy, offering exclusive deals via app to entice consumers to head into stores or offer limited-time specials to encourage in-app purchases.

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