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Apps: The New Thanksgiving Tradition (and Shopping is Just Part of the Story)

  
  
  

According to IBM, two out of five online retail visits in the U.S. on Black Friday were made from mobile devices, directly generating more than 20% of online retail sales. On Thanksgiving Day, smartphones and tablets accounted for an even greater share of online retail visits and sales (43% of visits and 26% of sales). These results show the extent to which connected devices now influence retail sales, but Flurry’s own Thanksgiving weekend data demonstrates that our relationships with our smartphones and tablets go well beyond picking up a Black Friday deal while picking at Thanksgiving leftovers.

App usage overall in the U.S. spiked by 25% on Thanksgiving compared to the previous Thursday, and not just as a result of shopping app use. The overall pattern of app usage over the Thanksgiving weekend demonstrates that smartphones and tablets have become the first truly personal computers, changing their function as we change our routines. To illustrate that point in this post, we take an in-depth look at U.S. app session starts from the day before Thanksgiving through to Cyber Monday. We compare Thanksgiving week to the week prior, and also compare those time periods for the two previous years. (By including the weekends prior to Thanksgiving for each year we can distinguish between overall growth in app usage and use that is unique to Thanksgiving weekend.)

App Use Spikes on Thanksgiving

The chart below provides a high-level view of how overall app usage has changed from year to year, and changes between the week prior to Thanksgiving and the week of Thanksgiving. The gaps between the green, blue, and gray pairs of lines illustrate the extent to which app usage in the United States has grown year over year, with baseline usage the week before Thanksgiving up by about two-thirds compared to the same time last year, and about triple what it was during November of 2011.

FLR131201 1 Thanksgiving blog chart1 300dpi FA resized 600

The darker line in each color pair shows Thanksgiving weekend for a particular year while the lighter version shows the prior weekend for that year. The gap between the lighter and the darker lines in a color pair shows the difference in app usage by day between Thanksgiving weekend and the prior weekend. For the past three years, that difference has been greatest on Thanksgiving Day, diminishing to return to normal by Cyber Monday. In 2011 and 2012, U.S. app usage spiked by 20% on Thanksgiving Day compared to the previous Thursday. This year the Thanksgiving spike grew to 25%.

Given mobile devices are so personal, it’s no surprise that they tag along as we enjoy Thanksgiving weekend, but we wanted to understand the drivers behind the Thanksgiving spike in app usage. Is it just mobile shopping? Recipe apps aiding Thanksgiving cooks? Football fans checking stats from the couch? Social networking apps used to stay in touch with family far away? What accounts for the extra app sessions on Thanksgiving?

To find out, we compared app sessions by category for Thanksgiving weekend to the weekend before, focusing on the three days for which there is the biggest difference in overall app use.

The results are shown in the table below. The rows are app categories aggregated across operating systems. The columns show changes in app usage between Thanksgiving week and the same day the previous week for each category. Each cell shows that same comparison between Thanksgiving week and the previous week for the past three years.

FLR131201 1 Thanksgiving blog chart2 300dpi FA resized 600

Use of Shopping Apps Is Up Overall – Not Just On Black Friday

For obvious reasons, shopping apps consistently spike over the Thanksgiving period. Interestingly the bump this year wasn’t as large as the one last year; however that should not be interpreted to mean that enthusiasm for shopping apps is waning. On the contrary, between 2012 and 2013, overall use of shopping apps in the week before Thanksgiving grew by about 70%, so the 2013 Thanksgiving spike comes on top of a higher baseline usage level.

Media and Gaming Are Even More Popular On Thanksgiving 

App categories beyond shopping that saw spikes in app usage during Thanksgiving week are fairly predictable. Media spiked on Thanksgiving Day in particular – most likely in part because it includes photo and video apps used to record family gatherings. It was also somewhat higher on Wednesday and Friday compared to the previous week.

More time for relaxation probably explains why game apps, which are always popular, enjoyed even more use over the Thanksgiving period than the week before.

Even Workaholics And Dedicated Calorie Counters Take Thanksgiving Off

What types of apps experience less use on Thanksgiving and the days immediately before and after than during the previous week? Mainly apps associated with things people take a break from over the Thanksgiving holiday: business and education, health, and news.

Travel apps also experience a decline in use Thanksgiving Day and the day after. That may seem counter-intuitive since Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year; however it’s important to remember that people tend to be traveling to familiar places and often staying with relatives or friends so are less likely to need apps for booking hotels and rental cars or finding their way around an unfamiliar city.

Smartphones and Tablets Have Become Our Constant Companions

So shopping does contribute to the spike in app activity on Thanksgiving, but it’s only part of the explanation. This data shows the extent to which smartphones and tablets have become our constant companions, morphing their function to our whims and circumstances in ways even laptops never really did. They are truly our most personal computers. Sure, you can use them to shop without getting out of bed, let alone braving crowds at the mall, but your device can also entertain you with games, music, and movies. It can even tell you how far you need to walk to make up for that second helping of mashed potatoes – if you choose to look.

How To Reach America’s Mobile Moms

  
  
  

Apps are telling – they signal our personal tastes and interests. There are probably nearly as many unique combinations of apps as there are devices, and the apps we use reveal a lot about us. Based on Personas that Flurry has developed for its advertising clients, we are beginning a series of blog posts to shed light on different groups of smartphone and tablet users and their app usage patterns. Moms -- who often control household budgets and expenditures -- are considered the prime audience for many brands. So we thought, where better to start our Personas series than by examining what moms are doing with apps?

Our analysis for this post relies on iPhone, iPad, and Android app usage during May of this year for a large sample (24,985) of American-owned smartphones and tablets. Discussion of app usage is based on time those devices spent in the 300,000+ apps that use Flurry Analytics.

What Apps Do Moms Use?

Moms, like most other groups, spend a lot of smartphone and tablet time playing games. In fact, on Android, more than half of the time American Moms spent in apps was spent playing games. Similarly, on iPad moms spent about half their time in games, but on iPhone, that percentage drops to a little less than a third of their time. On iPhone, lifestyle apps capture a larger proportion of Moms' attention (12%) than on iPad and Android devices.

As shown below, the second most popular category among moms on iPhone and Android devices is social networking. On iPad, newsstand (24%) was the second most popular category, demonstrating its strength as a screen for displaying magazine type content. 

FLR130601 Moms are gamers too 

Where Do Moms Over-Index? 

Most mobile consumers spend a large proportion of their app time in gaming and social networking apps, so what makes moms different from the other American owners of smartphones and tablets? Across iPhone, iPad, and Android, American Moms spend more time in education apps than the general population. Also, moms who own an iPhone or an Android device spend a greater share of their app time in health and fitness apps. Unsurprisingly, moms are also heavy shoppers. Android moms over-index for time spent in shopping apps, and iPhone moms over-index for time spent in catalog and lifestyle apps. (For this post, we have honored The App Store and Google Play’s systems for classifying apps. In iOS, shopping apps can fall into either the catalog or lifestyle category, whereas Android has a dedicated “shopping” category.) 

 

FLR130601 Where do moms over index

Moms Own More Tablets And Gravitate Toward iOS

Compared to other American device owners, moms are enthusiastic users of tablets. As shown below, among the general population 25% of connected mobile devices were tablets, but for moms that percentage is 35%. This could be driven by the fact that many parents use tablets for sharing games and stories with their children. 

FLR130601 Moms own more tablets

60% of the smartphones and tablets we looked at were iOS devices. (Note that this number is a function of the installed base of active devices, so does not reflect market shares from sales in recent quarters.) For American Moms, the numbers lean even further toward iOS devices. A whopping 77% of moms own iOS devices while just 23% own Android. There are at least two factors that may explain this.  First, it could be a function of Moms’ greater tablet ownership since iPad dominates the tablet market. Second, surveys show that women in general skew toward iOS devices. The key takeaway is that moms are much more likely to be found using iOS devices than Android devices. 

FLR130601 iOS beat Android

For Moms, Connected Devices Are More For Escape Than Utility

So what can we infer about American Moms based on their app usage? For one thing, it appears that they use smartphones and tablets as a refuge from their busy lives. On average, half or more of the time they spend in apps is spent on social networking and game apps. In this sense, they are not that different from other Americans, but it does show that even busy moms need to escape and socialize, and mobile devices provide a way to do that. 

Apps where American Moms spend a disproportionate share of time relative to other Americans also tell us something about their more serious side. Those apps tend to be improvement-oriented: education and health and fitness, for example. Moms are using their devices to help them achieve personal goals and possibly to educate their children. 

We hope this post gives brands and developers a better idea of where the coveted American Mom is most likely to be during mobile time, and what is capturing their attention. App developers can tap into this valuable group by building experiences that give moms an escape from their hectic day-to-day routine, keep them socially connected, and help them improve different aspects of their lives. Media planners who want to reach American Moms should continue to buy ad inventory in gaming, news / magazine, and social networking apps, and to weight their budgets toward iOS apps. 

The Rise of the App & Mortar Economy

  
  
  

Retail is among the world’s largest industries. The top 10 global retailers are made up of 5 from the U.S. and 5 from Europe, collectively driving annual revenue in excess of $1.1 trillion. The U.S. Commerce Department estimates that U.S. domestic revenue exceeded $4.7 trillion in 2011 and is growing. Two thirds of the U.S. GDP, the world’s leading economy, comes from retail consumption. 

Now, the retail industry is colliding with the mobile app economy. Just consider that, according to a recent IBM report, more than 18% of shoppers used a smartphone or tablet to access a retailer's website on Cyber Monday in 2012, an increase of 70% over 2011. Mobile made up 13% of total web-based purchases. The App & Mortar economy has arrived.

In this report, Flurry explores the shopping app category. For our analysis, we measured time spent by consumers across more than 1,800 iOS and Android shopping apps from December 2011 to December 2012.  Shopping apps were found predominately within the Shopping category on Google Play, and within the Lifestyle and Food & Drink categories in the Apple App Store.  From there, we broke down “Shopping” into five sub-categories:  Retailer Apps, Price Comparison, Purchase Assistant, Online Marketplace and Daily Deals.  Let’s take a look at how time spent in shopping apps is growing.

Flurry Shopping Apps Column Chart

The chart above shows growth in time spent by consumers across the top five shopping sub-categories.  For reference, indicated by the dotted light-blue lines, we overlay growth rates for All Shopping Apps and for All Apps that Flurry measures (over 270,000).  Starting on the left, we see that consumer time spent in Retailer Apps has skyrocketed by 525% from December 2011 to December 2012. This growth far exceeds total shopping app growth of 274%, as well as overall app growth 132%, represented again by the light-blue dotted lines. Time spent in Price Comparison and Purchase Assistant apps have also grown significantly, by 247% and 228%, respectively. Finally, still growing, but not as quickly as other shopping categories are Online Marketplace and Daily Deals apps at 178% and 126%, respectively.

For reference, below are examples of the kind of apps across shopping sub-categories in this analysis. Please note that example apps may not be Flurry customers.

  • Retailer Apps: Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Saks 5th Avenue
  • Price Comparison: RedLaser, Grocery iQ
  • Purchase Assistant: ShopSavvy, ShopAdvisor
  • Online Marketplace: eBay, Amazon
  • Daily Deals: Groupon, Living Social

Flurry Shopping Apps Pie Chart

In the chart above, we next look at the shift in time spent across shopping sub-categories.  Retailers, represented by the dark blue wedge, saw the greatest increase in time spent, from a share of 15% of time spent by consumers in shopping apps in 2011 to 27% in 2012.  The enormous growth in retailer app share has come largely at the expense of Daily Deals, down in share from 20% in 2011 to 13% in 2012, and Online Marketplace apps, which contracted from 25% in 2011 to 20% in 2012.  This suggests that retailers are beginning to better respond to the tectonic shift created by the collision of online- meeting offline-shopping through mobile apps.

Incoming! App & Mortar Fire

The opportunity for retailers to extend their relationship with consumers outside the store has never been greater, or more mission critical. Gone are the days when retailers should focus the majority of their marketing effort attracting consumers into stores, where 95% of all purchases take place. In the new mobile app economy, devices are always with you, always on and always connected. Consumers can be intercepted in store aisles and even on their way to the cash register. There are apps to scan an item, select size and color, and then have it shipped to your home - conveniently, quickly from the phone you have in your pocket right now. Apps are connected to credit cards and can have shipping info on file. In the new App & Mortar economy, they serve as virtual, portable show rooms that consumers can use to shop anytime, anywhere.

To keep dollars flowing through their cash registers, retailers need to re-examine the consumer relationship from the ground up and through the lens of mobile-first. In the App & Mortar economy, the battle for deeper consumer relationships is beginning. And there are already thousands of apps for that.

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Flurry is the leading mobile measurement and advertising platform that is optimizing mobile experiences for people everywhere. Flurry's industry-leading Analytics software sees activity in over 400,000 apps on more than 1.3 billion mobile devices worldwide, giving Flurry the deepest understanding of mobile consumer behavior. Flurry turns this insight into accelerated revenue and growth opportunities for app developers, and more effective mobile advertising solutions for brands and marketers. The company is venture backed and headquartered in San Francisco with offices in New York, London, Chicago and Mumbai. 

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