Study: App-based commerce keeps rising as holidays approach

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Holiday shoppers will turn to retail apps.

Retail apps are already approaching peak usage levels from the 2020 holiday season.

According to the “State of E-commerce App Marketing” study from AppsFlyer, U.S. e-commerce app installs have increased 36% compared to pre-pandemic levels, including 55% on Android and 32% on iOS devices. So far in 2021, consumers have generated 35% more revenue in e-commerce apps than they did in 2020. In-app spend during 2021 peaked in March, exceeding March 2020 by 156%.

As of August 2021, 83% of U.S. iOS e-commerce app users have upgraded to iOS 14.5 or higher and 42% of prompted users have opted in, reducing remarketing audience sizes. Android remarketing conversions dropped by 10% over the same time frame.

AppFlyer also examined global app commerce trends, including that between January and July 2021, the number of global users who downloaded an e-commerce app increased by 48% overall, with Android gaining 55% and iOS 32% year-over-year.

However, the enforcement of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework in late April 2021 has affected install patterns by platform. Whereas Android increased by 5% between May and July, iOS installs dropped 12%. According to AppFlyer analysis, this is most likely due to the loss of non-organic installs driven by the rising cost of media and limited data for optimization available to marketers.

In addition, global e-commerce app install ad spend hit $5.4 billion in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 alone, with U.S. app users representing one-third of global app install spend at over $1.8 billion. Globally, iOS remarketing is down 30%, but Android remarketing has seen a 10% rise. 

A recent survey of U.S. consumers from online deal platform CouponFollow also reveals generally strong mobile commerce trends. Sixty-two percent of respondents stated they make the majority of online purchases on their phone. Almost all (96%) respondents search for a promo code or a digital coupon before making an online purchase.

“To make the most of the holiday season, retailers should put mobile, and particularly mobile apps, at the heart of their Q4 strategy,” said Shani Rosenfelder, head of content & mobile insight, AppsFlyer. “For marketers, this means ensuring a smooth transition from mobile web to app, where performance is significantly higher. It also means bringing the communication with existing buyers to wherever they are, and making sure they use deep linking to reach the right destination within the app smoothly and contextually.”

“E-commerce app marketers are feeling the challenges brought on by Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework and SKAdNetwork, especially in remarketing conversions,” said Brian Quinn, U.S. president & GM, AppsFlyer. “To maximize ATT opt-in rates and increase iOS remarketing audience sizes, marketers should evaluate when and how to display the ATT prompt and optimize the overall user experience as we head into remarketing’s peak effectiveness in November and December.”

AppsFlyer’s State of eCommerce App Marketing, 2021 Edition is an anonymous aggregate of proprietary global data from 4.5 billion app installs from 650 apps and 25 billion remarketing conversions. Of this, 580 million non-organic app installs across 480 apps, with 2 billion remarketing conversions that were specific to the U.S.