According to San Francisco-based Flurry, a Yahoo!-owned company that reported it performs mobile app business analytics for more than 170,000 companies, mobile app usage has grown significantly in the past six years.
In 2014, the company's Flurry Analytics installed software tracked 2.079 trillion individual mobile app sessions and found that app usage was up 76 percent from the previous year. Flurry defines app usage as a user opening an app and recording a session on a device. Shopping, utilities and productivity, and messaging were key drivers in mobile app usage, each with triple-digit growth in sessions year-over-year. Past stalwarts like games and entertainment slipped to the bottom of the ladder in 2014.
"2014 was the year retail came to mobile in a big way," said Simon Khalaf, Flurry Insights blog author. "Sessions in shopping apps on iOS and Android increased a whopping 174 percent year-over-year. On Android alone, the shopping category increased by 220 percent." He noted that for iOS, the category included other lifestyle activities in addition to shopping.
Among the top three app usage categories, utility and productivity app usage rose 121 percent year-over-year, which means more users organized their lives on mobile devices. Messaging, which increased 103 percent over the same period, took an interesting spin in 2014. "Messaging apps have become platforms themselves, exposing other services such as payments in the case of SnapChat and Japan's LINE," Khalaf stated.
When Flurry tracked mobile shopping behavior as it corresponds to times of day, it found that shopping app use spiked during the 9 a.m., noon and 8 p.m. hours. Target Brands Inc. confirmed that time spent on its branded mobile app increased 68 percent year over year in 2014, compared with 21 percent for web traffic. "Retailers need to adjust to the new reality of a multitude of stores in every consumer's pocket, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Khalaf said.
Denver-based mobile shopping app provider Ibotta Inc. has also seen momentum building in the mobile shopping category, where engaging the consumer is core to its business model. Ibotta's app allows shoppers to unlock coupons by completing such tasks as sending tweets, posting messages on Facebook, watching videos, playing trivia games or answering short survey questions. Unlocked coupons can either be redeemed online or in stores.
According to Ibotta, nearly 600,000 new users downloaded its app in December, bringing the total number of users to 6 million at the end of 2014. In December alone, over 5 million rebates were unlocked on the app, encouraging users to spend nearly $3 million dollars earned. Ibotta said it recorded nearly 35 million unlocked rebates in 2014, and more than 62 million app user engagements were completed with merchants.
Shopkick Inc., too, said it has experienced tremendous success with its real-time shopping app that rewards customers for entering the store, to the tune of over $25 million since its launch. It has also added features like shopBeacon, an in-store tracking technology, as well as in-app purchasing for customers on the go.
Other industry analysts agree that games alone are not enough to entice mobile app use anymore, but when tied to shopper rewards, the app game changes. The more information a store can provide on a mobile app or site the better. Shoppers also prefer to collect information quickly without wasting time in the search process, whether physically or online.
Following are additional steps that can enhance the mobile shopper experience:
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