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Mobile shopping apps have transformed retail shopping across eCommerce and traditional retail outlets alike. A recent report by App Annie explores the value of these changes between 2016 and 2018 – and looks to future opportunities.

Mobile shopping apps are becoming popular across the world

Mobile shopping experiences are more popular than ever. Total time spent inside mobile shopping apps grew 45% to 18 billion hours globally in 2018 – and November was the single biggest mobile shopping month of all time.

Meanwhile, the number of individual mobile shopping sessions grew an average of 65% over the same two years – although there was significant regional variation.


Emerging markets featured huge mobile shopping app growth

Developers of mobile shopping apps should pay attention to emerging markets, which feature impressive examples of both mobile shopping session growth and overall performance.

Standout emerging markets, as measured by mobile shopping sessions:

  • Thailand grew by 475% between 2016 and 2018.
  • China’s total was 7 x India and 11 x the US.

American consumers are shifting to mobile shopping apps

Mobile shopping session growth was slightly above the global average in the United States – a market that’s traditionally been reluctant to use mobile shopping apps.

America’s mobile shopping session growth in context:

  • 70% – USA
  • 65% – Global

US retailers used mobile apps to drive sales for both ‘Digital-First’ (online retail stores) and ‘Bricks-and-Clicks’ (physical retail stores) – which reflects an increasingly sophisticated attitude towards the diverse business use cases for mobile shopping apps.

It’s also worth noting that the total user time spent in shopping apps directly correlates with eCommerce sales – at least in the United States.


Retail stores are using mobile apps to drive in-store sales

While online stores lead the pack for overall user engagement in their mobile shopping apps, physical retail stores have shown impressive growth and innovative hybrid approaches.


Nike’s new app enables shoppers to:

  • Browse and reserve products at their nearest Nike retail store.
  • Receive push notifications when their product is ready for collection.
  • Access exclusive discounts and rewards that can be used in-store.
  • Scan barcodes to check product details and available stock.
  • Checkout in-app instead of queuing to pay manually.

Big American retailers including Target, Walmart, and Nordstrom are also using mobile shopping apps to drive sales at their physical retail stores. They offer rewards programs, digital payments, stock-checking, product information, store maps, and product reservations to tempt customers in, enhance their shopping experience, and win their loyalty.

Online stores still enjoy 1.5 – 3 x more average sessions per user than physical retail stores, but it’s clear that traditional retailers have exciting opportunities to engage potential customers, using digitally enhanced shopping experiences – especially as technologies like AR (augmented reality) become more mature.

Nearly a quarter of mobile shopping apps are P2P marketplaces

While digital retail stores are – predictably – the most popular type of mobile shopping app, peer-to-peer shopping apps that enable people to sell goods directly to each other (Eg. eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy) are significantly more popular than retail shopping apps.


Top 50 mobile shopping apps, by global downloads:

  • 69% – Online retail stores
  • 24% – P2P Marketplaces
  • 5% – Physical retail stores
  • 3% – Coupons and third-party rewards

P2P shopping apps enjoy certain business model advantages over both online and physical retail app stores – with no need to carry stock or handle distribution.

Mobile apps helped retailers smash flash sales records in 2018

Flash sales like Amazon’s ‘Black Friday’ hit record levels of consumer spending in 2018 – with more consumers than ever using mobile apps to find and buy products with temporary discounts.

Mobile app shopping in numbers:

  • $30.8 billion – Global spending on Alibaba’s ‘Singles’ Day’ (making November 11, 2018, the most lucrative 24 hours in eCommerce so far).
  • $5 billion – Mobile spend on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
  • 34% – Black Friday and Cyber Monday revenue from mobile devices.
  • 50% – Year-on-year mobile revenue growth for Cyber Monday.
  • 130 million – Total hours spent on Android devices across the Black Friday and Cyber Monday week (a 20% year-on-year increase).
  • 75% – eCommerce transactions expected to be on mobile devices by 2021.

Great mobile shopping app user experiences are crucial for retail success

Mobile shopping apps are now essential for retail omnichannel strategies and have a unique need to ‘meld the physical and digital worlds for customers — not simply bridge them’, as a report by Forrester points out.

The report notes that mobile shopping apps must offer a top-notch user experience, as poor user experience can stop customers that are already engaged from making purchases – and drive them into the hands of competing retailers.

Bitbar’s mobile test automation platform enables retailers to test the real-world performance of their mobile shopping app across popular handsets to maximize their mobile sales and in-store engagement.

Alex Napier Holland

Tech Business Writer