Mobile Wins Big this Holiday Shopping Season

We gathered mobile data from this year’s Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday shopping period, and through our analysis some strong trends emerged. Among them:

Longer Engagement Timelines
Retailers started promoting much earlier this year, two weeks in advance of the big holiday shopping weekend.

Both the Thursday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday before Cyber Monday — as well as Nov. 1st and 3rd — had the highest notification engagement rates, which shows mobile’s role in pre-shopping shopping activities, such as consumers researching their wish lists before buying and making last-minute purchase decisions leading up to Cyber Monday.

Notification engagement rates decreased on Thanksgiving Day and on Black Friday compared to last year, as shoppers were either busy with the holiday, had already planned their purchases, or were already in the app. More evidence for this pre-shopping mobile focus — the massive boost in engagement the Sunday before Cyber Monday, where 61 percent of all app opens were attributable to a notification. People were already focused on what they'd buy next.

Many retailers encouraged shoppers to start looking early this year, with notifications ramping up after Veteran's Day.

More Notifications, More App Opens
Push notification volume increased 63 percent compared to last November, building on 2014’s significant 34 percent increase over 2013. A third of all app opens during the holidays came from push notifications. This means that retailers are starting conversations, and consumers are responsive.

These messages were about a variety of subjects, from Black Friday preview and early access notifications, to reminders and VIP access notifications.

The Sunday after Black Friday showed a spike in engagement compared with last year, as consumers hopped on early Cyber Monday deals.

Message Center Volumes On the Rise
Message Center volumes ramped up massively this year, with retailers more than doubling the volume of in-app messages sent (152 percent). Retailers are clearly focused on sending more messages that can reach their entire user base and incorporating in-app messaging into their engagement strategies.

Instructional Messages Increase in Popularity
Retailers are getting more specific with push notifications and including more calls to action than last year. For example, asking users to “swipe right for more information” or “tap to shop now.”

Examples of push notifications that included instructions or calls to action.

As Volumes Ramp Up, Response Rates Climb
Average notification engagement rates increased to 18 percent in 2015, up from 16 percent in 2014. Medium-performing retail apps also saw opt-in rates edge up slightly from 38 percent to 39 percent. But the delta between the middle of the pack and the top-performing apps is vast, with prior studies finding the best retailer apps get 3-4X greater notification engagement rates than the average app.

The Gap is Widening for Opt-Ins
Further, the gap between the best and worst apps is widening. As more apps leverage notifications, there's more noise and competition for attention. The best keep getting better, going from 55 percent to 58 percent of users being opted in; whereas low performers went from 26 percent to 22 percent opted in.

App Downloads Increase During the Holidays
Daily app downloads increased an average of 21 percent after November 11th, showing that retailers were driving more users to download their apps for the holiday with incentives like app-exclusive deals, or with general marketing or in-store holiday promotions.

Stay tuned for more findings and insights from our 2015 Holiday Mobile Shopping Report.