Urban Airship Holiday Retail Study Finds Big M-Commerce Gains for Both Brick-and-Mortar and Online-Only Retailers

As holiday shopping results are tallied from the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday time period, Urban Airship has released preliminary results of its fifth annual Mobile Retail Trends study of more than 100 retailers’ apps that reveal year-over-year increases in every major statistical category related to apps and notifications. In addition, Cyber Monday was the biggest sales day for online and mobile ever in the U.S. with purchases made on mobile devices reaching a record-breaking $2 billion, according to Adobe.

Top-level results show Cyber Week has become Cyber Month. Retailers significantly ramped up holiday promotions in early November, compared to just two weeks before Thanksgiving last year. This year marks the fourth consecutive year of growth in retailers’ notification send volume (up 27 percent over 2016), average notification engagement rates (up 17 percent) and average notification opt-in rates (up 3.2 percent).

However, comparing brick-and mortar retailers versus online-only retailers shows more dramatic differences impacting the future of retail as digital’s influence continues to grow. For example, the distribution of notification sends and sheer volume show brick-and-mortar retailers’ full integration of mobile into their holiday marketing mix.

Consumers Are Adopting Singles’ Day Faster than Retailers
Throughout November, notification engagement rates exhibited a similar pattern as past years, where shoppers were most engaged with messages in advance of big shopping days. The one exception is Singles’ Day for online-only retailers, where notification engagement rates spiked even while their send volume that day remained flat, suggesting consumers are adopting Singles’ Day more rapidly than retailers.

While all retailers saw the greatest notification engagement rates earlier in the month, brick-and-mortar retailers grew Thanksgiving Day notification engagement rates by 50 percent year-over-year. Black Friday notification engagement rates were even higher, but down slightly (-2%) year-over-year. This “day of” engagement growth is especially significant considering massive spikes in send volumes on those days and growing receptivity toward engaging with notifications while actively shopping.

That said, the general notification engagement rate trendline between brick-and-mortar and online-only retailers is surprisingly consistent (less a few peaks unique to either set). The real difference, considering send volumes, is the much bigger audiences that brick-and-mortar retailers reach. In addition, while brick-and-mortar retailers have improved their overall average notification engagement rate by 38 percent year-over-year, they still trail online-only retailers whose overall average notification engagement rate is 29% higher.

The frequent holiday marketing cadence of brick-and-mortar retailers, and their greater visibility, drives bigger gains in new app users throughout the holiday shopping period. Online-only retailers added new app users at a slower but steadier rate with one significant peak leading up to Thanksgiving Day. Similar to last year, new app installs for brick-and-mortar retailers peaked on Black Friday at nearly double the typical daily rate seen in October 2017, demonstrating their strength in offering omnichannel experiences, loyalty programs and in-store promotions that encourage new app downloads during the holidays.

“Whether it’s the growing percentage of online sales completed on mobile devices, or mobile’s broader influence on all offline sales, it has never been clearer that mobile is changing how retailers market and how consumers buy,” said Brett Caine, CEO and president, Urban Airship. “Our data findings hold many valuable cues for what’s to come, as brick and mortar retailers place greater emphasis on leveraging mobile and other connected digital strategies to amplify holiday strategies, and it’s working. They’ve narrowed the lead online-only retailers have with better average notification engagement rates by 3X in just the last year.”

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