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New research shows shifting m-commerce patterns

A new study from research analyst firm IDC and app developer Onavo indicates that mobile shopping habits are beginning to show clear usage patterns, and that some retail brands are utilizing that information to establish so-called stickiness with their respective customer base.

Released Aug. 14, the study, Mobile Commerce App Report, is based on anonymized data collected from iOS users of the Onavo data compression system. By comparing mobile user habits with user habits on both branded retail apps and price comparison apps, IDC and Onavo found that although retail app usage remains mostly steady throughout the days of the week, comparison app usage surges over the weekend, particularly on Saturday. The study also revealed that Monday is the second-most popular day for retail app access.

The research suggests a new shopping paradigm for considered purchases, challenging assumptions about the effectiveness of “call-to-weekend-action” campaigns typically deployed on Thursday or Friday to spur sales on Friday or Saturday. In this emerging model, consumers research purchases during the work week, go “showrooming” on the weekend, and finally commit to purchases on Sunday and Monday.

Scott Ellison, VP of mobile and consumer connected platforms at IDC, says the findings could spur new competitive strategies between retail and price comparison app publishers. “We did not expect to see such stark differences by days of the week,” he Ellison says. “Monday being the number two day for retail app usage was a complete surprise.”

Although the data was aggregated over a wide range of retail apps, results from four major brands—Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy—are also highlighted in the report. Notable among these was Walgreens, whose app usage led the pack on almost every day of the survey.

“The general trend [shows] that the more content and the more engagement you provide, the more usage you will see over the course of the week,” says Guy Rosen, CEO of Onavo. “Getting users to actually open your app on a Wednesday means you’ve put a lot of value and thought into what users will be able to do, even when outside your store, and we’re seeing that Walgreens is doing a very good job with that.”

Price comparison and barcode scanning apps were also considered in the report. The top three products—RedLaser, ShopSavvy, and Amazon’s PriceCheck—all brought in approximately two uses per month with PriceCheck carrying a slight lead. Despite this, RedLaser’s market share—3.2% of users open the app every month—exceeds both ShopSavvy and PriceCheck’s monthly active user count combined. The fact that no price comparison app has reached weekly usage suggests significant room for growth, and the relatively low adoption rates provide room for further innovation and competition.

“This is where Amazon has a leg up in offerings like Amazon Prime [unlimited free shipping], and smaller price-checking app players will have challenges,” Ellison says. “By contrast, eBay has the opportunity to continue to evolve RedLaser into more of a retail partner-friendly play.”

Though the data in joint study covers a short time span—all of June and the first week of July 2012, including Independence Day and Father’s Day, both significant shopping holidays—IDC and Onavo both say they feel strongly that the data is representative of larger trends. “The aggregate data was very clear,” Ellison says. “We believe the differences are significant.”

Recent bad news for Best Buy wasn’t made any brighter by this report. Of the four major retail shopping apps profiled, Best Buy’s app consistently showed the lowest usage. Although the data does not directly link price comparison scans with the locations visited for scanning, Best Buy is also consistently linked with the costly—to the brand—“showrooming” phenomenon.

“Best Buy needs to evolve its app into providing more reasons to make the purchase at Best Buy,” Ellison says.

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