Why mobile retail apps are one key to holiday 2021’s winners and losers

Join us to hear more from Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, as he unpacks our US holiday forecast for retail, ecommerce, and key shopping days in our upcoming live Meet the Analyst Webinar, "US Holiday Predictions: How Cyber Five, Top Retailers, and Product Categories Will Perform.”

If you want to know which retailers are going to win the 2021 holiday season, start with mobile apps. As the connective tissue between brick-and-mortar and ecommerce shopping experiences, mobile apps are a great proxy for which retailers are in the best position to win during the holiday season.

Here’s why:

  • Mobile commerce is the fastest-growing ecommerce channel. We expect it to increase 18.8% to $97.15 billion during the holiday season, with most of that activity flowing through apps.
  • Mobile apps drive retailers’ mindshare. Mobile apps are ever-present brand logos on users’ smartphone homescreens, which the average person unlocks dozens of times a day. Getting your app downloaded to a phone serves as a constant reminder of the brand and keeps it in the consideration set when they’re ready to shop.
  • Mobile apps drive click-and-collect transactions. Click-and-collect is one of the fastest-gaining segments of ecommerce, surging 106.9% in 2020 and expected to grow another 15.2% this year. During a holiday season with shoppers anxious about timely delivery of online orders, expect a huge shift to click-and-collect transactions in the final week before Christmas.

Our September 2021 holiday survey, conducted with Bizrate Insights, asked consumers which mobile retail apps they had downloaded on their smartphones and which apps they expected to use for holiday purchases. (While consumers tend to overstate future spending expectations in surveys, the relative percentages across retailers are useful directional indicators.)

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • Amazon had the top penetration among retail mobile apps at 52.5%, with 84.7% of those users expecting to purchase on the app during the holidays.
  • Multichannel leaders Walmart (28.8%) and Target (22.3%) ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively, each with at least 70% of its app users expecting to make a purchase.
  • Macy’s (95.0%), Best Buy (90.0%), Nike (89.8%), and Nordstrom (89.3%) all had high holiday purchase intent among those with their apps downloaded.
  • Marketplaces including Wish.com (43.2%), eBay (50.4%), and Wayfair (51.1%) had the lowest holiday purchase intent.

In our recent Holiday Shopping 2021 report, we outline key dynamics that will determine the season’s winners, including pandemic habit formation (Amazon, Etsy), click-and-collect leaders (Walmart, Target, Best Buy), and power brands (Nike, Lululemon). In each case, their mobile apps both support and reinforce their prime positioning to win more than their fair share of holiday purchases.

Retailers that don’t need to work as hard to win the consumers’ attention and share of wallet will deliver growth and profits. Those highly dependent on paid customer acquisition will see their bottom lines squeezed. If you want to know which retailers go into the holidays with an edge on the competition, look no further than their mobile apps.