Top retailers have heavy swings in the number of app visitors month to month, Comscore data finds. Consumer shopping habits vary throughout the year, which causes these large differences.

The number of consumers shopping in retail apps can shift dramatically month to month.

For example, marketplace eBay Inc. (No. 5 in theInternet Retailer Online Marketplaces database) had 32.08 million consumers in its app in February 2018, which dipped 12% to 28.23 million consumers visiting its app in May 2018, and then rose to 32.86 million consumers in January 2019, according to research firm Comscore Inc. data. For each retailer, Comscore’s data includes all of that retailer’s owned brands.

And this is not an anomaly with eBay, as many top online retailer and marketplaces see fluctuations in app visitors throughout the year, with a difference of a few thousand visitors or tens of thousands of visitors month to month.

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Fluctuations in app visitors could vary for several reasons, such as marketing tactics or time of year, says Karly Cyr, director of marketing at mobile commerce vendor Mobify.

“If a retailer significantly increases its paid search spend from one month to the next, then we would expect visitors to fluctuate accordingly,” Cyr says. EBay did not immediately respond for a comment.

Similarly, if there is a shopping season or holiday, such as back-to-school or Black Friday, unique visitors also might spike. In fact, many top online retailers see a surge in unique app visitors in November and December, and then a dip in January, according to the Comscore data.

When comparing January 2018 to January 2019, some top merchants had an increase in app visitors this year while other merchants did not.

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Again, there could be various reasons for this, such as merchants having heavy promotions one year and not the next, or if retailers made updates to an in-app loyalty program throughout the year that could cause a spike in usage year to year, Cyr says.

“We’re in a ‘new normal’ period where the data is going to be in flux because new shopping behaviors are happening at the same time that retailers are experimenting with new promotions,” Cyr says. “If a brand did really well over the holidays, they may have limited their post-holiday sales. If a lot of physical stores closed, online may be up more in January to capture post-holiday sales.”

In the past few years, online retailers have invested more in their mobile commerce sites, and shoppers maybe have started using the site more instead of the app. In fact, the top reason that shoppers use a mobile site to shop with a retailer with which they frequently shop instead of an app is that the mobile site is good enough, according to an Internet Retailer and Bizrate Insights survey of 1,016 consumers in April.

App users also are not shy about uninstalling apps they not longer use, which is another reason for variation in app use year to year, Cyr says. In fact, 9% of consumers have deleted an app from a retailer they frequently shop with, according to the Internet Retailer and Bizrate survey.

Shoppers typically have two to five retail apps on their smartphones, according to the survey. Consumers say they have the following number of retail apps on their smartphone:

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  • No apps: 8%
  • One app: 7%
  • Two to three apps: 30%
  • Four to five apps: 31%
  • Six to 10 apps: 15%
  • More than 10 apps: 8%

Figures are rounded.

Similarly, the reason that shoppers spend more or less time in a retail app can vary year to year. Comscore finds that shoppers are becoming more comfortable buying expensive items on their phones, says Ian Essling, Comscore’s director of survey insights

“This behavior likely contributes to them spending more time within certain apps, as the purchase process for a couch or expensive electronics may lead them to spend a bit more time than buying a book or clothes,” Essling says.

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