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A new study finds that Black Friday is the top day for consumers to download shopping apps. But those shoppers are less likely to open the app a month later compared with pre-holiday app shoppers.

Black Friday is the top day for online shoppers to install an app — double the daily average rate of installation in October, according to a new study from Airship, a mobile app development and engagement vendor.

And if shoppers weren’t installing the app on Black Friday, they mostly likely were the days before. The week of Nov. 19-25, 2023, shoppers downloaded apps 40% more than October 2023’s weekly average. In 2023, Thanksgiving was Nov. 23 and the following day, known as Black Friday, was Nov. 24.

How Black Friday app downloads are different

Airship analyzed 88 shopping apps with at least 100,000 monthly active users, and had at least 1,000 app opens from new users. The analysis included 63 million new app users gained between Oct. 1 and Nov. 27, 2023, and their engagement rates in the app through February 2024.

Despite the surge in downloads, these peak season shoppers were not as loyal shoppers in the long term as the baseline October app installers, according to the analysis. Four weeks after a shopper first opened the app, 19% of shoppers who downloaded the app in the peak week around Black Friday still opened the app at least once a week compared with a 20% retention rate for the non-peak app downloaders. As the weeks pass, pre-holiday installers continually are more likely to have opened the app than those who installed the app around Black Friday, by a margin typically between two and four percentage points.



Key findings for retailers

Corey Gault, vice president of communications at Airship, says this difference shows a significant difference between peak-season app shoppers and non-peak season shoppers.

“Statistically speaking, a few percentage points may seem nominal, but the bottom line impact for retailers is dramatic,” Gault says.


Not only are peak-week downloaders less likely to retain a retailer’s app, they were likely more expensive to acquire because of increased competition from other retailers during the holiday season, according to Airship.

Peak-week downloaders are more likely looking for deals and want to transact quickly compared with shoppers who download a merchant’s app at other times of the year. Because of this, retailers should treat these cohorts of shoppers differently.

For example, retailers could alert their pre-holiday app downloaders about their reward balance and give them a bonus reward for shopping early, whereas retailers could provide Black Friday downloader alerts about the benefits of joining their loyalty program, Gault says.

How shoppers use apps

“Many customer journeys might be similar across different user cohorts, like post-purchase follow-up, account creation or abandoned shopping carts, but the perception, understanding and motivations of different sets of customers can and do often vary — recognizing their uniqueness can go a long way towards progressing them through the app lifecycle,” Gault says.


Retailers could also create custom product pages within the app for different types of shoppers that match the keywords or marketing channels that drove shoppers to download the app, Gault says. This could result in higher conversion and a lower cost per install, he says.

“Similarly, when notifications are personalized and targeting for example, recent behavior, they have a 79% lift over messages broadcast to everyone,” he says.

Retailers need to showcase their app’s relevance quickly, as 57% of consumers only use an app once or twice before deciding whether to delete it, according to Airship’s 2023 survey of 11,000 global consumers.

Apps are a popular way for online retailers to sell, retain and market to shoppers. Within the Top 1000, 258 online retailers have an app. But most retailers with apps are the largest ones, with 201 of those retailers ranking in the Top 500. In fact, of the largest online retailers ranking No. 1-100, 79 of them offer a mobile shopping app and 21 of them don’t, according to Top500guide.com. The Top 1000 is Digital Commerce database ranking North America’s largest online retailers.


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