Mobile Retail Has Hit New Heights, With Social Commerce a Key Opportunity Area for 2021

Mobile commerce has been on the rise as smartphone usage has increased, but 2020 saw new rates of growth as shoppers embraced digital purchasing. In its latest State of Mobile 2021 report, App Annie has found that this was the biggest mobile shopping year to date, with $53.2 billion spent on mobile in the U.S. alone between Nov. 1 and Dec. 9 2020.

Retailers have been expanding their presence online, with a number of companies launching dedicated e-commerce apps for mobile. These provide new ways for consumers to engage with their favorite brands, particularly while on the go, and can help companies connect with younger demographics, who are more likely to opt for mobile channels. Mobile retail apps have also enabled retailers to capitalize on the increased amount of time that consumers are spending on their screens, as a result of pandemic restrictions.

As a result, App Annie reports that social commerce and live shopping have both experienced significant growth in 2020. Pinterest and Instagram saw global downloads increase by 50% and 20% respectively, while live shopping app NTWRK grew 85% in the U.S. It is predicted that social commerce and live shopping will represent a $2 trillion global market by 2024.

“People have always come to Pinterest to shop, and in 2020 we made it easier than ever to go from inspiration to purchase, and for retailers to upload their catalogs and benefit from product discovery,” said Dan Lurie, head of shopping product at Pinterest. “As distributed commerce unlocks seamless shopping experiences, we’ll continue our work to make every item on Pinterest shoppable.”

Although many brands may operate their own individual mobile apps, the most popular mobile shopping destinations remain the bigger retail players. App Annie reports that the top 5 mobile apps for retail, in terms of time spent, were Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Target and Instacart.

shopping online, buy in online shop by mobile smart phone app
Consumers are increasingly turning to mobile for their retail needs.
CREDIT: Adobe Stock

While global time spent on Android shopping apps grew 30% year-over-year, when China is omitted from the data (an early adopter of mobile technology), this growth increase to 45% YoY. Crucially, the data shows that this growth has not already peaked, but has continued to rise throughout 2020. Therefore, mobile is expected to account for even greater sales in the year ahead; App Annie describes this as the time for user acquisition.

Americans spent 8% more time on mobile than watching live TV, marking smartphones as a key channel for consumer engagement and marketing efforts. And although younger consumers have led the way with mobile usage, millennials and Gen X-ers have also increased their time spent on smartphones by a rate of 18% and 30% respectively.

“Know where to make strategic decisions: advertising spend, corporate prioritization and resource allocation follow the eyeballs — and they are on mobile,” stated the App Annie report.

Retail is not the only market impacted by this behavioral shift; mobile usage is a whole has increased. App Annie’s State of Mobile report found that overall spend hit $143 billion at 20% YoY, while app downloads reached 218 billion.

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