December 1, 2016, 1:22 PM

Mobile web traffic dipped on Black Friday? ‘App’-solutely

Mobile web traffic declined for several large retailers on Black Friday, possibly because of increased app use.

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Mobile web traffic on Black Friday decreased year over year and even week over week for 20 major e-retailers, according to digital analytics firm SimilarWeb.

SimilarWeb analyzed the following retailers and online marketplaces operating in the U.S.: Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide), eBay Inc., AliExpress.com, Wal-Mart Store Inc. (No. 4), Etsy Inc. (No. 23), Target Corp. (No. 22), Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 12), The Home Depot Inc. (No. 7), Lowe’s Cos. Inc., (No. 27), Macy’s Inc. (No. 6), Newegg Inc. (No. 17), Kohl’s Corp. (No. 19), Wayfair Inc. (No. 24), Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 8), Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 14), Gap Inc. (No. 20), Overstock.com Inc. (No. 29), Nordstrom Inc. (No. 18), Staples Inc. (No. 5), J.C. Penney Co Inc. (No. 33), QVC Group (No. 10), Zappos.com (part of Amazon), Nike Inc. (No. 47), Zulily.com and Ikea.com (No. 212).

Mobile traffic on Black Friday for these 25 retailers decreased to 55% of total  traffic  compared with 57% on the same day 2015, SimilarWeb says. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving.

For 20 of these retailers, mobile traffic decreased week over week as well, to 55% of total traffic on Black Friday compared with 60% on the previous Friday, SimilarWeb says.

Total site visits—desktop and mobile combined—to these 25 retailers did increase by 16.1% on Black Friday year over year, to 288 million visits desktop and mobile compared with 248 million on Black Friday 2015, according to SimilarWeb.

“While mobile is still a significant, if not the main, traffic generator to these sites, its overall weight has decreased on [Black Friday],” says Nitzan Tamari, vice president of marketing at SimilarWeb.

Mobile’s share of traffic could have dipped week over week for several reasons, Tamari says. One possibility could be that more consumers were researching products on smartphones the previous Friday, and then making the purchase on a desktop on Black Friday.

“For one, conversion rates on e-commerce sites are usually lower on mobile than they are on desktop ,” Tamari says. “On a day like Black Friday, when people are converting more, we tend to see more desktop usage.” On average, the smartphone conversion rate so far during the 2016 holiday shopping season (Nov. 1-28) is 1.3%, tablets at 2.9% and desktop at 3.2%, according to the Adobe Digital Insights unit of marketing and analytics software provider Adobe Inc.

Increased retail app use could be another reason why mobile web traffic decreased week over week, Tamari says. In fact, of the top 24 retailers SimilarWeb analyzed (excluding Nike since the retailer offers several apps that are not completely shopping focused), downloads of their Android apps in the U.S. on average increased 144% on Black Friday compared with the week before, and app users in those apps increased 95% week over week, SimilarWeb says.  

However, Amazon is a large piece of this puzzle, according to SimilarWeb. The number of Android app downloads on Black Friday across the 24 retail apps in the U.S. reached 624,000, and 24% of these downloads, or 149,760 of them, were for the Amazon shopping app, SimilarWeb says.

Likewise, on Apple Inc.’s App Store, the Amazon shopping app was the most downloaded retail app on Black Friday in the U.S., according to mobile app analytics provider App Annie. Shopping apps as a category on the iOS App Store posted a 20% increase in downloads during the week of Thanksgiving (Nov. 20- 26), than the average of the previous four weeks, according to App Annie.

The most downloaded shopping apps on Apple’s Apple Store on Black Friday were:

  1. Amazon
  2. Target’s Cartwheel in store coupon app
  3. Wal-Mart
  4. Marketplace Wish
  5. Advertisement circular aggregator Flipp
  6. Target
  7. Coupon aggregator RetailMeNot
  8. Kohl’s
  9. Coupon aggregator Ebates
  10. eBay

 

To boost app downloads before Black Friday, many retailers, such as Target and Staples, offered early access to Black Friday discounts and exclusive deals only in their apps.

Once a consumer downloads an app, many retailers send push notifications to remind her that she has the app on her smartphone. Retailers sent 56% more holiday push notifications in the two weeks before Thanksgiving this year compared with last year, and 2015 posted a 63% increase in notifications over 2014, according to client data from mobile app developer Urban Airship Inc. Urban Airship analyzed aggregate mobile app engagement data from more than 200 retailers throughout November. Analysis includes retail apps that had at least 5,000 unique opens in the three months leading up to the study period.

Before Black Friday, many retailers updated their apps to improve their app-store optimization, which is much like search engine optimization. For example, a retailer may make changes to its app name, description and content, so that if a consumer searches for a term in the app store, such as “Black Friday,” its app would be more likely to appear in results, or appear higher in results.

Ebates, for example, incorporated the word “Black Friday” six times into its iOS app description, which boosted it into the top 25 apps listed when a consumer searched for “Black Friday” between the weekend leading up to Black Friday through the day itself, according to App Annie.

Likewise, eBay also updated its iOS app description on Nov. 10 to mention “Black Friday” deals. Office Depot went as far as updating the name of its app to “Office Depot Black Friday Deals & Office Supplies,” which put it in the top 15 apps for the search term “Black Friday Deals,” according to App Annie.

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