Since April 2019, global app marketing has experienced an upheaval, with diverging trends between East and West, but strong upsurges.

Mobile shopping apps have continued to experience significant growth in the past year. With the global pandemic driving stay-at-home orders, consumers seem to be utilizing mobile shopping even more readily.

While install costs are relatively stable throughout the year, they dropped to their annual low of US$2.48 in March 2020—just as lockdowns peaked.

This and other findings can be found in a study analyzing more than 53 billion ad impressions across 10 million installs and 2 million first-time events between April 2019 and April 2020.

The report by app marketing platform Adjust in partnership with mobile app marketing firm Liftoff, identifies North America (NAR) as the mobile shopping leader, while users in APAC show signs of shopping fatigue, with a dip in engagement and conversion rates.

Lower acquisition cost per user

The study points to increased consumer uptake for shopping apps. At US$19.47, the cost to acquire a user who completes a first purchase has decreased by more than half year-over-year. Meanwhile, engagement had surged 40%, as 14.7% purchase rates towered over last year’s 10.5%. Through the past two years, the trend has become clearer, with purchase engagement up 149%.

Explained Mark Ellis, co-founder and CEO, Liftoff: “Last year, our analysis found that the rise of sales bonanzas from retail giants like Amazon, Flipkart and Alibaba were tilling the soil for other retailers, priming mobile users to shop year-round, and this trend is only continuing. As consumers adapt to the changing retail landscape, they’re leaning on mobile more than ever. It’s never been a better time to be a retail app marketer.”

In a world where physical touchpoints are getting reduced, apps position brands to keep driving growth. And according to Adjust, companies have already stepped up their game by focusing on re-engaging and retaining their users. Said Paul H. Müller, co-founder and CTO, Adjust: The e-commerce industry as a whole got a bit shell-shocked in the first few weeks of March in the wake of COVID-19, with marketers dialing back ad spend. But as we saw the vertical start to rebound in April, there’s been a broader push toward re-targeting and re-engagement—in line with bringing customers back into the funnel and keeping their existing ones engaged.”

APAC and North America markets diverge

Last year, the mature markets of APAC and NAR showed similar trends. While users were registering more readily for shopping apps, converting to purchases was a challenge, suggesting that users in these regions were ‘window shopping’ on mobile. However, the data shows a major flip this year: APAC and NAR usage patterns diverge, with North America coming out in front.

Costs-per-first-purchase in NAR weredown4x(to a low of US$14.85), while conversion rates wereup more than 4x — 6x higher than that of APAC (27.6% compared to APAC’s 4.7%).

Meanwhile,APAC costs nearly doubled in the past year, up to US$54.90. The region finished last in engagement with purchase rates less than halfthat of last year, suggesting the region is ripe for a refresh. However, the region also offers significant value for money—CPIs (Cost Per Installs) had dropped significantly between 2018 and 2019 (from US$3.17 to US$2.58).