Robin Langford Robin Langford Premium Content Editor, Performance Marketing World

Mobile shopping in 'hyperdrive': APAC drives growth as purchases rise 30%

The pandemic revolutionised mobile commerce, evolving from an ‘optional extra’ to an essential part of life for many locked-down shoppers around the world. A new report looks back at a transformative 18 months and why Asia is leading the way.


The study, from mobile app marketing platform Liftoff, and mobile data analytics company App Annie, found that purchases made on mobiles rose 30% from January to May 2021, with the Asia-Pacific region driving the majority of global growth. 

The rapid change affected m-commerce differently across the world, with different nationalities spending and shopping in unique ways during the pandemic and some industries much better prepared to extend their mobile offering than others.

New mobile trends for performance marketers to tap

The report offers a timely reminder of the phenomenal growth in m-commerce retail apps and mobile optimised storefronts that need to be part of nearly any performance marketing strategy, along with the rise of ads running alongside social media shopping platforms. 

Liftoff’s data draws on more than 95 billion ad impressions, 1.1 billion clicks across 14 million installs, and 39 million in-app events between June 1, 2020, and June 1, 2021. 

The study reveals a historic and prolonged surge in mobile shopping apps use in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Android’s outperformance of iOS in key marketing metrics. 

Key findings from the report include:

  • Fast-fashion player, SHEIN, skyrockets to popularity as markets open back up around the world, with downloads growing 12% worldwide in Q2 and strong retention and engagement in the US.

  • Time spent on shopping apps worldwide increased 49% YoY

  • APAC experienced the most significant increase in time spent (54%), followed by the Americas (40%) and EMEA (38%), who tied for second place.

  • Basket sizes also increased as users depended on mobile apps for their daily shopping, with an average spend of $78 -- a 22% spike YoY.

  • Reopening trends: A massive 68.79% increase in purchase rates from Jan 2020 (12.3% ITA) to May 2021 (19.9% ITA)

  • Jan 2021 (15.3%) to May 2021 (19.9%) - 30.1% increase in purchase rates

  • 15.79% increase in basket size from Jan to June ($74 to $88)

Retail app industry goes into into hyperdrive -- and it’s not slowing down 

The analysis highlights that consumers flocked to mobile retail amid COVID-19 restrictions, boosting a years-long trend of increased adoption in the sector. Globally, the report shows mobile users spent 49% more time on these apps since January 2020, reaching nearly 18 million hours spent weekly in April 2021.  

Regionally, APAC experienced the most significant growth in time spent (54%), followed by the Americas (40%) and Europe and the Middle East (EMEA) (38%). 

Mobile buying has persisted despite the initial global reopening period, a promising sign that these growth trends are here to stay. Specifically, the analysis revealed a 30.1% increase in purchase rates from Jan 2021 to May 2021 (growing from 15.3% 19.9%). Purchase sizes also spiked, with baskets hitting a high $88 in June 2021, compared to January’s $74 -- a 15.8% increase. 

Mark Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Liftoff, says: “We are living in an era that will be defined by mass adoption of new technologies, and retail apps are reaping the benefit—our analysis over the last five years has shown a strong and continuous trend of consumers racing to these platforms and forming new shopping habits. 

Sam Yang, SVP Global Field Operations, App Annie, added: “Continued interest in mobile shopping—even amid physical reopening - suggests that this isn’t an ephemeral trend but a new normal that will outlast these Covid times. As the retail industry moves toward pandemic recovery, time spent in mobile shopping apps is up 30% YoY. Retailers have heavily relied on mobile commerce over the past year to make up for the decrease in in-person purchases. Even as the pandemic restrictions are lifted and stores open to in-person shopping, we predict that mobile commerce will continue to rise and present a key element for retailers to capitalize on."

Android edges out iOS as the leading platform for retail 

In the ongoing “platform wars,” Android shows great promise—especially in retail. Android users were highly-engaged with shopping apps, spending a collective 2 billion hours a week on these apps as of May 2021, a 51% increase year-over-year.

 The report found that Android’s $2.13 cost-per-install (CPI) was 55% less expensive than the $3.85 of iOS, while simultaneously offering a greater install-to-action rate: 16.5%, compared to the 11.3% of iOS.

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