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Data Desk 5: The Habits That Define Mobile Spenders

by John Krystynak on May 14, 2015

For our fifth Data Desk entry, AppLovin has teamed up with our partners TUNE to look at the habits of the growing legion of US mobile spenders. Specifically, when are they most likely to purchase? Are there any patterns that might inform us about mobile behavior writ large?

Analyzing billions of data points and millions of transactions, we found clear patterns in in-app spending and overall mobile usage that were enlightening. But there was also a big takeaway that transcended category type. Two trends prevailed: most weekday mobile revenues and usage occur at the 7:00 hours (both a.m. and p.m.), peaking on Tuesdays, while by far the lowest day for mobile spending and usage is Wednesday.

Methods

Between AppLovin (a marketing platform that provides marketing automation and analytics) and TUNE (an attribution analytics company behind the products MobileAppTracking, HasOffers, and MobileDevHQ), we have access to billions of data points detailing the usage and spending of mobile users.

For this study, we:

  • Focused on the US Market as a whole during Q1, 2015.
  • Analyzed consumer purchasing and usage behavior by time and day of the week.
  • Looked at mobile usage on aggregate.
  • Normalized the time zone to PST (since both our companies call the West Coast home).

This allowed patterns to emerge and highlighted interesting spikes in behavior.

Morning and night are the best times for mobile spending

First, we wanted to see what trends we could find on an hour-by-hour basis during the workweek as there isn’t much existing research on this. One report from early 2013 highlighted increases in shopping activity around 9:00 a.m., noon, and 7:00 p.m. We took a large sample set (billions of data points), and looked at what times of day users spend the most in in-app purchases (i.e. from games, retail, travel or any other app with commerce). We wanted to see if people really make in-app purchases on their lunch break or if they engage more on the way to work and after hours at home.

Applovin_RevenuebyHour

It turns out people spend money most often before and after their workday. There’s a huge jump in in-app purchasing that starts around 6:00 a.m. and keeps going until 9:00 a.m. Purchasing then takes a nose dive until people come home from work, when it rebounds around 7:00 p.m. and continues to 10:00 p.m.

There is an interesting symmetry to the day, as the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. represented the two peaks in their respective 12-hour periods. The specific time might be influenced by our normalization to PST. However, it’s pretty clear what these two ranges represent: the bookends to the workday. It was somewhat surprising to see that 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. peaks even higher than that 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., but this speaks to the immediacy of the mobile platform. Even when rushing off to work, people are able to make quick transactions thanks to the convenience of mobile technology.

Fridays and Sundays – the days that pay

Next, we looked at mobile revenue by weekday. We normalized the revenue to be 100% for a full week and broke up the percent by day to show how much each day contributes to the total — thus inferring its impact.

Applovin_RevenuebyWeekdayjpg

The accepted theory of eCommerce spending has always been that Mondays are generally the best revenue for online retail. Not so for in-app purchasing and spending: Fridays and Sundays, respectively, won out for all in-app revenue generated on mobile. But Wednesday was the lowest day of the week by far.

Why? It’s hard to hypothesize, but a logical guess could be that Fridays are “paydays” or just a day to relax with your favorite game or retail therapy after a long week of work. Sundays could be a day users are buying in order to prep for the week ahead. As for Wednesdays, perhaps people are doing other things like playing in their favorite sports league or getting a mid-week drink with friends to get over “hump day.” Wednesday also represents the day that people are most removed from the weekend — either the coming or just lapsed Saturday and Sunday.

How much does usage affect revenue? 

After finding such interesting in-app spending trends, we wanted to understand how this correlates with overall mobile usage. So we took a larger sample of AppLovin data (U.S., aggregate, normalized) over Q1 (Jan 1 – April 30). Because we are a mobile marketing platform, the best way for us to process usage data is to take the number of ad requests processed on over a billion devices in this timeframe and look for trends. From this, we get a great proxy for usage.

Applovin_UsagebyWeekday

We found that there is some correlation between usage and which day of the week revenue peaks. Sunday is the highest day for usage (just like it was the highest day for in-app purchases), with 15.1% of usage occurring on Sundays. And remember how in-app purchases had a “slump day” on Wednesdays? Only 13.7% of the usage per week happens on Wednesday — far lower than any other weekday. The second slowest day in terms of usage is Friday, yet Friday is also the second highest in terms of revenue,

Next, we looked at usage and spending at certain times of the day. We were looking to see if there was a pattern or any similarities between usage and revenue. Again, the answer is “some.”

Applovin_UsagebyHour

We didn’t see a peak in usage during 7:00 – 9:00 am (like we did for in-app purchasing). In fact, the morning hours are much lower (all around) than the evening hours when it comes to usage (perhaps those morning purchasers just know exactly what they want, get it and leave).

But, the evening is still where usage and spending both hit their peaks. 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. are the hours in which usage and revenue crest, respectively. And the 8:00 and 7:00 p.m. hours were the top two in both categories. In general, the same block of the evening (6:00 – 9:00 p.m.) is when both usage and in-app purchasing hit the high point of the day.

What’s it all mean and why does it matter?

In a nutshell, mobile commerce is not the same as online — no surprises there. This means that spending and usage on the two platforms are quite different. Users spend more often during the morning hours before work and the evening hours after work. Advertisers should look to programmatically increase win rates during peak hours and weekends. Mobile marketing platforms’ bidding algorithms will automatically do this, making sure advertisers are getting a high value of exposure at the days and times that matter most.

This data also sheds light on the content of the ads and how to influence engagement. For example, appealing time-based offers or discounts that encourage spending at key times of the day or days of the week will likely encourage engagement.

Part of the appeal of the mobile market is that mobile devices are always present, always connected, always ready for immediate use. As traditional advertising and new forms of digital advertising start to merge, time, as in what people are doing when, becomes more important. That context matters more in mobile than in any other medium. Only when you truly understand these patterns among smartphone users can you leverage their habits to increase revenues. With both mobile in general and sales on mobile continuing to grow, smartphone users will not only be the most relevant demographic, they will soon be the only demographic.

 

John Krystynak is AppLovin’s Chief Technology Officer.

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