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Why Retail Advertising Should Be Mobile First in 2020

Team InMobi
12 min read
Posted on October 13, 2020

In both the short term and the long term, retail advertising should be centered around mobile devices and mobile apps. Increasingly, it’s the best marketing strategy for boosting retail sales. 

To get a better sense of what potential buyers are looking for from retail stores, InMobi recently commissioned a survey using InMobi Pulse, InMobi’s mobile market research solution. The poll reached a diverse panel over 1,600 adults from across the United States, asking questions around what will draw people to local stores and online shopping portals, particularly during the upcoming 2020 holiday shopping season. 

Here’s what our research found. 

1) Mobile is Increasingly A Key Point of Purchase 

Many Americans say they will be researching and buying gifts (including products and services) from their mobile devices this holiday season. Overall, 62% said they would be browsing and buying gifts from mobile this year, with 67% of all women saying the same thing. 

More Americans will be buying from mobile in 2020 than in 2019. Compared to last year, 47% said they will be buying more from mobile this year, while 44% said mobile device usage would remain the same. Only 9% said they would be buying less from mobile this year. 

Most of this mobile shopping is happening on app too. While 47% said they would be using mobile websites for their holiday shopping, 76% said would be using mobile apps for the same purpose. This difference is especially stark with women (45% using mobile web versus 83% using mobile apps).  

Action: Not only is mobile in-app advertising table stakes going forward, but it’s also critical for retailers to invest in both their own mobile apps and popular third-party retail apps. In fact, there should be a sense of urgency towards getting first-party apps up to par, since they are key to both how consumers learn about and buy items. 

2) Retail’s Mobile Target Audience Includes Older Millennials, Gen X and Parents 

While mobile shopping is shaping up to be popular with just about everyone this holiday season, it seems to be especially popular with both people between 36 and 45 years old and those with adult children still at home.  

For instance, 71% of those between 36 and 45 said they would be buying and browsing on mobile this holiday season, compared to 62% overall. And, over half of those in this age group (56%) said they would be buying more from mobile in 2020 compared to 2019. Further, while 48% of Americans between 36 and 45 said they would be using mobile websites for their holiday shopping, a whopping 85% said would be using mobile apps for the same purpose. 

We saw similar trends with adults who have children over 18 still living at home. Not only did 54% of those in this cohort say they would be buying on mobile more this year compared to last year, but they would also more likely to use mobile apps or mobile websites (71% versus 49%). 

Parents with young kids were also more likely than average to be using mobile as part of their holiday shopping journey. For one, 69% of parents with younger kids said they would be both buying and browsing from mobile this year. In addition, they were more likely than the typical American to favor mobile apps over mobile webpages (78% for apps compared to 53% for mobile websites). 

Action: Leverage InMobi custom audiences to identify and target these consumers in retail ad campaigns. This can help to ensure that retailers are reaching their best audiences when running mobile in-app advertising. 

3) Mobile Advertising Should Be Used for Bringing Customers to Both Online Stores and Brick and Mortar Locations 

As our research shows, mobile advertising is far more effective than traditional forms of advertising like local newspaper ad buys for retailers looking to drive sales this holiday season. Overall, 53% said they discover new products through mobile ads, with rates being even higher for those between 36 and 45 years old (59%) and those with adult children at home (58%). 

Top Retail Mobile Ad Formats 

Video ads are more likely to be noticed than any other ad format, with 42% saying they notice these kinds of ads on their mobile devices. Video was followed by native ads (40%), banners (29%) and interstitial ads (25%). 

People between the ages of 36 and 45 notice mobile ads at a much higher rate than their peers. Not only do 53% of people in this age range say they notice mobile video ads, but 46% said they noticed native ads while a whopping 43% said they noticed banner ads. 

Top App Categories for Retail Mobile Advertising 

Where do consumers notice mobile ads? The top answer was social apps (45%) followed by gaming apps (38%). Interestingly, only 36% said they noticed ads on mobile websites. 

But it is worthwhile to note that different types of in-app ad placements perform better with certain groups than others. For example, people between the ages of 26 and 35 are more likely than others to notice ads in social apps, while women are more likely than men to say they notice ads in gaming apps. In addition, people with young kids are far more likely than the general population to notice ads in streaming apps, men reported the highest rates of ad noticing in news apps. 

Best Call to Actions for Mobile Ads 

After seeing an ad for a product that interests them, what action do Americans usually take? By far the top answer across the board was visit the brand’s website, with 60% saying this was their most common next step. 

This is a critical insight for retailers running mobile ads to consider. In light of this step, brands must make sure that there is a smooth transition between the mobile app environment and the mobile web page.  

It’s important to know that, as stated previously many consumers don’t want to buy from a mobile website. This shows that mobile ads can help with discovery and mid-funnel prospecting, but not always direct sales; only 15% said purchased a product directly after seeing an ad. 

Our research did find that mobile ads can be highly effective at driving footfall to brick and mortar stores. After visit a brand’s website, find a brand’s location to visit was the second-most commonly cited post-ad action step.  

In addition, 18% said they either opened or downloaded a brand’s app after seeing their ad; around a quarter of those between the ages of 26 and 45 said they took this action after seeing an ad for a product that interested them. Yet again, this highlights why retailers should invest in their own app and not solely rely on third-party e-commerce stores. 

Action: Embrace mobile advertising (especially in-app advertising) for out-of-store and in-store advertising, since it is often seen and is effective. However, retailers need to make sure they are investing in the right kinds of ad creatives for their target audience, and that they are showing up in the right kinds of apps. Retail mobile ads should also include an appropriate call to action that will likely lead to results. 

4) Expect Increasing Sales of Clothing and Electronics from M-Commerce 

Over half (55%) said they would be buying clothing, shoes and/or bags from their mobile devices this holiday season. This is hardly surprising, as our reporting from last year found the same thing to be true then. 

What else will consumers be buying from their mobile devices this holiday season? Other popular categories include personal electronics (43%), toys (40%), home items like décor, furniture and kitchenware (34%) and beauty and personal care items (31%). Again, this all largely aligns with what our 2019 research uncovered.  

And it shows that Americans are not really making impulse buys on mobile. The kinds of items that consumers are buying using their mobile devices during the holiday shopping season are often major purchases. Many of the top spending categories are marquee spending items, which consumers typically don’t buy on a whim. 

Action: Retailers with offerings in these categories should both embrace mobile advertising and ensure they have quality mobile shopping channels established. 

2020 Holiday Shopping: A Special Event or Business As Usual? 

In many ways, 2020 is very different than any other year when it comes to retail shopping patterns. After all, not only are people more likely to stay at home and avoid crowded indoor spaces, but many people have been economically impacted by COVID-19. 

And yet, in other ways, 2020 shopping trends are not that different than what has been observed in the past. Mobile shopping was on the rise even before 2020, and our data shows that it is indeed here to stay. Mobile continues to be a key part of the retail shopping experience. 

What do you think of our survey results? What will the 2020 holiday shopping experience actually look like? We’d love to hear from you on social media! You can reach out to us on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook

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