Unwrapping festive mobile app trends over the 2023 holiday season
The holiday season is a prime time for mobile app usage, offering shopping, entertainment, and even options for stress relief. For mobile app marketers, it’s a crucial time to capitalize on the impact of changing consumer behavior and shifts in user habits day to day.
To provide app marketers with valuable insights into user behavior during the holiday season, we took a look at Adjust data to explore global mobile app engagement patterns in more depth. Our analysis aims to understand the trends that developed across the span of December into the new year, particularly in the final week of the year as festivities were at their peak.
Consumers hustle hard before the Holiday hush
At a glance: When analyzing Adjust data over the 2023 holiday season, we noticed five central themes:
- Shopping preparation starts early.
- Health apps get a boost in the first week of December.
- Parents seek educational entertainment and a helping hand at mealtime as school lets out.
- The week of Christmas is all about well-earned relaxation after the festive frenzy with gaming and entertainment apps stepping into the spotlight.
- New year groundwork kicked off on the 27th as consumers began getting their ducks in a row for the start of 2024.
It’s also worth noting that the first Monday of the month, as well as Christmas Day, the 30th, and 31st, were pronouncedly the highest engaged days of the month across verticals.
Early elves: Gift buying begins on day one
The final month of the year unsurprisingly kicked off with preparation for gift buying. Shopping app installs peaked on the first day of December at 25% above the month’s daily average, with installs of the overall e-commerce vertical occurring just two days later, on the 3rd.
One week later, these new customers are ready to shop; shopping app sessions reached their pinnacle on the 8th, and overall e-commerce apps followed two days later on the 10th, each at 14% above December’s daily average. This trend underscores the eagerness of consumers to start their holiday shopping early, seeking the convenience and variety offered by digital apps.
Tip for e-commerce apps: Don’t stop after Black Friday; run your user acquisition campaigns in the lead-up to the first weekend in December and switch to focusing on increasing average revenue per user over the second weekend of the month with rewards programs, urgency-based push notifications, and cross-selling or upselling.
Pre-feast fitness: Health apps spike before the splurge
As the month progressed, a shift in focus towards health and wellness was evident. At the beginning of the first full week of December, calorie tracker apps, sleep apps, and educational brain training apps all saw their height of the month’s installs on Monday the 4th at 27%, 30%, and 33% above the month’s daily average, respectively. The following day, installs of exercise class apps skyrocketed to a remarkable 71% above the month’s daily average.
Further proof of this transition is seen in the sessions of exercise class apps, up a marked 90%, and calorie tracker app sessions, up 22% on the daily average on December 5. Fitness tracker app sessions followed closely at 12% above average on December 6. The week is capped with educational game sessions, which increased to 21% above average on both December 9 and December 10. These figures reflect a proactive approach by consumers to balance holiday indulgence with health consciousness.
Tip for health apps: Session spikes follow install spikes closely, indicating that new users are highly engaged. Be mindful of this, particularly for subscription-based apps that may lose new users after a free trial. Foster relationships with these new users.
Household harmony: School's out, apps are in
Anticipation of the onset of school holiday breaks brought another shift in app installs. We saw food delivery app installs peak at 14% above average on the 9th, indicating foresight into the need for a helping hand as Christmas dinner preparation takes precedence in the kitchen. Educational games followed, reaching the height of their installs on the 13th, suggesting an intention of keeping children engaged and learning during their time off. Sessions further reflect this trend, with family game sessions cresting on the 20th at 22% above the month’s daily average sessions.
Interestingly, dating apps also saw a significant uptick in interest, with installs on December 10 15% higher than the daily average for December. This increase could allude to a desire for companionship and connection during the festive season. As the final countdown to Christmas began, the urgency in completing gift and grocery buying was palpable. On the 21st, shopping app sessions jumped to 35% above the daily average.
Tip for all apps: Parents are on the lookout for festive aid as Christmas nears. Consider parenting-specific marketing; prepare by deep-diving your data analysis for insights into any applicable segments in your existing or target audience. Apply these learnings to your campaigns in the two weeks before Christmas.
Post-prep play: Unwinding after the holiday rush
From Christmas onwards, consumers begin to wind down and relax, as evidenced by a marked rise in mobile game installs. Racing game installs kicked off the vertical’s wave, peaking on Christmas Eve. This was followed by a significant increase in family and board game installs on Christmas Day. Sessions for gaming apps, however, didn’t see their maximums until New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile, the little ones in the family were looked after with an impressive 46% increase in early learning app installs above December’s daily average on the 25th. While it may have been unsurprising to see photo editing app installs reach their pinnacle on the 25th, it was perhaps more unexpected to also see deal discovery app installs climax on Christmas Day. This indicates that shopping activities were far from over, with users still looking for post-Christmas deals and sales.
App users pivot their attention to the new year
As 2023 came to its conclusion, users turned their focus to 2024. Starting on the 27th, there was a significant rise in the installs of organizer apps at 47% above the daily average for the month. Bank app installs also saw an increase on December 27, at 19% above the average, as users likely began managing their finances post-holiday spending.
In terms of health and wellness, overall health app installs were 17% above the daily average on the 27th, with a more pronounced increase for health and fitness apps, which peaked at 36% above average on the 28th. Sessions followed a similar pattern. Travel discovery and restaurant booking apps spiked on the 30th, followed by early learning app sessions at 61% above average on the 31st. These trends underscore a collective inclination towards health-conscious resolutions and planning as the new year approaches.
With plans now in place for a positive start to the new year, users returned to mobile gaming. December 30 saw a peak in various gaming subverticals, including word games, trivia, role play, and card games. Strategy (+34%) and simulation game installs (+28%), as well as overall game app installs (+23%), reached their high points on the 31st.
Tip for gaming apps: While consumers take it easy on December 25 and the final Saturday of the year, these are key days to run your user acquisition campaigns. Then, with sessions at their height on December 31, investigate the correlation between metrics like in-app purchases and session lengths in order to identify your target KPIs and strategize your engagement campaigns accordingly.
Kicking off the new year with mobile apps
Taking a closer look at this end-of-year upsurge in mobile games, we can see that it continues into the new year. However, we see somewhat lower spikes in sessions of the same subverticals, indicating a strong opportunity for marketers of gaming apps to strategize how to quickly engage new users.
As the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins, it's hardly surprising to see a significant uplift in health and education app installs. This trend reflects the common resolutions of new beginnings and self-improvement that the new year brings.
The health and education surge was distinctly reflected in the calorie tracker subvertical, with installs 159% above the previous month’s daily average, and the fitness tracker subvertical, with installs 71% above December’s average on January 1. The growth of installs in these subverticals, both of which shed light on data and statistics, could point to an advantage for apps offering personalized data analysis and peer benchmarking for their users.
We're eager to observe how these trends will further unfold in 2024. The shifts in user habits and behavior during the festive period have been profound, and they set the stage for what's to come in the dynamic world of mobile apps. For marketers, the focus now shifts to not just attracting but retaining the users who engaged with their apps during this peak time.
Throughout the coming year, we will continue to monitor these trends, providing valuable insights that can guide app marketers and advertisers in navigating this ever-evolving landscape. Keep an eye out for our next mobile app trends report, coming in February. In the meantime, check out our 2023 mobile app growth report, or request a demo of Adjust to learn how to put your data analytics to use in 2024.
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