The Best Time to Market Your Mobile App? The Week Between Christmas and New Year’s

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By Scott Tomkins, GM of US, VP of Revenue at Digital Turbine Media

Key Takeaways:

  • New device owners install 3x more apps in their first 90 days compared to consumers that have had their device for over a year, in the same 90-day time period
  • The holidays are BIG on new device sales – meaning there are a lot of new device owners hot to trot on new apps
  • When 67% of consumers don’t download apps, that makes the period following new device purchases prime time for UA campaigns
  • Advertisers should expand their holiday focus beyond Christmas Day and look past traditional UA campaigns to reach new device owners

Advertisers traditionally “go home for the holidays” and shut down their advertising campaigns right at Christmas. If you are doing this, however, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to reach millions of consumers. Every year on the holidays, shiny new smartphones are given as presents – and research shows that these new device owners install as many as 3x more apps as those that have had their phone for longer periods. This makes AFTER Christmas prime time for app marketers, as a large pool of potential prospects will be looking to deck out their new toy with the best apps.

New Devices Yield New Installs

While it’s common for the shopping sprees and retail bonanzas to slow down after the holidays, the week between Christmas and New Year is “the most prolific for device activations, app downloads and app usage,” writes Peter Farargo of Flurry Analytics. It’s easy to see why. Phoenix Marketing International shows that new device owners install an average of 10 apps in the first 3 months – while those who own phones over a year old install one-third of that.

It’s been a growing trend among US consumers to download a few if any, new apps. Phoenix Marketing reports that only 16% of users surveyed “install apps frequently, while 55% “rarely or never” install apps. That changes with the arrival of a new device. This “ready to install mindset” should have app marketers fighting for ways to get their app in front of new device owners. And the most finite time for this is right after the holidays.

Mobile Devices are Popular Holiday Gifts

In 2019, 74% of U.S. adults said they planned on buying “a tech product” as a holiday gift, and based on the number of devices shipped during last year’s holiday season, many of those tech products were mobile phones. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple shipped 72.9 million iPhones, and Samsung sold 70 million Galaxies in the fourth quarter of last year. That’s 143 million people with new phones to activate.

Historical data points to another spike in the fourth quarter of 2020, but I suspect the spike to be a bit more pronounced than in the past. I say this for two reasons. First, as 5G coverage increases, more people will want a 5G-enabled phone. Second, already we see school districts postponing the start of in-person learning due to COVID. If the pandemic jumps as winter approaches, as many people fear, families will need additional devices to keep all of their members connected with teachers, classmates and coworkers.

The Gift of the Gift

The popularity of the mobile device gift is a gift to mobile app marketers. As Flurry Analytics reports, new device owners are keen to trick-up their new phones and tablets with apps. It’s a lot easier to prompt a user to try a new app when they are inactive discovery mode, just as it is easier to get a consumer’s attention for a new car model when they are actively shopping for a new vehicle.

This is precisely why I believe app marketers should adjust their UA campaign budgets to extend beyond the holidays; tens of millions of people will become new device owners and will begin a journey of app discovery in the days and weeks after they open their gifts. Considering that phone owners will eventually return to their normal “Scrooge”-like install attitude, investing on post-holiday UA campaigns will yield a “Wonderful, wonderful life” for app publishers.

Another tactic to consider is to piggyback off of the advertising campaigns that device manufacturers and OEM will launch during the holidays. App marketers have a lot to offer device manufacturers and telcos: the ability to distinguish their devices with cool apps pre-loaded onto the device. New device users might not think they need or want, say, weather or a fitness app, but once discovered, they might start using them (full disclosure: it never occurred to me to count steps, but once I discovered the app on my phone, I became obsessed.)

And there’s one final consideration: advertising costs. Post-holiday CPMs decline, as there is less competition for eyeballs. Marketers just may find that their media spend goes farther than it did pre-holiday. Let stronger ROAS be the gift you give your company this holiday season.

Scott Tomkins serves as the Senior Vice President of Global Revenue for Digital Turbine where he leads revenue and strategy for Digital Turbine’s media business. With over 20 years’ experience in the mobile app ecosystem, he has influenced mobile-first strategies for hundreds of top mobile properties. Before the acquisition, Scott served as Appia’s Vice President of Advertising and Publishing. He was a founding partner of Autostream Media, and head of sales at Digital Performance Inc. Scott’s passion for unique products and innovative ideas positioned as “too hard to sell” make him an invaluable partner to brands worldwide.

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