What is driving the growth of mcommerce?

Building on the momentum of a major pandemic rebound, m-commerce sales continue to grow, albeit at the lowest pace in years. Growth will pick up again in 2023 and stay above 13% through 2026, when U.S. retail sales approach $700 billion, or more than 41% of retail e-commerce total.

The long-term curve of mcommerce sales aligns closely with e-commerce trends, such as the rise of click-and-collect sales and the growth of large e-commerce retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. But not all mcommerce trends follow the larger e-commerce story.

People are more comfortable downloading shopping apps, but they only use a handful:

  • Shopping apps have seen a huge pandemic bump. In 2019, shopping apps had 122.6 million users, but that figure rose to 155.0 million in 2022, or 64.2% of US smartphone users aged 14 and older, according to estimates from eMarketer. Additionally, the top three app categories that grew the fastest over the past year were retail or adjacent retail: grocery, food delivery, and shopping/retail.
  • The number of apps people use overall decliningfrom an average of 21 during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 to 18.3 in 2026. Although people continue to use more types of apps than before, they choose a few apps they like best in each category.

The increase in the number of retail application users corresponds to a increased time spent on them. In the United States, time spent on Android shopping apps topped 100 billion hours in 2021, up from 48.70 billion in 2018, according to a January 2022 Data.ai (formerly App Annie) report.

Not all shopping apps contribute to mcommerce sales. Many consumers see apps as a way to enhance in-store and online shopping, not necessarily a way to buy. In fact, this past holiday season, more people still expected to complete their shopping journey on a mobile or desktop website.

Mcommerce remains split between a few apps and a long tail of retail and branded mobile websites:

  • Amazon at No. 6 and Walmart at No. 21 were the only retailers in the top 25 apps visited by US smartphone users in March 2022, according to Comscore. Amazon had a reach of 50% of smartphone users.
  • Amazon tops shopping app downloads in 2021, with Shein and Shop as the next most downloaded apps, according to Apptopia. (Shop, Shopify’s consumer app, is more for tracking packages than browsing deals for most people, so its high ranking as a shopping app is a bit misleading.) Walmart ranked fourth and was the only traditional retailer in the top 10.

Read the full report.