The Fiksu Blog

Apple’s new Shopping category changes the game for retailers and other Lifestyle apps

App Store Logo Broken

Update 2: Looks like it was just a slow rollout. The shopping category is now appearing in iTunes and the iOS App Store – although the big-name shopping apps are still not showing up on the All Categories top chart. Amazon, iBotta, and Target’s Cartwheel, for example, were all in the top 40 overall before the change – and are not found in the top ranks at all right now.

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Update 1: While the changes we talk about below are still likely to happen, it seems as though there have been some problems with the transition. As of this writing, most shopping apps have been removed from the Lifestyle category – but the Shopping category is not yet accessible from iTunes on iOS.

The net result is that leading shopping apps like Amazon, Ibotta, Target’s Cartwheel, and Groupon – all of which had been in the top 100 overall – are now only found through direct search, not in any top charts.

We expect that this is a temporary front-end glitch, and that when it’s corrected app ranks will update back to where they should be. But shopping apps should watch out for lower-than-expected organic downloads until it’s corrected.

Also surprising is the number of shopping apps that are still in the Lifestyle top charts. Close5, Shopkick, and ChicMe are all very shopping-focused — and that’s just in the top 20. It’s not yet clear how much leeway app publishers will have when it comes to choosing between the two categories. (Click to enlarge) 

lifestyle-top-chart

Original post follows.

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Yesterday, Apple released an App Store update that created a new top-level app category: Shopping. E-commerce apps that had been a mainstay of the extremely busy Lifestyle category, including long-time chart-toppers like Amazon, eBay, and Groupon, now have a dedicated category all their own.

The move was made to prepare for two massive shopping holidays: it’s three weeks until Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, but it’s also just a week before China’s Singles Day. The new category will include product review apps, coupon and deal of the day apps, specific retailers’ apps, and more.

So what does it mean to app marketers? We’ll break it into two groups: those moving to the new Shopping category, and those staying behind in the suddenly less crowded Lifestyle category.

For Shopping apps

We expect that the Shopping category is going to start competitive and get worse. With a launch timed for the already-competitive holiday season, you can expect major e-commerce players—both those with brick and mortar backgrounds and pure digital players—to invest heavily in claiming their spot at the top of the rankings.

Why the rush? Last year saw mobile surpass digital in terms of the volume of traffic to shopping sites, and that advantage is likely to get more pronounced this year. Sales volume isn’t quite as mobile-heavy yet, but a significant share of purchases will be made on mobile and that share will also continue to increase.

The net result for retail apps is, while a dedicated shopping category is great for discoverability, getting to the top is going to take some significant effort and spending, so if capturing mobile users is a focus for your business this quarter, you better be ready to make a significant investment in mobile user acquisition.

For Lifestyle apps

For the apps that will remain in the Lifestyle category—a grab bag of dating, messaging, home decorating, horoscopes, and more—there’s a bigger opportunity. With e-commerce apps holding a huge majority of the top spots until today, there’s suddenly a lot less competition for the top spots.

Our estimates show that the downloads per day required to get to the top spot on the free Lifestyle apps chart will drop from around 75K to 30K—a huge drop.  And getting a spot in the top 5 will be even more within reach for many apps, going from 45K – 50K down to 20K or lower.

Here, the takeaway is that a concentrated burst of promotion may be more effective than usual as the new ranking settle into place. You’ll see a jump in rank simply because of the number of apps leaving the category – but why settle for that? Getting your lifestyle app to the top of the charts might be easier than ever.

The most wonderful time of the year

As we’ve demonstrated before, there’s always a surge in app usage around the end of the year—but not just at Christmas. Historical Fiksu data shows that app downloads are generally higher in January than December, as users continue to fill up their new phones with apps. So if slugging your way to the top of the charts during the ultracompetitive Q4 isn’t appealing, you can always consider delaying your push until early in January.

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