Here's What You Didn't Know About Walmart's Rise to App Dominance

Jun 20, 2019

Ninety percent of a mobile user’s time on their device is spent in-app. This is fundamentally changing the way people shop on mobile. It can be hard for shopper marketers to keep up. Especially if they aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

Last month, a Forbes article that featured research on mobile app dominance amongst major brands shared some surprising results. A year after Starbucks was named the leader in mobile app adoption, it was unseated by Walmart. The retail giant had over 58 million US app installs compared to Starbucks’ 44 million.

Walmart’s dominance is no small feat. In addition to toppling Starbucks off its perch, it also passed Amazon and Uber.

As evidence of how quickly app usage and adoption can change the landscape, a Vox article from May 2018 touted Starbucks’ mobile payment capabilities and customer willingness to load and store funds on the app as key reasons for its success. Vox predicted the app to continue its dominance. At the time of the article, Starbucks was leading app adoption over industry leaders, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. Walmart was not even part of the equation.

A year later, Walmart trails just behind Starbucks in how often users load funds to the app. Twenty one percent of Starbucks users load funds “often”, compared to Walmart’s 20 percent, according to the Cornerstone and StrategyCorp research quoted by Forbes.

These insights tell an interesting story of a legacy brand quickly adopting and succeeding in the mobile app ecosystem, But this story very much starts and stops at app downloads and installs. By only considering these metrics, shopper marketers are not getting the bigger picture view. They’re missing out on what their users – and those of their competitors – are actually doing on their devices.

They need to look beyond app installs and app ownership and look at what else users are actually doing. In this case, we know users are loading funds into the app. But how, when and where are they using the app? And what other apps are driving engagement? For that, we dug a little deeper to look at the Walmart shopper’s mobile user journey to answer three key questions.

How loyal is the Walmart app user?

First, we know that Walmart is leading the pack in terms of downloads, but we wanted to see how loyal these users are, and how this may differ between Walmart and Walmart Grocery.

As you can see above, Ogury’s first-party consented data reveals that 91 percent of Walmart Grocery app users are shared with other retailers. Amazon takes up a significant share of that user base, followed by Target. Looking at the Walmart app, only 67 percent of its users are shared with other retailers, with Amazon and Sam’s Club top of the list.  

How does seasonality impact app usage?

We know users leverage both of the Walmart apps, but how does seasonality impact activity? Looking at insights drawn from Ogury’s data, you can see below that users are consistently active on Walmart’s app and site across the year, with a dip in activity over the holiday shopping period.

So where are these users going and why would there be a dip during the holiday shopping period? With holiday shopping being a big revenue driver for not only Walmart but the industry as a whole, I took a look at other retailer activity to understand user behavior. Below you can see that activity increases at retailers including Target, Kroger and Dollar General, as shoppers share their time over the busiest shopping period of the year.

To capitalize on seasonal trends, shopper marketers should look at traffic spikes and dips to formalize competitive strategies to ensure it’s your brand capturing user attention and dollars.

What other apps do Walmart users engage with?

Finally, we wanted to take a look at Walmart’s broader app ecosystem. What other apps were users engaging with? Where else were they shopping? Insights revealed that users engaged with apps from discount shopping stores like Dollar General and Family Dollar, as well as rebate and cashback apps like iBotta and eBates. In addition to these retail apps, users also engaged with QSR apps such as McDonalds and Sonic. This ecosystem paints the average Walmart user as deal savvy and on-the-go. Pertinent insight for shopper marketers to better engage the Walmart shopper.

Looking only at app installs and app ownership puts constraints on shopper marketer’s foresight. It’s akin to only looking at foot traffic at a brick-and-mortar without paying attention to purchase behavior or inventory. With competitors becoming more digitally savvy, it’s vital that shopper marketers become ecosystem aware to better engage their consumers along their user journey, in a complaint, and effective way.

Interested in becoming ecosystem aware? Email me at shopper@ogury.co to learn more.

Drew Childers, VP Midwest Region