The Christmas season is widely known as the most commercialized holiday of the year. And as more people shop online, apps are becoming the hot new gift to give.

Year over year, digital gift-giving increases, which is great news for developers. In this article, we’ll take a look at shopping trends, digital gift-giving, and what the future holds.

Christmas Shopping Online: The Data

In general, people shop the same way that they do during other times of the year…they just do more of it. Here are a few statistics that reveal how successful app-shopping has become in recent years:

  • In 2013, worldwide iOS app downloads spiked 53% and the average revenue increased 56% on Christmas day, compared to any other day in December. Western countries saw the biggest jumps: USA revenue nearly doubled, while UK revenue increased by 161%.
  • Average app downloads on Christmas day in 2013 rose 91% versus other average days in December.
  • Analytics firm comScore predicts that online holiday spending will increase 16% this year.
  • Thanksgiving weekend didn’t disappoint either: for the first time in history, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday broke records this year with a combined online sales total of $2.51 billion.

Revenue and downloads continue to grow year after year, though last year’s spikes were slightly smaller than 2012’s, which were slightly smaller than 2011’s, according to Distrimo. This is to be expected, since these download volumes are probably tied directly to the number of new devices flooding the mobile economy. As the global marketplace becomes more saturated, existing customers will be less enthralled by apps, and new customers will shrink as the market becomes more saturated.

It is also only natural that overall industry growth will slow for this very same reason – that is, there are only so many people in the world who can get smartphones.

How People Shop Online During the Holidays

Thanksgiving weekend and the Christmas holidays see more purchases and a few changes in shopping behavior. Yes, app stores are still the number one place to download new apps. But certain types of digital goods have a higher chance for success than others.

Here are a few:

  • Vouchers and Gift Cards – It’s not always easy to buy gifts for someone else. Parents, for instance, can have a hard time keeping up with their kids’ interests. Vouchers and gift cards are a popular solution to this problem.
  • Premium and Paid Apps – For most of the year, many people will be hard-pressed to pay even a dollar for an app. But during the holidays, that all changes. The excitement of a new smartphone or tablet – especially when combined with gift cards – entices people to spend more on Christmas.
  • App Bundles – Another common way for people to explore apps with new devices is to purchase bundles, a package containing multiple apps. Often but not always, developers reduce the price of the individual apps as an incentive.
  • Christmas Apps – Christmas-themed apps, such as apps that decorate photos with holiday designs, also do well around the holidays.
  • Wish lists – People build up wish lists over the year, then splurge during the holidays.

The Future of the Digital Christmas

Though the smartphone marketplace is continuing to set new annual records, every developer knows that the industry is undergoing constant change. What does the future hold for the digital Christmas shopping season?

Examining the current data offers some insight:

  • The growth of the online Christmas spikes won’t continue forever. As mentioned above, there are only so many people in the world who can purchase smartphones. The available consumer market will shrink, which will make it more difficult for new developers to enter the industry.
  • As the smartphone market growth slows down, expect to see new markets emerge to soak up the extra holiday cash. Wearable technology such as the Apple Watch will have hit the shelves by 2015. Developers will have plenty of time to create apps and monetize the new technology before the holiday season arrives. Even if the mobile phone app market plateaus at some point, the wearable technology market will probably begin to grow in its place.
  • The app marketplace will probably look different in a few years. The above factors – namely, the saturation of the mobile phone market and the introduction of wearables – will certainly contribute to a mobile app marketplace that looks different than today’s. However, the smartphone market itself will look different: today, we are seeing major brands eating up home screen real estate with app constellations, which will make things harder for smaller companies. However others think that mobile apps themselves will change shape, and turn into content notification systems.

Regardless of what future Christmases hold for technology and the industry, this time of the year is an excellent time to monetize apps and market your products. 

Marketing All I Want for Christmas Is an App: How People Shop Online and What the Future Holds