App Annie helps Japanese unicorn Mercari drive success in the US market




Tokyo, Japan

Most popular app:


Learn more about Intelligence

The backstory

Mercari, a peer-to-peer mobile marketplace app from Japan, launched in July 2013 and found immediate success with its intuitive design and streamlined payment process. Users post photos of items they wish to sell, and buyers can easily negotiate the price. Mercari quickly outperformed other auction and marketplace services in Japan, and in March 2016 the company closed a round of funding worth 8.4 billion yen (about $75 million) — more than enough to earn attention as a so-called “unicorn.”

Mercari had global expansion in its sights from early on, and decided to launch their service in the United States in September 2014.

Finding success in the US market with App Annie Intelligence

Predictably, succeeding in the US market wasn’t without its challenges. The first of these was understanding Mercari’s competitors in the US and knowing where they ranked in comparison to one another, recounts Takuya Ishizuki, data scientist at Mercari. “App Annie provided detailed data on our US competitors so we could set realistic benchmarks and improve on our existing app strategies.”

With success early on in Japan, Ishizuki says his team had mastered the appropriate strategies to outperform the competition. “It’s relatively easy for us to gauge the size of our operations — and those of our competitors — by sourcing information from local networks in Japan,” he says. “But we didn’t have that understanding when we entered North America, and market data was what we needed.”

That’s when they turned to App Annie Intelligence for detailed app download, revenue, demographic and usage estimates for all of Mercari’s US competitors in the retail space. “This information proved to be essential for us to improve our user acquisition strategy and drive a high volume of quality downloads in a new market,” Ishizuki says.

Evaluating strategy with a variety of metrics

While amassing a large number of downloads in the US, Mercari also needed to focus on retaining the new users installing their app. Ishizuki says that analyzing their competitors’ retention strategies through App Annie Intelligence provided them with meaningful insights for their own app strategy.

“We looked at a combination of active users, time spent in app, install penetration and usage penetration — all available on App Annie — to deduce the actual impact of retention tactics for our competitors’ apps,” he says. “If you look at just active users in isolation, it can seem effective, but those numbers include users who came only on one day or who closed the app straight after opening it.”

After examining the impact of retention tactics on a competitor’s app with App Annie data, the Mercari team was able to develop their own strategies based on what they believed was working best.

User acquisition goes global

Mercari is now implementing a carefully calculated user acquisition strategy. At the end of July 2016, Mercari surged as high as #3 on the iOS App Store for free downloads in the US. To build out their own advertising strategy, the team uses App Annie Intelligence to evaluate the effectiveness of traditional and digital ad campaigns by measuring change in downloads over the campaign flight.

“Going forward, we plan to study how other companies use creative advertising. We are really interested to see what campaigns work abroad,” Ishizuki says. Only time — and App Annie Intelligence data — will tell what Mercari accomplishes next.

More Customer Stories


Coca-Cola uses App Annie to help amaze and delight its customers


MUJI heading for retail success with


Shopkick uses App Annie Intelligence to bridge digital and mobile shopping