Market Data

Gone Shopping…for 100 Billion Hours. Global Retail Apps Smash Records in a Landmark Year for the Market

Gabrielle Bikker

The idea that a shop is a physical building is vanishing fast. Apps are the new stores – personalized, immediate and open 24/7. In 2021, total hours spent inside shopping apps soared to new highs as consumers averaged around 2 billion hours each week.

When will e-commerce be just... commerce?

Surely it can't be long before people stop thinking of digital retail as something new and different from traditional shopping, and start to see it as the norm.

After all, e-commerce is well into its third decade now; Amazon is 28 years old. According to eMarketer, 18% of all retail sales took place via e-commerce in 2020. By 2024, that figure will reach 21.8%. eMarketer says worldwide e-commerce sales were on target for $4.9 trillion in 2021.

It goes without saying that the pandemic sped up an already fast-growing digital retail market. It embedded the habit with existing online/mobile shoppers and introduced it to millions of new consumers. And a significant proportion of this shopping activity was done on mobile and inside apps.

In's State of Mobile 2022 report, the extent to which mobile commerce is established with consumers is revealed in one headline.

Time Spent in Shopping Apps Reached Over 100 Billion Hours in 2021.

Download the State of Mobile 2022 report to compare the growing mobile shopping market across regions.

It's a remarkable landmark. But it's only part of the story. The report also discloses that time spent globally in shopping apps rose nearly 20% year-over-year from 2020. Among the countries with the fastest growth were Indonesia, Singapore and Brazil at 52%, 46% and 45% growth YoY respectively. 

But to grasp the true impact of the COVID-19 period, check out the increase from 2018 to 2021. In a three year period, time spent in shopping apps doubled from 48.7 billion hours.

There was growth in most sectors, but the biggest jumps came in fast fashion, social shopping, and mobile-savvy big-box players.

2021’s #1 breakout retail apps: Meesho and Shopee

Download the State of Mobile 2022 report to see the top breakout apps by downloads and average MAU across 27 markets in the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

The year’s most downloaded breakout app (defined in terms of YoY growth) was India’s Meesho. The product represents an important – if less glamorous – side of the mobile retail market: B2B. 

Meesho powers an online marketplace that connects small and micro business owners with customers via social media channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. The company has been expanding fast and is targeting 100 million users by the end of the year. It certainly has the funds to support its mission. In September 2021, Meesho raised $570 million at a valuation of $4.9 billion.

The #1 app worldwide in terms of monthly active users was Shopee. The Singapore-based company also had a memorable year. In its 2021 financials, Shopee reported GAAP revenue of $5.1 billion, up 136% year on year with gross orders at $6.1 billion, up 117% year on year. Shopee is now active in 13 countries across Asia, South-America and Europe.

One-off shopping specials power interest in retail apps

Shopee also made headlines by selling 2 billion items on its 11.11 Big Sale pre-Christmas shopping day. 

In fact, these one-off online shopping events have become key business drivers for online/mobile retail companies. Amazon Prime Day was arguably the first, but now nearly all major retailers piggyback with rival events as they compete for share of wallet. 

These specials can have a massive impact. For example, according to's State of Mobile 2022 report, Walmart saw sessions in its app rise more than 20% YoY during its "Deals for Days" promotion. 

US homeware retailer Bed Bath & Beyond saw one of the biggest percentage jumps in app usage. Its Beyond Big Savings Event ran from June 20 to June 22 alongside Amazon’s Prime Day. It increased total sessions in the app by 157% YoY.

Global Brand Shopping Apps Gain Ground on Local Products

Download the State of Mobile 2022 report to see how downloads of native and Overseas-HQ’d apps compare region by region.

The popularity of apps such as Shopee in overseas markets reflects a wider trend towards globalization of the retail app space. The State of Mobile 2022 report shows the extent to which the market is shifting to non-native-based brands in many regions. 

Of all the major countries Mexico has the biggest share of downloads by overseas-HQ'd publishers – 84% in 2021. Others worthy of note are Argentina (78%) France (77%), Australia (75%) and Canada (75%).

The chart also reveals the regions with the highest loyalty to local brands. In the US, just 34% of downloads are of overseas-HQ'd apps. This means that 66% of all US Shopping app downloads were downloads of US-based brands. China and South Korea were some of the top regions when it came to native-HQ’d app downloads – in China it's 32% and in South Korea 28%.

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April 1, 2022

Market Data

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