I just studied 300B ad impressions, 9B clicks, 400M app installs, and $1.1 billion in marketing spend by hundreds of marketers over an entire year.

The key thing I found?

Marketers need to be flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing conditions including cost and consumer interest, because they shift weekly and even daily in the holiday season. A cast-in-stone marketing plan made last quarter just won't cut it.

And sticking to a plan instead of adapting to conditions is going to cost you money and market share.

My full report is available here (full disclosure: I analyze data patterns for Singular). But the biggest thing I learned is that click-through rate (CTR), a good indicator of consumer interest, is only very loosely related to marketing intensity: the degree to which marketers are pushing rope up a hill.

Translation: marketers buy lots of ad space at times at the wrong time.

One key example in the current Thanksgiving-Black-Friday-Cyber-Monday retail extravaganza: shopping apps. Shopping apps are critically important for retailers. Amazon could take as much as 50% of the ecommerce pie this year, and a big reason is its mobile app, which has close to a billion users -- far more than any other retailer -- and sucks customers away from competing retailers. Not surprisingly, m-commerce continues to have a double-digit growth rate.

In the Shopping vertical, Singular sees 17% more app installs for Thanksgiving compared to Christmas. 

The most interesting part, however, is this: marketing activity for the Thanksgiving holiday peaks about 10 days before Black Friday, dropping about 30% on the actual holiday weekend. But actual conversions peak much closer to Thanksgiving, jumping 5% from the previous week. 

One reason: intent to purchase is higher, driving click-through rates and app installs ... and, ultimately, purchases.

In other words: when marketers are marketing is not always when consumers are buying.

I saw the same trend in the productivity vertical. In fact, you could call productivity apps the poster children for uncommon marketing sense ... or perhaps lack of common sense.


Marketing activity and ad spend for productivity apps is highest in July through November, but that's not when people are most interested in productivity apps. In fact, CTR is 63% higher in February than in July. Actual app installs grow significantly in the later part of the year, thanks to massive marketing pressure, but smart growth marketers are likely to find pockets of opportunity earlier in the year when people are actually thinking about self-improvement.

The key factor for smart marketers?

Understand the cycle for your vertical, then game the system. Find out when everyone else is marketing and plan accordingly. You're not going to stop marketing during your vertical's top seasons, but you are likely to find pockets of increased profitability in down times as well.

Some verticals, like Productivity, are counterintuitive. App installs and effective cost-per-install (eCPI) are inversely correlated, and when impressions are high at the end of the year, CTR is very low. The lesson to be learned: marketers should be in sync with their customers. Massive marketing pressure is great, but overcoming consumers' natural cycles is challenging. Working with their rhythms will tend to be more cost-effective.

Marketers who understand this can drive engagement, retention, and profitability with far less expense.

The full report is available here.