Mobile marketers are promoting apps on their own timetables, not on consumer readiness, and the result is wasted time, effort, and money, according to the holiday trends report by marketing intelligence firm Singular.

The report from San Francisco-based Singular details how mobile publishers are promoting their apps, and what opportunities some of them are missing.

“Timing is critical,” said Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv, in a statement. “Syncing what you’re trying to promote with what mobile users are primed to want can easily have double-digit impacts on success. Smart marketers understand consumer sentiment.”

The conclusions summed up below come from an analysis of $1.1 billion in ad spend, 292 billion ad impressions, almost 9 billion clicks/taps on ads, and more than 400 million app installs.

App marketers missing optimal times

Above: Singular

Image Credit: Singular

People spend the majority of their digital time on mobile apps and games now. That’s why acquiring mobile customers and users is more critical. The problem: App marketers might be missing some of their best chances to acquire new users and customers by advertising at suboptimal times.

That leads to hundreds of millions in wasted ad dollars, and even more in lost potential revenue, Singular concluded.

Singular analyzed over a billion dollars in ad spend to learn when mobile marketers spend the most to acquire users. But it also looked at the results of that advertising to understand when consumers — including gamers, shoppers, and travelers — are most receptive to ads.

Game installs versus costs

Game app installs versus costs.

Above: Game app installs versus ad costs.

Image Credit: Singular

Game installs are highest in December, when many want to try out shiny new devices. But the costs of getting those installs peaks in September, meaning that game companies who advertise closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas can achieve better results with the same budget.

Publishers with patience can also promote their games — or time their launches — just a few months later. Mobile game installs are 20 percent cheaper in March and 12 percent cheaper in June.

Promoting other apps

Productivity apps are the poster children for uncommon marketing 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, ad click-through rate is 63 percent higher in February than in July.

Actual installs grow significantly in the later part of the year, thanks to massive marketing pressure, but smart growth marketers are much more likely to find pockets of opportunity early in the year when people are actually thinking about self-improvement and New Year’s resolutions.

Shopping during the Thanksgiving holiday season

Nowhere is that more clear than in the shopping category.

Overall marketing activity for the Thanksgiving holiday peaks about 10 days before Black Friday, dropping about 30 percent on the actual holiday weekend. But actual conversions hit the high-water mark much closer to Thanksgiving, jumping 5 percent from the previous week.

In the shopping category specifically, most app installs happen the exact week of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events as merchants promote their apps with mobile-only deals and other incentives. Interestingly, however, the cost per install peaks the week after.

And Christmas

The most expensive app installs in the Christmas time frame are for food and drink apps.

The cost of acquiring a new customer for food and drink app jumps almost 60 percent in December from annual lows as marketers try desperately to acquire new users during the holiday season.

Smart app marketers focus on acquiring customers throughout the year while establishing a habit of engagement, use, and purchase/reservation that will survive Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Conclusions

The lesson is clear: Marketers need to know the specific cycle for their own vertical, and adapt accordingly in real time. Long-term marketing plans probably don’t make a lot of sense in the fast-paced mobile marketing; agility in the face of changing costs and conversion rates drives better results.

But experienced mobile marketers know that cost per install (CPI) is only relevant to their return on ad spend. Cheap users/customers are expensive if they don’t provide a return. Expensive users/customers are cheap if they retain, engage, and buy or consume ads.

Ultimately, what’s clear is that macro trends like seasonal holidays drive consumer behavior, but marketers often try to drive trends instead of riding them. While seasonal trends drive consumer behavior, smart user acquisition arbitrage based on changing costs and consumer interest is key to maximizing conversions and profitability, Singular said.