By Mark Ellis, CEO of Liftoff

Gender may be a social construct, but it wields enormous power in places you’d least expect – like mobile marketing. Widely shared beliefs about how men and women engage with their mobile devices are far from scientific, and yet they often form the basis of million-dollar marketing campaigns. If handled insensitively – think Sprite’s much-criticized #BrutallyRefreshing social campaign – there is a good chance your brand will take a hit. In our socially conscious age, sometimes those hits are irreversible.

As founder of a performance-based mobile app marketing and retargeting platform, my team set out to better understand how people are engaging with mobile applications today, and see if that conforms to what we think we know. Analyzing more than 7.3 million app installs and nearly 65 million post-install events, collected between January and June 2016, we unearthed some surprising insights that challenged our preconceptions about mobile behavior for women and men. Gender was among the things we investigated, but not the full scope of our study.

As much as we’d like to progressively “gender-bust” all of the stereotypes, the results showed that our collective behavior on mobile in some ways reinforces, and in other ways deviates from, the behaviors and values we generally ascribe to women and men. With as much grace as granted, here are the top three app behaviors you wouldn’t expect from either side of the spectrum.

Stereotype #1: Men account for the majority of purchases on mobile.

BI Intelligence released a widely shared study last year that concluded that the majority of users making purchases last year on mobile devices were male. However, our data indicates the opposite – women are dominating the m-commerce landscape and wielding serious cash. Not only has the average cost to acquire a user decreased by about 54.5 percent from Q2 2015, but the lion’s share of mobile spending has also shifted. Women are nearly 34 percent more likely to make a purchase within a mobile app and 40 percent less expensive to acquire than their male counterparts. With women making more purchases and carrying lower acquisition costs, it’s crucial for retail marketers to appeal to and engage with potential female shoppers.

Stereotype #2: Men are more concerned with balancing the finances.

There is a common perception that women invest less than men, and even when they do invest, they don’t invest to the same extent that men do. Some studies have shown that women also save less for retirement when compared to their male counterparts. Based on the findings across 7.3 million app downloads, this stereotype holds some weight. The data shows a high disparity, with men converting in finance apps 170 percent more often than women. “Conversion” includes activities like purchasing a financial service, subscribing to a financial service, or making a first deposit within the app. Women are also 3.6 times more expensive to acquire as a customer than men.

Stereotype #3: Gaming is for the boys.

Pew Research and Flurry Analytics indicate that 60 percent of Americans assume gaming is a male activity and men are much more likely to download mobile games. However, when it comes to casual games – which include apps like Candy Crush, Words with Friends and PokemonGO – this stereotype is false. Based on our data, female gamers dominate the casual mobile gaming market.

Female gamers installed and made a purchase within a gaming app at a rate of 6.7 percent, compared to males who had a rate of 5.9 percent, making women a full 13.6 percent more likely to make an in-app purchase in a game. Plus, the cost to acquire an active female gamer was about 13 percent less than those for men, indicating that mobile marketers could benefit from adjusting spend towards female audiences.

Where does that leave us?

Gender is clearly not the only axis along which mobile marketers build campaigns, but it’s certainly a powerful one and prone to stereotypes and preconceptions. I, for one, continue to be surprised by the results. The fact that men are more likely than women to pay for a subscription, for example, didn’t mesh with my notion of women being higher adopters of other subscription-based services, like magazines and monthly food/beauty boxes. As we continue to collect and analyze mobile user behavior, I imagine (and hope) that crude stereotypes are broken down and overcome, both online and offline.

If you’re interested in reading the full Liftoff App Engagement Index, check out our full report here.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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