As more than more Chinese people leave their hometowns to work in big cities, the Lunar New Year has become a rare once-a-year opportunity for migrant workers to spend coveted time offline and engaged in IRL (in-real life) activities with their loved ones.

The 7-day Chinese New Year holiday saw huge downloads, which in turn, created a golden opportunity for mobile apps to attract users, according to a report released by social gaming ad network Papaya Mobile on the mobile ad trends on Android pre and post-January 31 (Chinese New Year Day).

Chunyun’s effect on mobile activity

A map released by Baidu shed some light on the magnitude of the annual migration (ChunYun in Chinese) before the Spring Festival. An estimated 3.6 billion journeys happened in China during the period between January 16 and February 24, according to the report.

The relationship between the migration and smartphone usage in this day and age is a no-brainer. Inevitably users will occupy their commute – some which could take two days by train or bus – and vacation by consuming apps or mobile games on their mobile devices.

In fact, during the migration the average click volume between January 16 and February 6 was 51.5% higher than the period before January 16, suggesting that mobile usage based on mobile ad clicks increase during the holiday. Clicks during the migration (ending February 6) increased 48.5%, according to data from AppFlood, a commission-free, results driven network developed by Papaya Mobile.

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Apps tend to be downloaded prior to the migration

In fact the highest rates of installs happen just before the migration, because mobile users are more inclined to download apps before their long trips.

More specifically, the install rate on AppFlood climbed to 0.56% on the back of a 117% jump between January 11 and January 12, just three days before the start of the migration, and peaked the day after at 0.57%. In fact, this spike coincided with a rush of Chinese advertisers on AppFlood who allocated mobile advertising budgets for the CNY in advance of the Chinese New Year rush.

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However, as the migration progressed and conceivably more people departed to make the journey home, it is found that the install rate reflected trends resulting from the migration and time spent with family. The install rates steadily decreased after January 16 an average of 1.37% day-over-day for a total decline of 28.7% up to February 6.

Mobile “Arcade” games: the hottest Chinese New Year app category

In addition to WeChat which led the period with the Lucky Money feature, this report also covered the average daily volume of clicks on mobile ads between January 12 (when install activity spiked) and February 6 (the end of the official Chinese New Year) to identify Android app categories that were most popular during the general migration period. Expectedly the casual and easy to play games in the Arcade category, accounting for 9.55% of the total daily average clicks, topped the list followed by Entertainment (3.42%), Racing (2.89%), Casual (1.75%), and Media and Video (1.64%) to round out the top five.

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How the Chinese New Year affects advertisers

The Chinese New Year holiday is one of the rare opportunities for developers to pick up quality and affordable users – particularly during the days leading up to the Chinese New Year.

Comparing average mobile ad installs before and after January 10 (when installs picked up leading into Chunyun), it is find that mobile advertisers on average garnered 121.9% more installs. However, advertisers should note that the bulk of installs occurred before January 23.

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More importantly, China remains a source of cheap traffic. The cost of acquiring a single user during the Chinese New Year rush when the IR hit 0.56% on January 13 was just $0.31 and $0.30 the day after when the IR hit a ceiling of 0.57%. The CPI during Chunyun (starting January 16) averaged just $0.29.

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image credit: Papaya Mobile