by Scott Edwards

Simple Insights: What Caused the Spike?


Data is one of our passions here at Simple. We love giving our customers new ways to interact with their spending data, and we also love analyzing the data we get to gain insight into how you use our product.

To share the love, we’re kicking off a new blog series: Simple Insights. We’ll be posting about all the cool things we learn from the data we receive, and we’re starting with a crash course: Data Sleuthing 101. This one’s gonna be pretty easy, but we’ll show you the clues we saw, and see if you come to the same conclusion we did. (Note: customer spending data is anonymized for the Analytics Team’s purposes.)

Clue 1

One day this past month, we noticed a slight spike in our customers’ total overall daily spending.

Clue 2

At a certain retailer, transaction volume was 54 times what it had been the previous day. Total spending that day at that retailer was 27 times the normal average daily purchase for the retailer.

Have You Guessed the Culprit?

graph of apple store spending  statistic

Yep, it looks like more than a few of you went to an Apple Store to get your hands on the new iPhone 5c and 5s on launch day. Enough to make a sizable blip in Apple Store spend for the day.

Is This Normal?

As it turns out, yes. We frequently see a spike in spending when a new product launches. What’s interesting is what we saw when we compared how this release stacked up against last year’s iPhone 5 launch. Let’s take a look.

graph of apple store spending statistics

Why the two spikes? Last year, Apple accepted pre-orders for the iPhone 5 starting September 14th. So you see an initial spike, followed by sustained higher than average spending until the second spending spike on 9/21, when the iPhone 5 shipped to customers.

Which Launch was REALLY Bigger?

Apple says 2013’s iPhone 5c and 5s launch has been their biggest launch yet. Does our customers’ spending data agree?

It’s a little murky. The problem lies in the pre-orders. If we only count launch day in determining which was bigger, this year’s sales spike (the size of the change between average daily spend and peak spend) was 68% larger than last year’s. The increase in transactions from an average day at the Apple Store to launch day was also 89% higher compared to last year’s launch. These figures control for the number of Simple customers, which has grown tremendously since last year. Of course, any way you slice it, this year’s launch day was huge!

But this could be a little misleading, as pre-orders can also reach customers’ hands on launch day.

So if you include pre-orders (only orders placed on the first day of pre-order availability, and thus most likely to be delivered on launch day), the picture changes quite a bit. In this scenario, the 2013 difference between the average daily Apple spend and launch day spend was 28% lower than in 2012. Likewise the magnitude of the launch spike in the number of purchases was 14% lower than in 2012.

Finally, let’s look at the Average Order Value (AOV)—in other words, the dollars spent per transaction with the Apple Store (retail and online) on launch day. In 2012, the average dollar value of Simple customers’ purchases on preorder day and launch day was $312. Fast forward to 2013 and AOV number drops to $259—17% lower! There could be a lot of reasons for this, for example, the iPhone 5C is $100 cheaper than previous iPhones, but the overall dollar value per transaction is still much less in 2013 than in 2012.

So, Apple says this is their biggest launch ever, but the spending data from our (apparently) Apple-loving customers has a slightly different story to tell.

One More Thing

We like to ask our customers: if you could ask your financial data a question, what would it be? Well, what if you could ask a question of the whole of Simple’s data? What are the most popular Goals our customers are saving for? Where do our customers buy coffee? Which city spends the most on clothes? With our data, we can answer questions like this, and many others. If you’ve got a question you’d like answered about spending and saving trends with Simple, let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #simpleinsights.

Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple or our partner bank, BBVA USA, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.