App usage is up. Around the world, people are stuck at home, and the required closing of many stores has moved new groups of consumers to shop online and opt for delivery instead of going out to stores. And, of course, everyone is looking for entertainment to pass the time. This coronavirus-related shift in behaviors has led to increased reliance on mobile apps, which essentially serve as front doors directly from home screen to business.
With apps, users can find movies, games or chances to socialize with the tap of a finger. Mobile apps make it easy to browse and buy without the clutter of desktop searches. For digital marketers, apps can be useful tools for gathering first-party data, improving targeting of consumers and boosting brand loyalty. Once consumers are in-app, there are no longer other brands competing for their attention, allowing for increased sales, community building and lasting engagement.
App Usage Is Up During Coronavirus
Consumer behaviors are changing because of the circumstances of self-isolation. Most people can’t go out and are working from home, and much of America is transitioning to essential delivery and shopping options, often turning to apps for those needs, plus entertainment, games and socializing.
According to a recent report, “In Q1 2020 Consumers spent over $23.4 billion through the app stores, the largest quarter ever in terms of consumer spend. There were also over 31 billion new app downloads, a 15% increase from Q4 2019.” Overall, app usage in the U.S. is up 10%. The report also revealed the most popular app categories, including:
Games, entertainment and social media apps. With the “strongest year-over-year growth in consumer spend” this category was primarily driven by Disney+ and Twitch downloads. Holding on to subscribers after the free subscription period will be critical for brands in this category, particularly streaming services that have extended their free subscription windows. The games category, always among the strongest in apps, was the largest driver of download growth for Q1.
Collaboration and socializing apps. Apps that offer live interaction and facilitate solutions for work meetings and school instruction saw significant growth in Q1. Zoom, now widely used for everything from daily business meetings to book clubs, was “the top ranked business app by iPhone daily downloads in 141 markets, up from just 1 market at the end of Q4 2019.” Houseparty, which allows users to play games and interact in more free-form ways than business-geared apps like Zoom, also experienced massive growth. According to the report on app usage, “In the week starting March 15th, Houseparty downloads globally grew 735x from the week prior.”
Overlooked app categories. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, apps from categories including health and fitness, education and business were less commonly downloaded, but changing consumer behaviors have led to “quarter-over-quarter growth in downloads of 40%, 35% and 30% respectively.”
Brands Should Be Focused On Their Apps, But Quality Matters
If brands can get on mobile home screens, they should. App widgets allow brands, particularly during lean times, to scale revenues, reach new consumers and build brand integrity that lasts beyond the quarantines. But the app has to be good, or users may get frustrated and not log back on. In 2018, app abandonment after just one use hovered around 21%, and, with many app users currently trying to meet urgent needs like grocery shopping, clunky apps aren’t likely to be quickly adopted by users.
Apps should offer intuitive navigation and search, seamless check out and efficiently stored data so that one-touch operations allow users to access their prior preferences and payment information.
Gathering Good Data To Build Loyalty And Engagement Now And After Quarantines End
The relationship between consumer, website use and app download is often about effective targeting and brand engagement. Brands that are able to efficiently leverage their accumulated consumer data and drive users to download their apps will gain the benefits of self-selected audiences, likely to make in-app purchases and open to customer engagement.
Plus, community building within apps can lead to increased loyalty, especially during crisis when consumers are looking for reliable apps that meet their needs, whether it’s fitness videos or toilet paper deliveries. Of course, it’s important to be conscious of the times and respectful not to over-sell or capitalize on the current hardships many are experiencing, but well-executed apps can offer help today and create lasting brand growth for tomorrow.
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