Covid-19 is Boosting Mobile Use, and These Apps Are Taking the Lion’s Share

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By any measurement, 2020 has been an unusual year, and though it sounds a bit cliché at this point, the term unprecedented rings true. It isn’t easy to make too many definitive statements about the current state of mobile marketing, but we can certainly see some trends that have bubbled up and look to what they say about current — and potentially future — consumer behavior.

We’ve examined the ways consumers are leaning on mobile through the pandemic and which apps are taking the lion’s share of the profit.

Trends in Shopping, Finance, and Gaming Apps Driven by Covid-19

Covid-19 has driven consumers to rely on mobile more than ever. In addition to providing a lifeline to friends and family and connecting co-workers doing business remotely, it’s also providing people a reliable way to interact with the brands and entertainment they need.

With many social options put on hold, people find solace in retail therapy. Between April 2019 to 2020, the cost to acquire a user who completes a first purchase in a shopping app has decreased by more than half (50.6%), compared to the same period in 2018. Similarly, the cost to acquire a registration ($8.76) has dropped nearly 40%. Plus, with a 40% increase in purchase engagement year-on-year — and 110% increase over two years — it’s clear conditions are positive for marketers to reach and engage a highly motivated, high-value audience.

Meanwhile, broad economic uncertainty has driven consumers to lean on mobile to take control of their financial future. From 2019 to 2020, the spike in interest in mobile money management is evident as costs to acquire a registration dropped by over 76%, while registration rates rose by more than 71%. A deeper dive into this sector shows that fintech apps like Mint and Venmo are outstripping top banking apps in monthly active users, reinforcing the idea that consumers are taking a personalized approach to dealing with finances.

Unsurprisingly, mobile gaming is more popular than ever — but with a compelling shift. As commutes are cut and consumers adapt to their new normal, players may be willing to invest more time and energy into mobile gaming, boding well for Midcore and Strategy games. The category pairs the lowest costs — over one third less expensive than casual gaming — with the highest return on ad spend (ROAS). While casual and hyper-casual games like Candy Crush have long reigned supreme in popularity, this year’s data shows a dip in retention rates.

More surprisingly, travel apps have also seen an increase in engagement, with an astonishing 128% rise week-over-week spotted on September 1st, 2020. Whether people are finally feeling confident enough to plan a future getaway, or they’re just using these apps as a form of wish fulfillment, this vertical is reaping the reward.

What Marketers Can Do Now To Capitalize

More than anything else, Covid-19 has accelerated trends we’ve been seeing for more than a year now. The pandemic has concentrated 18 months of gradual consumer behavioral shifts into a six-month window. And while it’s in the mobile marketer’s DNA to adjust to dynamically changing circumstances, to take advantage of the current situation, you should look to the following:

Examine engagement strategies to ensure they cater to the influx of new users who are turning to mobile for solutions and escapes. Develop tactics that will compel users to stick around and go beyond just install.

Build experiences that encourage deeper engagement. With more free time, people are willing to explore more deeply.

Optimize your mobile app experience, as many consumers will likely stick to mobile options as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Incentivize users toward an app with campaigns that illustrate support. In an uncertain time, consumers are looking for more than just convenience, especially around expenditures and financial decisions. You may want to consider tutorials, webinars, and the like to acquire and retain users.

The challenges faced by consumers during Covid-19 have had a very real impact on their mobile behavior. Marketers who look at this opportunity as a chance to offer real value, engage in meaningful ways, and provide ease in a time of confusion can separate themselves from the pack.

Mark Ellis is co-founder and CEO of Liftoff.