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Mobile Marketing

How Is COVID-19 Affecting & Will Affect Mobile App Industry

Berkem Peker
November 28, 2022

The coronavirus affected the way we live, the way we work, the way we interact, almost everything! Its effect on individual lives is enormous. The number of confirmed cases is almost 6 million, but the people affected or feared are more than that, the whole world is at alert.


And since pandemic affects the whole world, we see its effects on every industry as well. When we look at specific sectors, we see varying effects of COVID-19. But in this article, we’ll narrow it down to the mobile app industry.

In this blog post we will discuss:

• How COVID-19 affects app stores’ revenue: Apple’s App Store & Google Play
• How it affects app stores’ download: Apple’s App Store & Google Play
• Its impacts on different app categories: Growing & Declining App categories
• How it affects user experience & engagement
• The changes in ad spend
• Forecasts about the future of the mobile app marketing

COVID-19’s Impact On App Stores’ Download: ​

As people stay at home, they turn on their mobile phones more and more. The change in mobile app usage can vary from country-to-country, but we cannot deny it has a positive effect on the daily hour spent on mobile devices overall.

More time spent on mobile devices means more download and revenue for the app developers. Some app categories more than others; for example, we see a sharp rise among communication apps at the start of March when governments have urged their citizens to stay home or started participating in lockdowns.

But we’ll get to the different effects on categories later. For now, we should discuss its effect on mobile app marketing, the changes in revenues and downloads.

Recent research by Sensor Tower shows that the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t affect the mobile app’s download numbers negatively. The study states that the worldwide App Store and Google Play downloads increase with a 9.8% compound annual growth rate and is expected to reach 140 Billion in 2020, 184 Billion by 2024.

Download Changes Of Apple’s App Store Due To COVID-19 ​

Since the coronavirus originated from China, they felt the effects of coronavirus earliest. And we can see its impact on app stores in the first week of February. When the threat of COVID-19 was emerging in China, people downloaded 22 million mobile gaming applications in the App Store. The average download rate in February 2020 went up by %40 in comparison to February 2019 data.   A spike in apps, particularly game and education category, is expected to be seen in the US, due to COVID-19. In 2020, it is forecasted to be a 27% year-over-year increase in downloads. But in the years that follow (2021-2024), the growth of app downloads will settle around 7% annually in this market.

The increase in downloads can be observed in all countries that are affected by COVID-19.

Download Changes Of Google Play Due To COVID-19

Based on Sensor Tower data, in 2020, worldwide, Google Play downloads are expected to reach 102 billion, a rapid climb from 85 billion in 2019. This means a 20% increase in downloads; after 2021 and the following years, this rate is expected to be around 9%.

Similar to Apple App Store’s graph, we can observe an increase in downloads around the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19’s Impact On App Stores’ Revenue:​

A lot of industries -maybe all- are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and when we check its effect on the mobile app industry, we see that the app store’s revenues are still growing.

Recent research by Sensor Tower shows that even though the pandemic affects the whole world, the mobile app industry continues its rise. By the end of 2020, the gross revenue of app stores is expected to reach $102 Billion. And by 2024, it is projected to reach $171 Billion, meaning in the next five years, the revenue of app stores will double itself. Now let’s look at the state of app store advertising in Apple’s App Store and Google Play separately.

Changes of Revenue In Apple’s App Store​

With a 15.8% compound annual growth rate, App Store user spending reaches $67 Billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $115 Billion by 2024.

Changes of Revenue In Google Play​

With a 13.2% compound annual growth rate, Google Play Store user spending reaches $35 Billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $56 Billion by 2024.

COVID-19’s Impact On Different App Categories:​

The graph by PubNative looks at ad spend by categories, showing the state of mobile app advertising. Gaming apps have the highest growth, followed by entertainment and productivity apps. After that, the highest group with the highest ad spend changes daily, but the most important ones are Social, Messaging, Lifestyle, Music, News, Multimedia, Health & Fitness.

Growing App Categories​

When we look at the overall data after the pandemic, lifestyle apps, and health & fitness apps have the highest growth during COVID-19. The global digital health industry is one of the most proactive sectors in the world currently.

These categories are followed by apps in news, multimedia, and music categories.    Social and messaging apps are #5 and #6 in the most growing apps list.    Another app category on the rise of this pandemic is grocery delivery apps after COVID-19 outbreak downloads, which increased by 216%, 160%, and 124% for Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and Shipt.

Declining App Categories​

PubNative’s ad spends data shows that travel, books, and finance categories took the hardest hit. The dating category was dropping to the bottom of the list, but surprisingly, it made a recent recovery during the pandemic.

Changes Of Engagement Due To COVID-19​

Different industries observed the impact of COVID-19 differently. For example, travel, hospitality, real estate are on the decline, and fitness apps are on the rise. The Berlin-based fitness app, 8Fit, observed more demands than they ever anticipated around their active user numbers. Head of Performance Marketing at 8Fit says in addition to more active users, they also note positive changes in the user activity curve. Since the gyms are closed, users use the app every day and multiple times a day. Another “on-the-rise” industry is health. The mindful meditation app, 7Mind, also observed increased user activity and installed more during COVID-19.

Changes Of User Experience Due To COVID-19​

Fail Fast analyzed the actions of different types of apps during the COVID-19 outbreak. And it shows that during the outbreak, the main strategies to maintain a good user experience was a result of two things: – To focus on user security and safety could be done by giving information and tips that will help the user prevent getting or spreading COVID19 – To offer something, like allowing cancellations free of charge, free subscriptions or discounts And while pop-ups were the primary medium to sent a message, some apps preferred banners to deliver their messages. During that time, many brands also developed specific features for new challenges and problems this outbreak brought. Netflix launched Netflix Party, an extension allowing a group of people to watch videos synchronous and chat on the same platform. Many retail brands (Pull&Bear, Asos, Oysho) offered free delivery, discounts, and extended return period.

Forecasting The Future Of The Mobile App Industry​

When we look at the five-year gross revenue forecasts of Sensor Tower, we see a 15% compound annual growth rate, reaching $171 Billion worldwide. App Store’s revenue is expected to be $115 Billion, and Google Play’s $56 Billion. And downloads are rising with a 9.8% rate worldwide, expecting 139 Billion Google Play downloads by 2024 and 45 billion App Store downloads by 2024. 2020 will show a higher download rate than usual, but 2021 and in the following years, the rate will be normalized. When we look at the app category’s changes, we see that games are slowly losing their position. 71% of consumer spending in the App Store was coming from games, it was 68% in 2019 and is expected to be 66% in 2020. And based on Sensor Tower data, in 2024, games will only account for 49% of consumer spending. On the contrary, entertainment and photo & video apps are on the rise. The same can be said about Google Play revenue. When looking at total consumer spending, the portion of the games is declining. Social, entertainment, and productivity apps are rising.

Guest post by Bengisu Azder, a digital marketing specialist working at Netvent Inbound Marketing Agency.

Berkem Peker

Berkem is master of none, jack of all trades. Happens to be a Growth Strategist at Storyly. Knows/writes about growth frameworks and user behavior.

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