Part 2: Pivoting During a Pandemic – Emerging Apps and High-Demand Categories

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Before delving into details of how the app marketplace has shifted over the last few months, we understand that keeping everyone safe and healthy is front of mind as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop globally. We commend workers who are playing an essential role in tackling the pandemic, including social care and NHS staff. We also recognise food production, sales, delivery and utility staff, alongside the many other businesses and individuals that are putting themselves in testing conditions to serve society during these challenging times. For apps that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, please refer to part 1 of the blog series.

With lock-down enforced in many countries around the world, governments have taken strict measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 through various restrictions and encouraging social distancing. One thing is clear; the impact of COVID-19 on the app marketplace has been hugely significant. These changing conditions have been reflected in the disruption that the app marketplace has experienced as of recently. What should app owners with emerging apps and in high-demand categories be doing to  increase brand awareness, market share and users?

Surge in Mobile Engagement

The latest research shows that weekly time spent in apps has grown 20% YoY as lockdown measures restrict the public to remaining indoors. Mobile screen time, app usage and ad impressions have also seen a significant increase across affected territories. As a result, various categories in the app stores have seen both an increase in engagement and revenue uplifts.

AppAnnie Research: Average Weekly Time Spent in Gaming and Non-Gaming Apps Worldwide, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020

High-demand categories include Media Streaming (+162%), Music (+65%), and Health & Fitness (+49%), with uplift figures noted in AppsFlyer’s report, The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on App Installs. Business apps have also shown a record breaking number of downloads week after week, topping 72m (90% than weekly downloads in 2019). This is a refreshing development, especially for non-gaming apps, where downloads are increasing across markets up to 10% in March alone, MoM.

Lower Acquisition Costs 

With many enterprise businesses that typically dominate the market rolling back spend due to restrictions faced by COVID-19, businesses with lower market share can take this opportunity to invest more in advertising as CPI and CPA costs decrease and engagement increases across major app install channels. In light of this, many apps in the high-demand categories are taking an aggressive UA approach. In March, AppsFlyer reported an in increase non-organic installs in Education (+66%), Media Streaming (+90%), Health & Fitness (+78%), Midcore Gaming (+52%), Hardcore Gaming (+28%), and Social Casino (+40%). 

Even so, costs remain low through various acquisition avenues. A strong example comes from the Health and Fitness category in the App Store store, where CPA costs dropped by as much as 38% in March for Apple Search Ads in certain impacted territories, as noted by Splitmetrics research. Furthermore, Facebook is reporting a 20% drop in CPMs month on month (February to March, 2020) with Snapchat showing increased engagement with ads, a notable 36% increase in install volume for app ads, and a 19% increase in swipe-up rate overall during late March compared to late February. For those who wish to leverage mobile advertising in this time, we recommend that advertisers extend the use of their best performing ads in order to circumvent the delays in ad approvals and rejections. 

Splitmetrics Research: Search Ads install and CPA trends in the Health and Fitness category, Jan-March 2020

Attract Users to Relevant Features and Services

With the public transitioning to working from home and practising social distancing, consumer behaviour has shifted significantly. An example of this is the shift from utilising the gym for exercise to turning to tutorials for home workouts. With an increase in searches for ‘home workouts’ in the app stores, this is an example of how apps can pivot how they package their services to cater to the changing climate, and rank for key, high-volume search terms. In light of this, many workout apps have added home workout to their app title. It is important to pivot your ASO strategy in line with your product’s capabilities and to remain reactive to consumer demand. This way you can continue to increase your organic user base.

Remain Reactive to Consumer Needs In Light of COVID-19

With time spent in-app and mobile screen time increasing, many apps need to remain agile and roll out features that can help them grab the attention of valuable users, not only within your category but across verticals, where businesses continue to compete for screen time. A good example comes from the Entertainment category and streaming apps in particular. Disney rolled out their Disney + streaming service on March 24 across parts of Western Europe, including the UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, attracting 5m downloads on day 1. Disney also offered free trials to aid in establishing behaviours and even brought forward film releases to take advantage of the anticipated growing screen time of children as schools closed across the world. This is an important move on Disney’s part, as they have seen an impact on other facets of their business, such as the temporary closure of their theme parks. By refocusing on their digital service, they can encourage continued engagement with the brand. 

Dealing with High Demand

With the disruption brought by COVID-19, mobile app products and businesses are proving to be a vital component to carrying on with daily life in this new normal. For those businesses with apps that are proving to be popular in the current climate, this is a time to invest in paid acquisition where they are most likely to see more value from their advertising spend without competing against the bigger players. They should also take advantage of agile ways of working to pivot their app product and feature releases in line with what their users need during these testing times.

Yodel Mobile, leading app growth agency, is on hand to support app businesses during these times of uncertainty and higher consumer demand. With over a decades worth of experience on app-first strategy and mobile success, we are on hand to offer advice and support, please get in touch here.

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Smokehouse Yard, 44-46, St John Street, London, EC1M 4DF 🇬🇧