COVID-19 vs mobile apps: user acquisition rules in the new reality

AdQuantum's team share unusual stories of marketing under lockdown

COVID-19 vs mobile apps: user acquisition rules in the new reality

A lot of businesses have been confronted with crisis due to the global pandemic in 2020. However, we have encountered the opposite situation with the mobile apps market.

On 11th March 2020, the spread of COVID-19 was characterised as a pandemic. From that moment people started to spend much more time on their devices.

According to a McKinsey survey from April 2020, the number of installs has increased by three times from the beginning of the pandemic to the moment the survey was conducted.

It has been 8 months since the beginning of the global pandemic and we can see that the conditions for attracting traffic have changed dramatically. In this article, AdQuantum’s heads of user acquisition and sales have written from their perspective about the peculiar properties of work on the mobile ad market under lockdown conditions. Our experts will also share their point of view on new tendencies and the main goal of mobile marketing in a new post-pandemic world.

Comfort during lockdown is a key to app success

As a result of the pandemic, people gained new habits. Starting with simple hygienic habits, such as: frequent hand washing, sanitiser use, wearing masks and gloves - and ending with leisure. Many people still are not ready to spend their evening sitting in a bar with friends or dancing at a musical concert in a nightclub; watching a movie at home seems to be much safer. Changes in social habits are also reflected in the amount of time spent in mobile apps. The more society moves towards social distancing, the more it depends on gadgets and media. People still want to stay on top of their agenda and not lack communication or entertainment.

Artem Smirnov, user acquisition lead, AdQuantum:
"Almost every category of apps has grown, but some of them grew more noticeably. Firstly, user interest has increased in apps that they couldn’t use before due to a lack of time. These categories are: fitness, games and streaming platforms. Secondly, users started to download apps solving the problem of the impossibility to freely travel around the city: delivery apps, social networks and also video chatting and conferencing apps. There has also been a growing interest in apps dealing with psychological problems caused by social distancing (mental health category). News apps expectedly received an increase in activity — they allow people to stay on the agenda and monitor events".

Video call services allowing people to keep in touch and get rid of anxiety by communicating with loved ones have also significantly increased their audience.

Maxim Kuznetsov, user acquisition group head, AdQuantum:
"These days mobile marketers should think about the fact that people have changed many social habits and behavior patterns due to the pandemic. And now it is crucial to think how the product can comply with the new reality in order to thrive and grow the app's user base. Zoom is a trivial but representative example. During lockdown, users got an urgent need to keep in touch with their family and friends or coworkers. Definitely, Zoom would not have this rapid growth if the lockdown had never happened”.

According to first-quarter results for the fiscal year 2021 published by Zoom, the developer of the video conferencing platform increased its revenue by 354 per cent right after the pandemic announcement. Back in December 2019, Zoom had 10 million participants in daily meetings, and just 4 months later, in April 2020, there were already 300 million of them.

Image: Zoom

How mobile marketing succeeds in a pandemic

Artem Smirnov, user acquisition lead, AdQuantum:
“Talking about AdQuantum’s experience, the pandemic played into our hands. During the lockdown period, our budgets have grown significantly. With the growth of traffic, eCPM in mobile applications decreased - it seems one thing balanced the other. It became cheaper to “buy” the same audience. During the period of lockdown we saw growth among all of our clients. People play more - therefore, they pay more. Probably, in order to derive the maximum benefit from these circumstances, it makes sense to reduce the marginality of the product, but increase its audience, and then monetise this influx of users with new interesting features. This strategy will suit several categories of apps at once”.

The table above shows the CPM dynamics of one of AdQuantum’s clients. The US market had been changing rapidly through the lockdown period and then returned to February numbers before the US presidential election and advertising campaigns before Halloween, Black Friday and Christmas.

Why now is the perfect time for every business to get their own app

After the announcement of the pandemic, the time has come for businesses to acquire their own mobile apps in order to stay in sight of their audiences. 2020 saw a surge in e-commerce with 78 per cent more online purchases in the US in May 2020 than in May 2019, according to statistics agency Digital commerce 360. Therefore, securing customers goes hand in hand with convenience. For instance, only because of the lockdown did door-to-door delivery of groceries appear in Russia, which almost no Russian company had ever done before.

Artem Smirnov, user acquisition lead, AdQuantum:
“Entrepreneurs should consider moving their businesses online, especially to mobile devices. They can “highlight” useful products and services, probably by making a sale or providing free features for some period of time to increase customer loyalty and attract new ones”. 

Increased competition between app publishers 

Roman Korotin, account manager, AdQuantum
“Increased competition in an already highly competitive market can lead to interesting consequences: unexpected collaborations, entries to other areas and the emergence of new products. I personally very much look forward to the opportunity to subscribe to trendy sets of masks and gloves."

But if you look at things globally, the pandemic did not make a global revolution in the industry. It did however significantly accelerate the processes that had begun before. For instance, all online retailers received a huge increase in orders and new users. But along with it, the pandemic brought new app brands online, that now have to look for their customers where they are not familiar with. I reckon no one, except for games or streaming platforms, were really happy about this. Former offline entrepreneurs had to make apps on the fly, re-calculate LTV and learn to bring users in new circumstances. And companies, already accustomed to online, urgently paid for new servers and tried to scale processes without breaking the economy”.

According to an October report from App Annie, Mobile users downloaded 33 billion new apps in Q3, spending a record $ 28 billion, up 20 per cent from last year. At the same time in July, August and September, 180 billion hours were spent inside applications, which is 25% more than during the same period from 2019.

Data: App Annie

Maxim Kuznetsov, user acquisition group head, AdQuantum:
Previously, a user had one hour of free time daily, that he had been spending on certain mobile apps and content – and the competition between apps was pretty fierce. With the lockdown they got more spare time. That added new app brands to the user's field of interests. To become a winner in these conditions, you need to think on how to transform your product in order to connect it with the pandemic.

This will help you to gain additional loyalty. When a product helps to ease fear and anxiety and to solve a problem, it automatically raises the customer's faith in it, which means it increases the app's revenue and ROI. People are willing to pay for the opportunity to feel better in such difficult times”.

Adaptation to new conditions

As stated by Edelman in a study, 65 per cent of those surveyed believe that how a brand reacts to a crisis is of paramount importance when a customer chooses a product in the future.

Maxim Kuznetsov, user acquisition group head, AdQuantum:
"If your product is flexible and fits well with the coronavirus situation, it will surely increase its credibility. For example, if you have an app related to meditation, add a course on the COVID-19 pandemic. “How to stay home and not go crazy” - this is in demand. It is important that new features solve some of the “pain” associated with the lockdown”.

We at AdQuantum keep our finger on the pulse of trends and know exactly where to find traffic for your application in a daily changing environment. Do not be afraid to try new sources, and if you are in doubt, we will take the risks, because we have the expertise and are interested in the growth of your profit.



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