- App usage surged in Q1 as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the way people work and play. Business apps boosted user sessions 105% and installs 70% from a year earlier as more people worked from home, per a study that mobile ad company Adjust shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Gaming app usage was up for most of the quarter and saw a 132% surge in the last week of March as the pandemic reached the U.S., leading people to look for entertainment as municipalities issued social distancing mandates. Mobile users boosted installs of entertainment apps 55% in Q1 from a year earlier, reflecting a lift in streaming video consumption.
- Food and drink apps experienced a 73% jump in user sessions while installs rose 21% from last year as many restaurants were forced to limit service to takeout and delivery orders. E-commerce apps also experienced higher installs from a year earlier, though that trend faded toward the end of Q1. Installs slipped 12% in the last week of March from the prior week, indicating that longer wait times for orders may have led shoppers to seek other options, per Adjust.
Adjust's report confirms other research that indicate a big jump in mobile usage during the pandemic, though that higher traffic has been harder to monetize as mobile marketers pull back on in-app ad spending. For developers of mobile apps, the higher usage is an occasion to ramp up their ad spend to stand out among the millions of apps in the App Store and Google Play. By reaching consumers while they're glued to their phones, app publishers can either boost revenue from download fees or expand their audience now to set the stage for in-app ad revenue gains once the pandemic subsides.
The research attributed the decline in e-commerce app installs during the last week of March to longer wait times for online orders, leading consumers to spend more time with other apps. The dip may also reflect a shift in consumer buying habits after a brief period of panic-buying in mid-March. Following a 35% jump in purchases from pre-pandemic levels, consumers scaled back their spending in the last week of March to a level that was 23% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to a separate study by NCSolutions.
Adjust's report comes as the quarterly earnings from companies such as Netflix and Snap also show how the pandemic affected media consumption during the first three months of the year. Netflix, whose mobile video streaming plans are priced as low as $3 a month in some parts of the world, shows strong momentum. It experienced a 23% jump in paid subscribers in Q1 and expects growth of 26% for Q2. Snap said usage of its Snapchat photo-messaging app jumped more than 30% in the last week of March from two months earlier, while usage in areas affected by the pandemic surged 50%.
While Adjust's report doesn't have Q1 data on app marketing, it found that paid installs last year had grown among app categories including video streaming, music, games and marketplace and classifieds. Shopping apps again drove the greatest volume installs through paid campaigns, though the percentage of installs attributed to such marketing slipped to 61% in 2019 from 64% a year earlier, per Adjust.