Mobile Apps: The hype, how customers are using them, and what to expect

Linsey Knerl
September 7, 2022
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But for those who are very intentional about seeking out and prioritizing apps, the excitement can’t be overstated, and app use is climbing as a result. Google refers to these app interactions as “micro-moments,” stating that consumers increasingly turn to apps for “I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, I-want-to-buy moments.” Here’s what we know about app discovery, downloads, and trends for the future.

Billions and billions of apps

Statista reports over 27 billion apps were downloaded from Google Play in Q2 of 2022, along with 7.4 billion from the Apple App store worldwide. While Google makes up a stronger number of downloads, Apple’s revenue generation is much larger. They even have different “top” apps between them: Android’s #1 and #2 apps for June 2022 were both gaming apps, while Apple’s were TikTok and WhatsApp. 

Overall, however, games make up the largest category of app downloads and sales today, with over 100 billion game app downloads occurring worldwide in 2020. That’s much larger than the second most popular category of mobile photo and video apps (19.6 billion.)

Search matters in app discovery

How are people finding these apps? While Google’s latest measurements were taken a few years ago, they did a good amount of research on app discovery that can help us understand how consumers may find their next favorite app, including:

  • 40% of users find apps within the app store environment
  • 1 in 4 find an app through a search query that may or may not be app-specific
  • 50% of those who download an app from an ad did so because of a search ad
  • Other ad categories prompting downloads include social (49%), in-app graphics (47%), website banner/graphics 45%, video ads (43%)

You’ll notice that the ad category stats add up to much more than 100%, showing that people are willing to be advertised to from a variety of sources, just as long as they feel that they are getting a solution to that “I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, I-want-to-buy” problem. 

In more updated stats, the company also states that 53% of mobile app users do not have the app for their favorite brands installed at all but rely on the mobile site to shop, chat, or create those micro-moments. For brands who already have a strong connection with their consumer, it may require education to get them to understand the perks of app adoption. Google also found that 25% of users are unaware their brand has an app, which is where mobile app advertising widely may come in handy. 

How people (really) use those apps

Having an app installed is just the first step, especially for brands that only generate revenue when an app gets used. This leads us to the topic of app retention, or the struggle for app developers and brands to get customers to keep apps on their phones (or even use them) after downloading. With so many competing apps and limited device storage space, it's important to get users to see the value of the apps they download right away when excitement and intention are fresh.

March 2020 saw a spike of 8% in 30-day mobile app retention, defined as a user opening an app within 30 days after installation. This number doesn’t truly represent the decline within those first 30 days, however. The retention rate on day one after download was 24.1% for organic and 25.3% for paid apps, but that number fell to 4.5% and 3.5% at 12 weeks. 

…and how they aren’t using apps

Even with all the buzz around how mobile apps made lives easier during the pandemic, not every consumer was eager to turn to apps for their shopping needs. Of those who wouldn’t use a mobile device to shop, 50% said it was because the screen was too small, 49% thought it was too difficult to input purchase details, and 37% were frustrated by typos. 

This reluctance to shop wasn't split out to show how many were trying to shop on a mobile site versus an app, but the user experience (UX) concerns are valid. Notably, younger shoppers (Gen Y and Z) were more likely to use a mobile wallet for their shopping everywhere they go (not just online), showing that some of the reluctance may truly be generational. 

Opportunities for 2023 and beyond

Businesses are trying desperately to make sense of what the last few years have shown us, with stats and reports showing some of the most unpredictable variances in everything from revenue to industry-specific growth. It would be foolish to pretend that 2019 – 2022 is a steady trend of any kind that app developers should use to forecast their next move. What we can learn from, however, is the sentiment that the past 36 months have loudly projected across customer segments. 

People want their apps to be quicker, less clunky, taking up less space on their phones, and with more of a seamless integration with those micro-moments they are already living. 

They want more ways to take their online lives offline, with multi-channel shopping experiences and digital means for capturing those in-person moments, even as they spend less time online than they did during the lockdown. (And some truly just need the font to be bigger.)

App developers have a very real opportunity to meet people where they are at, and the trend most likely to be seen in the next few years is marketing toward the whole person as they figure out how to go back to the office while still chatting with coworkers on Slack. It’s grabbing the attention of the shopper who no longer wants to always use curbside pickup but might opt for it when they are in a hurry to pick up a child from daycare and can’t manage an in-store experience. 

As consumers work hard to figure out how this new normal works, app creators have a job to do, including marketing their apps to all the places people go, from their Instagram feed to their doctor’s office. Apps companies will need to strategically spread their growth and marketing budgets across more channels, but the reward is a bigger piece of the $33 billion quarterly global app market that’s sure to grow over time. 

Linsey Knerl

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