App marketing analytics platform Adjust released its annual Mobile App Trends Report, which shows mobile app growth continuing to accelerate globally in 2021. The report — based on Adjust’s top 2,000 apps and its dataset of apps tracked across gaming, e-commerce, and fintech — analyses long-term trends in installs, sessions, time spent in-app, retention and re-attribution rates across the globe.
After climbing 50 per cent across all verticals year-over-year (YoY) in 2020, app installs are up 31 per cent YoY in the first quarter of 2021, while sessions, which increased by 30 per cent in 2020, are up by another 4.5 per cent. Global spend on mobile apps hit USD $112 billion in 2020 — and iOS represented 65 per cent of that spend.
The data comes from two sources: one including a list of 45 countries and one with approximately 250 based on the ISO 3166-1 standard between January 1, 2019, and March 14, 2021. These insights enable developers and marketers to better understand their audience and the state of the app economy.
“The app economy experienced immense growth in 2020, as people all over the world realised the benefits of mobile in many aspects of their daily lives. For mobile marketers, the potential to reach new users is at an all-time high, but so is competition. As we move through 2021 and begin a new era with iOS 14, the importance of enhancing marketing through automation and understanding how users behave in-app throughout their entire journey is more pivotal than ever,” said Paul H. Müller, Co-Founder and CEO, Adjust.
Here are the key takeaways from the report:
Fintech continued its march into mobile in 2020 as more legacy banks partnered with fintech companies and more users adopted neobanks (financial technology firms that offer internet-only financial services and without physical branches).
- Fintech apps posted the best YoY growth in installs of all verticals — 51 per cent — in 2020.
- Installs are up again in 2021, by 12 per cent, compared to the 2020 average. This is undoubtedly buoyed by huge adoption rates for trading apps such as Robinhood, Acorns and Gatsby.
- Sessions also boomed in 2020 — sessions increased 85 per cent and are already up 35 per cent in 2021.
Investing and stock-related app searches grew 115 per cent. Robinhood set off the trading apps wave, with new challengers setting their commissions and fees lower to compete. Other tops apps include Cash App, Revolut, Gatsby, Coinbase, Binance, Kraken, eToro and Freetrade, all of which enjoyed record growth of new customers in 2020.
Cryptocurrencies saw unprecedented trading with Bitcoin hitting several big milestones in the past 12 months. This was combined with a surge in crypto app downloads, with 81 per cent growth. With innovations such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) also driving the market, there is a lot of excitement in the crypto-app ecosystem.
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Gaming held onto its crown as the biggest mobile vertical, with 33 per cent of all downloaded mobile apps being games.
- Gaming reached new heights in 2020, particularly in hyper casual, where installs increased 43 per cent — compared to 26 per cent for non-hyper casual.
- Sessions for non-hyper casual games increased by 27 per cent in 2020, while hyper casual sessions increased 36 per cent.
So far in 2021, hyper casual game sessions are down 21 per cent, but with the huge “first-lockdown” spike removed, YoY performance is roughly the same — and growing steadily, with February outperforming January by 47 per cent.
Non-hyper casual games increased by 26 per cent, while hyper casual saw a 43 per cent uptick in installs from 2019 to 2020.
The number of installs decreased slowly throughout 2020 but started to pick up again in December. For hyper casual games, the beginning of 2020 saw exponential growth, peaking at the end of February at 129 per cent above the yearly average. This drops down throughout March and remains steady for the rest of the year. If we remove the massive growth seen in the first quarter of 2020, hyper casual still performs slightly higher than in 2019, and starts trending up again in 2021.
With a 58 per cent increase in in-app transactions from 2019 to 2020 and years of growth trumped in Q1 of 2020 following the introduction of lockdowns, e-commerce also reported its biggest year ever.
- E-commerce installs only increased by six per cent in 2020, but sessions saw a growth of 44 per cent, showing how users became engaged.
- Install growth was relatively small at six users became in 2020, but performed consistently throughout the year.
- Sessions, however, grew 44 per cent — showing just how highly engaged shoppers on mobile have become.
2021 is off to a solid start in both installs and sessions — up 11 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively — over their 2020 averages.
The vertical’s highest weeks ever for sessions were at the end of February and beginning of March 2021 — up 23 per cent YoY.
E-commerce performed exceptionally well in 2020. In contrast to 2019 where installs grew steadily, 2020 showed ups and downs, with a trough in the last week of March at 10 per cent below the yearly average. Things start to pick up throughout May and into the beginning of July, with those months combining to be 10 per cent above average. The biggest growth period starts in the second week of November, at 19 per cent above the yearly average, and decreases over the remainder of the year, suggesting a pre-holiday season rush.
2021 is looking strong so far, with the first quarter 11 per cent above the 2020 average.
As the mobile ecosystem becomes ever more competitive with iOS 14, apps that build data-driven and UX-focused strategies will be well-positioned to come out on top. With insights into how users behave in-app, and when they return and why, mobile marketers can create a comprehensive strategy, incorporating highly personalised campaigns and communication that build brand trust.