IAB UK In-App: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Antonio Forte - Industry Initiatives Executive IAB UK

IAB UK’s Antonio Dale Forte looks into trend reports from IAB UK In-App Advisory Group members to see how user behaviour has changed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID-19 outbreak has upended the global economy, including the digital industry. With social distancing, isolation, widespread home working and a quarter of the UK working population furloughed, we are witnessing the largest widespread upheaval in living memory.

Here at the IAB, we believe it is important to understand these behavioural changes in order to successfully adapt and thrive in the ‘new normal’. It is for this reason that we have reached out to our members to share their insights on the impact of coronavirus. In the fourth of a series of exploratory pieces, I will be discussing the in-app market, an area that has seen growth across several verticals.

Analysing the changes in the in-app market is extremely useful to us, not only in understanding where opportunity lies in the world of apps, but also in providing a broader understanding of consumer interest during this period. Gone are the days when apps were considered a niche within the digital mix; the use of apps is now truly universal and their influence can truly be said to permeate society. 

The behavioural changes we observe in-app are naturally reflective of how consumers are changing elsewhere within the digital world, and therefore are indicative of how we should be adjusting our own behaviour as marketers in this time.

Taking a look into the various app verticals, we can see that growth has been largely universal as people shift to a home-based economy. In data provided by Adjust, we see large increases in several app genres. Gaming has seen the largest relative increase in installs, up 132% in the final week of March compared to the same time last year, with total Q1 sessions up 47% compared to 2019. Similarly large increases are clear in entertainment app use, with a 55% increase in installs, as well as business app use, with a 70% increase in installs. 

We have also seen a 21% increase in food and drink app installs as well as a 73% increase in Q1 sessions as restaurants move to offer increased takeaway and delivery services. Perhaps unexpectedly, the use of eCommerce apps has decreased slightly, with sessions down 12% year on year, indicating that users may be turning to other pastimes to keep themselves busy and have less time or need to shop for things like clothes or travel during lockdown.

Breaking this down further, we can identify the specific apps that are contributing to growth. In data provided by UKOM, the largest user growth has come from communication apps, with Houseparty boasting 4.4 million new unique visitors in 2020, Zoom seeing 3.7 million new app-based visitors and stalwarts Microsoft Teams and Skype both attracting over 1 million. News apps have also seen huge user growth, with Upday attracting 4.3 million new unique users, Apple News seeing 2 million and BBC News seeing 1.6 million.

Interestingly, the trend towards conferencing and news is not reflected in the largest growth in terms of additional minutes spent in-app in 2020. Here there is a clear shift towards escapism, with social platforms WhatsApp and Facebook seeing the largest rises (2.95 billion and 2.67 billion new minutes of use, respectively). 

This shift is also clear in the increase in use of entertainment apps, with YouTube use increasing by 2.18 billion minutes in 2020 and TikTok use increasing by 2.05 billion. These statistics indicate that despite the fact people are keener than ever to stay updated on news and to communicate with others, most of the additional time we now have to use apps is spent elsewhere.

As we start to adapt to the new way of the world, it is important for us to understand the opportunities that this change presents. As people move away from their rigid 9 to 5 desktop-based routines, there will be a continued and increasing shift to more versatile formats such as mobile. Acknowledging this shift and understanding the potential value that is revealed by behavioural changes, is an important first step to connecting with consumers during this uniquely challenging time. 

The Insights



App trends 2020 - a global benchmark of app performance



The impact of COVID-19 on online usage - UKOM

Written by

Antonio Forte

Industry Initiatives Executive IAB UK


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