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Q1 Data: The Impact of COVID-19 on Daily App Usage

Shivkumar M 20+ yrs shaping technology Product & GTM strategy. Fintech, healthcare & retail industry expertise. Leads product launches, adoption & GTM as Director, Product Marketing.
Q1 Data: The Impact of COVID-19 on Daily App Usage

In just weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted daily life on an unprecedented scale. It has transformed the global economic landscape, social behaviors, and consumer habits. 
2.9 billion people — one-third of the global population — are currently under lockdown orders.* And according to the UN, 81% of the world’s workforce has had their workplace fully or partly closed because of the outbreak.*
The sheer scale of disruption is difficult to quantify, and the effects of the pandemic, both immediate and long-term, are still playing out. Amid all the uncertainty, however, one thing is clear: businesses are under a great deal of stress as consumers shelter in place and tighten their wallets.  
So what is the fallout for mobile businesses? 
Our data science team analyzed and identified mobile engagement trends from the past three months to help marketers understand what kind of growth to expect in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Key Findings: 

  • Some app industries are seeing a surge in user engagement — some as high as a 177% average increase in daily active users (DAUs). 
  • For struggling industries, app launches are down as much as 60-80%. 
  • Some app verticals are seeing prolonged spikes in engagement (Content & Media), while others are experiencing temporary peaks before returning to normal (Grocery)

A note on methodology: This data is based on an analysis of over 250 apps with an average of 30,000 DAUs. The percent change is in comparison to DAUs 15 days prior.

Which Apps Are Seeing Higher Engagement?

This graph displays the percent change in Daily Active Users from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020. To clarify trends, percent change is in relation to 15 days prior.

March 17 marks the date when many governments across the globe began to initiate lockdown orders, with 15 countries having some degree of shelter-in-place mandated by that date. By March 31, the number of countries on lockdown had nearly doubled to 29. The impact of these government lockdowns on app engagement is apparent in the dramatic spikes that start in mid-March. 

Given widespread shelter-in-place orders, it’s no surprise that users are turning to apps that keep them either entertained or connected to essential services. 

  • Unlike Food & Delivery apps, Grocery apps have seen a dramatic increase in DAUs during the month of March as governments around the world issued lockdown orders. App launches were up 177% on March 24 as consumers scrambled to secure supplies and prepare to shelter in place.
  • With one-third of the globe confined to their homes, streaming media apps are becoming an essential source of breaking news. Content & Media apps are holding steady at a 40% increase in DAUs since early March.
  • Gaming apps saw a constant increase in app launches throughout the month of March, signaling that users aren’t experiencing app fatigue and are in fact turning to mobile games more and more as a way to connect with friends and entertain themselves as they self-isolate.
  • Like Content & Media apps, Entertainment apps are seeing a jump in engagement as isolated users look for new sources of distraction and social connection. At the end of March, average DAUs were up over 20% from 15 days previous. Case in point: Netflix’s Tiger King was watched by 34.3 million unique viewers in just the first 10 days of release in the US.*
  • Online learning is undergoing a significant transformation as COVID-19 forces students around the world off-campus and into virtual classrooms. Parents are overseeing their children’s homeschooling, people are taking the opportunity to pick up new skills and hobbies, and learners are looking for new resources and ideas. It’s no surprise that Education apps are seeing a significant rise in app launches — up nearly 20% before seeing a decline at the end of March.
  • Throughout the course of this pandemic, essential services like access to healthcare and pharmacies have been in high demand. People are both more interested in their overall health and are turning to video visits and emails rather than go to hospitals for non-urgent care. Medical & Medicine Delivery apps have seen spikes in DAUs as high as 40% before appearing to normalize as the month of March came to a close.
  • With gyms closed, athletes are turning to their Health & Fitness apps to help them stay active indoors (and log all their quarantine snacks). As a result, apps have seen swings in DAUs, but ended the month of March up 13% from 15 days previous.Nike’s “Play Inside — Play for the World” campaign* is just one example of health and fitness brands finding ways to encourage athletes to access their library of digital workouts and connect with the athletic community via their mobile apps. 

Which Apps Are Seeing Drops in Engagement?

  • Given widespread bans on public gatherings and severe restrictions that have brought nearly all travel to a standstill, it’s no surprise that Event Ticketing, Travel, Hospitality, and Ride Hailing apps are especially hard hit as this pandemic stretches on. The World Travel and Tourism Council projects a global loss of $2.1 trillion in revenue.*

    While things may seem dire, there are initial signs of recovery in China. As restrictions are being lifted, hotel bookings increased by 40%, flights rose 230%, and the Chinese domestic tourism market says its preparing to recover 70% of losses over the next six months.* Nothing sparks wanderlust like cabin fever!
  • Food & Delivery apps have seen a precipitous drop in engagement, but have since shown signs of recovery. After dropping over 40% on March 25, app launches have since risen — down just 4.7% from 15 days previous on March 28.

    One possibility: customers who were previously unsure about the safety of eating prepared food were reassured as more information came out about viral transmission, resuming take out/delivery orders. Another possibility: customers either ran out of groceries or got tired of cooking for themselves as shelter-in-place orders were extended.
  • Bans on public gatherings have forced most leagues to either indefinitely postpone or outright cancel their seasons. As a result, Sports Content and Sports Games (Fantasy) apps are facing an extended off-season with little content to lure users and keep them engaged. App launches are down over 50% for both categories.
  • With such a high degree of economic uncertainty and the prospect of layoffs looming, consumers are curtailing discretionary spending and instead focusing on essentials. Fashion and luxury sales have fallen off a cliff — down a stunning 40%.* Major brands like Apple and Nike closed their brick-and-mortar stores in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus. Patagonia went even further and closed its online store for three weeks to ensure the health of their distribution center employees. Retail and Wholesale apps are some of the hardest hit by this pandemic, with app launches falling by at least 40%.
  • Like the Travel and Event industries, Deals & Coupons apps are similarly suffering from shelter-in-place orders that prevent customers from redeeming their purchases. DAUs saw a sharp decline starting March 17. 

COVID-19 & Mobile Engagement: Insights by Industry

Jump to: 

Business & Finance

Content & Media

Deals & Coupons



Event Ticketing

Food & Delivery



Health & Fitness



Medical & Medicine Delivery


Ride Hailing

Social Networking

Sports Content

Sports Games (Fantasy)



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Last updated on March 29, 2024