The times they are a-changin'! It seems like data comes out each week showing the rapidly shifting nature of app installs and mobile revenue. Despite the changing times, the mobile economy continues to show strong app growth and revenue, indicating that now, more than ever, marketers should be investing in user acquisition and retargeting campaigns.

Mobile Revenue is Up

In the age of shelter in place restrictions, the million-dollar question remains: will the fact that people are spending more time on their phones while at home positively impact consumer spend on apps? In short, the answer seems to be yes. 

Two-thirds of app verticals have seen a revenue lift in the last couple of weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has escalated in many parts of the world. In fact, 40% of verticals worldwide enjoyed a revenue increase that exceeded 20%. 

Global In-App Revenue Change Among App Categories (March 31-April 6 vs. March 17-23)

Source: AppsFlyer

What’s more, in the U.S., total app revenue grew 23% since March 17-23. Overall, app revenue, installs, and sessions have increased from the levels they were at before the pandemic. Notably, apps that focused on user acquisition between March 3 and March 23 saw a marked increase in non-organic installs. Apps that implemented user acquisition at the onset of the pandemic are also now enjoying a boost in organic installs and revenue even as ad spend decreased. 

Weekly Percentage of Installs, Sessions, and Revenue in the U.S. Measured Time Frame (Normalized)

Source: AppsFlyer


It’s clear from this boost in organic installs that marketers should invest in re-engagement strategies to maintain monthly active users (MAUs) after shelter in place measures are lifted.

More Time, More Opportunities

It can’t be overstated the shifting nature of the current state of app usage and the economy as a whole. We can only try our best to make projections based on the data and let those inferences guide our actions. 

Across verticals, there is a clear indication that well-timed user acquisition during this time has increased installs and revenue. As people spend more time on their phones, there is more opportunity for apps overall. This is obvious for game apps, where users can find easy entertainment for long periods of time but also for non-gaming verticals as well. In fact, time spent in non-gaming apps is increasing across markets.

Average Weekly Time Spent in Non-Gaming Apps

Source: App Annie

Again, the data indicates user acquisition continues to be an effective method of engaging users. AppsFlyer found that streaming apps focused on user acquisition between March 3-17 saw a 52% increase in non-organic installs and a 9% boost in organic growth. This coincided with a revenue increase of 23% even as spend was lowered in the following period (March 17-April 6).

Weekly Percentage of Installs, Sessions and Revenue of Entertainment Streaming Apps in the U.S. Measured Time Frame (Normalized)

Source: AppsFlyer

Although app marketers are recalibrating their ad spend to meet the shifting economy, their previous user acquisition investment is paying off with a steady rise in organic installs and revenue.

It’s the Perfect Time to Retarget

The social impacts of this moment in history are profound, but in times of crisis, there are also opportunities. Now more than ever, marketers should be maximizing their retargeting strategies to maximize the surge in organic installs. Every app stands to gain from this period as more consumers spend prolonged amounts of time engaging with their mobile devices.

Between February and March, organic installs grew by almost 15%. The majority of this growth came from non-gaming apps, including high spikes in communication (up 150%), utilities (110%) and finance (up 40%) categories. Non-organic installs also rose for gaming apps by 7% during this period.

COVID-19 Impact: Global App Installs Weekly Trend

Source: AppsFlyer

It’s clear by the surge in organic installs that marketers need long-term retargeting strategies to maintain engagement. After mobile apps increase their MAUs during this difficult period, it’s the perfect time to re-engage users before they churn.

For entertainment apps, this could include retargeting users with personalized content recommendations to remind them that there is still fresh content to be had even when it feels like they have watched everything. Gaming apps, might challenge users to beat the next level. With an eye to shifts in consumer spending habits, shopping apps could entice users with promotions and mobile offers.

These efforts will pay off by reminding users of the value of your app in this time of need. Want to inspire long-term brand affinity and revenue? There has never been a better time than now, with an ever-increasing captive audience at marketers’ fingertips.

Strength in Numbers

Investing in a strong user acquisition campaign is critical but to achieve strong user retention, it needs to be done in tandem with retargeting. To activate your audience in the long-term, user acquisition should be supported by a deliberate retargeting strategy from the start. Eventually, all businesses will hit their maximum new user potential and previous data has shown that only about 10% of new users are still active a week after download. That’s why it’s vital to complement your acquisition efforts with consistent retargeting campaigns. 

Average Retention Rate

Source: Adjust

Retargeting campaign users have also been shown to have an overall 152% higher engagement rate than new user acquisition campaign users. Retargeted users also make 37% more purchases in the first month than new user acquisition campaigns. This shows that user acquisition might increase the reach of your app, but the true profit driver is retargeting.


The current state of the mobile economy and app usage is shifting rapidly. Using data to make smart decisions about your mobile marketing strategy has never been more pressing. 

  • Mobile revenue and time spent is on the rise. 
  • While marketers might be reluctant to spend on ads during this time of economic uncertainty, taking measures to invest in mobile opportunities is key. 
  • Marketers should invest in a strong user acquisition strategy to engage the millions of new users turning to their phones during prolonged periods of sheltering in place. 
  • Marketers should also invest in strong retargeting strategies to capitalize on the surge in organic installs and maximize long term user retention. 
  • Combining strategies to build a user acquisition campaign that is supported by a strong retargeting strategy at the start will contribute to long term brand affinity and revenue after shelter in place measures are lifted.