Casey Rock

It’s no secret that COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, has disrupted business as usual. Recent analysis from Apptopia shows that–even though they’re a digital affair–apps have not escaped the virus’s reach. Some apps – such as travel apps, rideshare apps, and restaurant apps–have seen a decline in UA and retention. However, game apps, streaming apps, health and fitness apps, food delivery apps, and others have seen a rise in users and activity as people adjust to staying at home 24/7.

Where does this leave app developers, publishers, and marketers? How are they adjusting to this new reality?

Helping customers

For many, KPIs are taking a back seat to the need to help people. The Meet Group CEO Geoff Cook says, “I would not have UA concern itself with lifetime values or economic measures at this time. This moment is about helping find support from each other through video and text communities, not hocking subscriptions.”

As the company behind such popular dating apps as MeetMe and LOVOO, the company has made it a point to remind its users there are ways to get to know one another that don’t involve going out and meeting in person. To that end, it has shifted its focus toward promoting and supporting live video and chat options rather than encouraging real-life meetups.

“Dating apps, as communities for text chat and video, have a role to play to help people cope,” Cook says. “People have more time on their hands than they used to—and allowing access to online communities will help people adjust to a new normal in a difficult time.”

Travel booking app Hopper’s Head of UA, Simon Lejeune, echoes the sentiment that helping others is at the top of the priority list right now, saying that his company is “currently mostly focused on servicing customers who need our assistance.” Hopper’s UA and communications teams have been busy supporting the customer service team, replying to customers on social media, and creating email campaigns to keep travelers informed.

The company has also shifted marketing to focus on trips that take place months down the line while highlighting free change and cancellation policies put in place by airlines.

Meanwhile, at Upptic—which offers app store optimization and full stack growth services—CGO Warren Woodward has some strong words for those capitalizing on COVID-19. “I would advise marketers to be sympathetic, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because we’re already seeing a backlash in fan communities to ads that are playing up the coronavirus as a means to juice sales. This pandemic is likely to affect all of our families, and I think history will not reflect kindly on companies that exploit this moment in time for short term profitability.”

Pivots in user behavior

Upptic, which works with mobile app publishers and developers on optimization and growth, has a uniquely broad look at how apps are performing right now. According to Woodward, his team has noticed that app usage overall is definitely up—but spending isn’t necessarily. He notes there is such financial uncertainty that how people choose to spend their free time is influenced by the need to save for essentials rather than indulge in things like in-app purchases. However, he does offer a silver lining: “We are seeing that some of our more casual and broadly appealing games have seen an increase in usage and therefore [are seeing] higher in-app ad revenue.”

Hopper and The Meet Group have also seen changes in app usage. Within the NextDate virtual dating game and LIVE broadcast video platform, The Meet Group has seen 22% increase in time spent in video and a 25% increase in video chatting since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Meanwhile, Hopper recently surpassed Uber as the most-installed app in the travel category and saw a sales increase of 100% MoM—which it attributes to young users booking leisure trips months in advance as average airline prices have declined.

Helping employees

Amid all these changes, how is the workplace itself evolving? It goes without saying that almost everyone is working remotely at this point. But that doesn’t mean company camaraderie must disappear. Hopper, which has a team spread across the world ready to work from home, has added informal virtual hangouts to the company calendar with people checking in on each other more. “Our #petfriends Slack channel has seen a sharp increase in activity too,” Lejuene says.

Those at The Meet Group are now communicating via Slack, Zoom, and Lifesize. Some team members are scheduling virtual coffee breaks, lunches, and book club gatherings. There’s even company-wide virtual yoga—which is held for an hour every day.

Meanwhile, Woodward has some parting advice for the entire industry. “As app marketers, we should acknowledge that we are in an extremely privileged position as many either are currently or will be struggling immensely. My final thought is to urge all marketers to think about what those less privileged may be facing in the months ahead and to think about how you can support your community. Supporting your local food bank via Feeding America is a great place to start.”