Apps are now indispensable for users to shop, connect with their loved ones and entertain themselves, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Criteo.

The technology firm’s data showed that 55% of shoppers in Asia-Pacific downloaded at least one shopping app (retail, food, or grocery/alcohol) during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. This was more so in Singapore, where Criteo saw 67% of shoppers did the same, while 36% of respondents installed a new retail shopping app from mid-May to mid-June this year.

The study found that Singapore app users were spending more time on their favourite apps, while also discovering new ones.

  • Around 50% of consumers in Singapore downloaded a food delivery or video conference app during the country’s Circuit Breaker period.
  • Food delivery apps were the most downloaded apps before COVID-19 at 71%, followed by finance apps at 61% and retail shopping apps at 59%.
  • Entertainment at home was popular during Circuit Breaker. Around 3 out of 10 respondents downloaded a gaming or streaming video app then.

Word-of-mouth was cited as the top reason for downloading an app during the Circuit Breaker in Singapore, with 53% of respondents stating that they used an app based on recommendations from friends, families, or co-workers. This was higher than in the Asia-Pacific average of 46%.

Advertisements were also critical in promoting an app, where 47% of shoppers in Singapore (compared to 60% in Asia-Pacific) said they downloaded an app during Circuit Breaker after seeing an advertisement on social networks, TV or on another app.

One-third of shoppers in Singapore increased their app usage during Circuit Breaker:

  • 56% of consumers increased their time on social networking apps, followed by food delivery at 51% and video conferencing at 42%.
  • 42% used food delivery apps multiple times a week, 38% for retail shopping and 35% for grocery/alcohol delivery.
  • 25% used educational apps for adults multiple times a week, signalling a desire for users to upskill themselves during this time.
  • While working from home, most Singapore shoppers used utility apps multiple times a week, 37% downloaded home exercise apps, 35% video conferencing apps and 33% finance apps.

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the relationship between mobile users and their apps, elevating their importance to users due to their convenience during these times, said Taranjeet Singh, MD of South East Asia and India, Criteo.

“From buying groceries and meals to home entertainment and workouts, apps have shown their versality to cater to varying audience segments to meet their needs and wants,” he added. “We see that this could continue to be the trend even in the recovery stages after lockdowns as consumers have experienced and enjoyed the benefits of using apps. Brands and retailers will have to build up their presence in this area to stay competitive in the long term.”

Post-COVID-19 challenges for brands with apps

Criteo’s Asia Pacific executive MD, Kenneth Pao noted that as customers spend more time on apps during this period, their experience will greatly shape their view of the brand, and as such their long-term relationship with the brand.

“Brands will have to step up their efforts to increase app retention and usage. They will need to establish trust by proving that they are able to securely manage personal data and offer a pleasant user experience on their platform,” he said.

A key challenge for brands post-COVID is keeping their users engaged consistently on their apps. This was especially so for Generation Z and Millennials polled, 34% of whom shared that they were either extremely or somewhat likely to delete apps downloaded once the pandemic is over.

This finding can be especially significant for brands, as Generation Z and Millennials are more likely than older generations to make an in-app purchase. Moreover, majority of Singapore app users have more than 10 apps installed on their mobile devices but 45% of users only use 6 – 10 apps daily, with 36% using 1 – 5 apps.

Key takeaways for brands

Prioritise customer experience: Brands will need to put even more focus on enhancing customer experience on their apps. App retargeting can be an extremely effective strategy for user retention. Brands will be able to tap into massive data sets to deliver truly personalised product recommendations for each user, thus boosting conversion rates.

Launch loyalty and incentive programs: Brands and retailers should look to implement incentive programs to keep their top app users continually engaged and rewarded for staying loyal to their platform. App referral programs can be especially effective in encouraging loyal users to help grow a brand’s app user base.

Utilise push notifications, emails and in-app advertisements: While brands have to be conscious not to overcommunicate or spam their users, they do need to take a more active approach to re-engage dormant and new users of their platform. Brands can boost app usage by pushing new and trending products, or through promotions such as discounts and free shipping.

Criteo and its vendors surveyed over 18,113 anonymous respondents across 18 countries between April 3 and June 29. In Singapore, the survey was conducted from June 11-15 with 1,006 respondents. All survey responses were then aggregated for general analysis across broad demographic categories.

Sourced from Criteo