Covid is almost out the door and concepts like ‘contactless pay' and ‘automated finance’ no longer feel like invasive species in the financial ecosystem.
Digital solutions have reached norm-level as even hesitant adopters started hitting ‘download’.
And now that the pandemic’s effects are starting to fade, the question becomes what happens post-pandemic -- are these habits here to stay?
According to Appsflyer’s study The State of Finance App Marketing 2021 Edition, interest in digital finance solutions is still pretty strong. The number of global financial app downloads, for instance, has seen a major increase. Global demand for finance apps went up by 132 percent in Q1 of this year, compared to Q1 of 2019.
“The sector has experienced rapid growth thanks to accelerated digital transformation in 2020,” said Shani Rosenfelder, head of content and mobile insights at AppsFlyer, a marketing attribution platform that helps measure campaign effectiveness. “Additionally, a shift in mindset has led even those that have been slow to adopt fintech solutions to jump in.”
Financial app installs are on the rise
Enthusiasm for finance apps was growing even before the pandemic, though at a slower rate. In Q3 of 2019, there was a growth rate of 10.7 percent. In Q1 of 2020, just before the pandemic started to take hold, there was a growth rate of 12.6 percent.
When Covid actually did hit, there was somewhat of a seesaw effect. Between Q1 and Q2 of 2020, during the lockdowns and the financial fears that ensued, there was a minor drop of around 10 percent. A small uptick then followed as people started getting used to the ‘new normal’ of digital banking.
A more noticeable surge came in the first quarter of this year. On average, there was a 14.4 percent growth -- a 20 percent increase compared to the same quarter last year, and over double the number in Q1 of 2019.
“Despite a global drop in demand during the first lockdowns in spring 2020, when financial activity decreased and uncertainty increased, finance app installs trended up in H2 2020. In Q1 2021, the rewards of digital acceleration appeared with a surge in downloads,” said Rosenfelder.
Uptick all around the finance apps
Categorically, finance apps differ slightly in their levels of popularity. Most, though, are seeing an uptick in downloads.
“29 of the top 40 finance markets by app installs enjoyed a growth of at least 20 percent YoY, which is impressive even for those ranked last,” said Rosenfelder.
Traditional banking apps had the lowest increase out of all categories. The growth rate for these apps went up by 22 percent this quarter compared to Q1 of 2020. Still, that does not necessarily mean the uptick won’t stick around. According to Rosenfelder, traditional banking apps could end up playing the role of the useful sidekick, as branches once again open up.
“The pandemic provided an uplift across finance apps, and as people start visiting bank branches again, they are finding that having a companion app is still helpful.”
In terms of challenger banks’ popularity, the study points to this trend sticking around in the long run.
“Globally, digital banking app installs increased by almost 45 percent between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021,” said Rosenfelder. “Given this uplift occurring as the pandemic crisis abates, it is likely that the digital banking app trend is here to stay.”
Investment apps have been seeing the most growth out of all the categories, and that could have to do with the newfound enthusiasm for the stock market that’s happening right now.
“The report found that investment apps have been in high demand, occupying 29 percent of the pie on iOS and 22 percent on Android,” said Rosenfelder. “This was due to users seeking to capitalize on the rise of the stock markets. As markets likely continue growing amid pandemic recovery, and gamified investing apps continue to be popular, the enthusiasm for investment apps will continue.”
On the flipside, lending apps have seen a 40 percent year-over-year drop. The fade of PPP could have somewhat dulled these lending apps’ appeal, as people seeking these loans no longer have an initial reason to download. On top of that, lending apps have only recently started turning on the faucet again on their own loan originations, which could explain the slow-down.
More generous marketing budgets for financial apps
As the use of finance apps goes up, so does the competition.
And as the competition heats up, the companies behind these apps are looking for ways to stand out. Consequently we’re seeing a much more generous marketing budget all across the industry.
There’s big time spending going on in the marketing side of things.
In 2020, a global total of $3 billion was spent on finance app marketing.
In the US, $985 million was spent on marketing and user acquisition -- over 35 percent of the global budget.
In the first quarter of 2021 alone, $1.2 billion was spent on finance app marketing -- indicating what may turn out to be a record year.
“Marketers have been spending so much to meet demand and face increased competition as finance apps surged in popularity during the pandemic,” said Rosenfelder. “Spending is rising as people recover economically and have more money to spend.”
An interesting question to ask is what happens post-install. A study by Clevertap, for instance, found that 73 percent of users leave within the first week of downloading, which indicates there could still be work to do in keeping people on board.
Appsflyer’s study had some opposing results. 69 percent of iOS users are registering for these apps within the first day of downloading. For Android users that number is at 63 percent. In both cases, around 90 percent are registering within day 15.
According to Rosenfelder, the increased reliance on remarketing tactics could be doing the trick in getting people who stopped using the apps to give them another go.
“The report found a 3.3x surge in the number of remarketing conversions between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, indicating that marketers are succeeding at bringing users back,” said Rosenfelder.