January 7 2021

2020 has been a tough year that has reimagined the world of mobile apps and mobile marketing. In this article, we are going to take a look at the key trends in mobile app marketing that started emerging in 2020 and will continue to evolve into 2021.

App Annie, a platform that analyzes mobile data, has released a study about how mobile will develop in the next year. The changing marketplace is shifting the focus towards mobile apps that allow you to work, study, and have fun without leaving your home.

Mobile App Categories Popular in 2021

According to App Annie’s forecast, the following categories of mobile apps will be popular in 2021:

Mobile games

The mobile gaming industry is experiencing a huge growth in popularity. A study by App Annie says that mobile game usage in the second quarter of 2020 increased by 40% as compared with the previous year. Games are an easy and accessible way for the user to satisfy the need for entertainment, so it is no surprise that people turned to them during their self-isolation.

Work from home & education

Another trend that the pandemic has again provoked is remote work. This is turning into a new normal. As a result, there is an increase in demand for apps that help organize remote work and communicate with co-workers online. 

Another app category that is indirectly related to this category is education. Universities and other educational institutions have moved to distance learning, so teachers and students have turned to online learning apps.

Health & fitness

Gyms and fitness clubs were also closed during the pandemic. Therefore, users began to turn to apps in the health and fitness category. These apps offer a wide variety of exercises and sports activities that you can do at home.

Social media & entertainment

Besides mobile games, users have another way of entertainment and distraction. This includes social media and entertainment apps such as YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, etc. The total number of downloads of apps from these categories has grown 2.5 times compared to the period before the pandemic. This also includes news apps.

Food delivery

Because of the pandemic and, as a result, due to the closure of malls and shops, users switched to mobile as the main channel for shopping, including grocery stores. This is also confirmed by the growth of food delivery apps in app stores in the US – the number of downloads from February to March increased by 200%.

Mobile App Marketing Trends for 2021

And here are the “new normal” mobile marketing trends that will continue into 2021:

Social features in mobile apps

In 2020, people were forced to stay at home and thus socialize mostly online. In addition to social media, social features in other apps have not become less popular in 2020 and will continue to be so in 2021.

For example, the features of social media platforms, such as chats and activity feeds become more and more popular among mobile apps. Having an in-app community is proven to have a positive impact on user engagement. When players unite in clans, guilds, leagues, etc., and/or compete against each other, this motivates them to come back to the game every day. 


Fitness apps are also getting benefits from incorporating social features: the users can view the results and progress of other users and become motivated by those results. For example, the Fitbit app has the Community tab where people post their updates on social media and share information about various Fitbit activities such as unlocked badges. Friends can comment on each other’s posts and encourage each other for quick communication.

Read more: 10 Must-Have Features for Health and Fitness Apps

Mobile gaming

We have already mentioned mobile games as one of the most popular mobile app categories in 2020 and 2021. During this period, because of the isolation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, people are looking for new ways of entertainment. The number of active mobile game players is growing. As reported by App Annie, consumers will spend more than $120 billion on mobile games in 2021.

According to the mobile gaming statistics by Udonis, here are the most popular game genres for 2020:


The chart shows that the most popular genre is casual games (59%). The sub-genre of casual games is hyper-casual games. These games do not require user input and use simplified game mechanics. They focus on minimalistic yet crisp imagery, cartoonish art style, and rudimentary progression systems. The difference between the hyper-casual and casual games is the number of purchases made through the app. Casual expects to earn the most of the income from in-app purchases, while hyper-casual earns from ads. Examples of hyper-casual games are Dodgeball Duel, Terrarium, and Hole.io.

Read more: How Do You Market & Monetize Hyper-Casual Games

Changes introduced by iOS 14 launch and IDFA

This trend is not directly related to the pandemic but it has also impacted the world of mobile apps for the iOS platform. The release of iOS 14 introduced the new AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework, which is supposed to eliminate the IDFA (Identity for Advertisers).

IDFA is a way to anonymously identify iOS users. It acts like cookies on websites, collecting information about the user’s interactions with ad campaigns, installs, and in-app activities. With iOS 14, all Apple devices will be enabled to limit the automatic ad tracking by default, so mobile advertisers must receive the user’s consent before they can read the IDFA.

Apple offers an alternative called SKAdNetwork that will provide basic attribution parameters and campaign data, including the network, publisher, and campaign ID. However, there is not enough information about this alternative, e.g. whether it can provide enough details to make informed decisions.

Read more: iOS 14 Release and How It Will Impact App Marketing. GetSocial’s Perspective

Marketing automation

Marketing automation refers to using software that can automate marketing actions or tasks, optimize marketing workflows, and measure the results of marketing campaigns. The main goal of marketing automation is to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time so that the person takes the action that the marketers want.

According to statistics by Emailmonday, buyers with automated communication spend 47% more on their purchases, while the cost of their acquisition is reduced by 33%. 73% of marketers report greater productivity and time savings as the most important benefits of automation.

Marketing automation allows you to:

  • increase the efficiency of processes in comparison with manual work,
  • automate repetitive tasks,
  • make the targeting of consumers and potential customers more precise,
  • improve the overall customer experience,
  • avoid human error in campaigns and analysis,
  • start new processes that would be impossible to start manually.

In 2021, marketing automation will still belong to the most popular mobile marketing trends. This is because the marketers will need to adapt to the new normal and invent new processes aimed at reaching a broader audience.

CTA mobile marketing automation

Mobile advertising

Although the number of users of mobile apps has increased during the pandemic, which means that organic search traffic has also increased, mobile advertising is not losing ground. As per the same study by App Annie, mobile ad spend will reach $290 billion in 2021, boosting the growth of the advertising industry. Besides, according to Marketing Dive, advertising engagement has grown by 15% in a few months. Therefore, advertising both inside the apps and in-app stores still remains relevant and effective.

Voice search and control

According to Apple, smartphone owners unlock their devices about 80 times a day. How does this relate to voice search and COVID-19? Our smartphones are breeding grounds for bacteria. And to protect themselves from infection, users now try not to touch their phones as often as they did before the pandemic, using voice control instead.

Many brands are incorporating voice technology into their strategies to make the sales process even more efficient. For example, Domino’s pizza chain has connected the ability to order pizza through Alexa. Therefore, a decision to optimize a mobile app for voice search can increase the sales of your app.

Artificial intelligence and chatbots

Artificial intelligence plays a key role in mobile marketing today. Robots can greatly simplify the mobile marketing processes, including the collection, analysis, and sorting of data such as market trends, consumer behavior, information about users, calculations, etc.

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 95% of customer interactions will take place without human intervention. And with the development of technology, the formats of AI solutions are also developing, so even small companies can afford them.

Chatbots will also be an important digital trend in 2021. AI-based technology uses an instant messaging format to stay connected with customers 24/7. Virtual assistants offer great customer service – they are responsive, provide quick and accurate answers, and never lose patience. According to a study by Juniper Research, chatbots will save businesses $8 billion by the year 2022.

Video content

Let’s start with some statistics about video marketing:

  • According to YouTube, the consumption of mobile video content is increasing by 100% every year.
  • Adding a video to an email campaign increases the CTR by 200-300%.
  • 90% of videos help users make a decision to purchase a product or service.
  • 64% of customers are more likely to shop online after watching a video.

These numbers, as well as the situation with COVID-19 and quarantine measures, speak volumes about the importance of including video content in your marketing strategy for 2021. Delivering informational content through visualization allows you to efficiently communicate your message to a large number of people. The most popular are “live” videos (interviews, product demonstrations in business, creation and production process, etc.). Such video formats are a great way for companies to show the people behind their brand and build trust between the brand and its customers.

Influencer marketing

Attracting celebrities and influential users to promote your brand is not new to mobile marketing, but it works great nonetheless. First, the subscribers of such accounts trust the advice and opinion of the influencer, follow their activity, and use them as a role model. Second, celebrity tips are not perceived as direct marketing messages.

Read more: How to Use the Power of Influencer Marketing to Promote Your Mobile App

Micro-moments

According to statistics, US residents spend an average of 4.7 hours daily on their smartphones, checking social networks at least 17 times. Each check for new messages or viewing of the feed is a kind of “window” for marketers. The main task at such moments is to provide users with the most informative, useful, and high quality content.

Stories

Snapchat was the first social media platform to enter the market with the concept of “My Story”, followed by Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube. In November 2017, Instagram Stories had over 300 million daily active users.

The increased popularity of stories is another reason to improve your marketing strategy. The main feature of the stories is that they disappear after a certain period of time. It would seem illogical, but the time of displaying the message makes it limited, and therefore important for the client (fear of missing out). Therefore, big brands go to great lengths to create relevant and unique content.

The Bottom Line

Customer engagement will be critical to the transformation of mobile marketing in 2021. Modern tools will allow you to treat clients in a new, more individual way. Whether you use voice technology, post video content, or incorporate social features in your app, you can reach a wider audience, increase customer loyalty, and boost conversion.

Please also keep in mind that the strategies that were true for the previous years will be still effective in 2021. That’s why it is important not to overlook the proven strategies such as ASO, app reviews, referral marketing, gamification, etc. 

You can learn more about app marketing and boost your user acquisition, engagement and retention with our free email course. Subscribe now and become an app marketing expert in 10 days!