Much has been written about the impact of the global pandemic and the substantial shift in consumer behavior it’s caused. As people retreated into their homes and adhered to shelter-in-place mandates, many turned to mobile and web apps to conduct their daily lives. 

Consider what this pandemic would have looked like 20 years ago when we weren’t tethered to phones and computers, and we didn’t have fast mobile data and internet access. How would we have entertained ourselves or kept fit at home? What would we have done to acquire food? Would it even have been possible to coordinate and move essential goods so quickly across states, countries, and oceans to ensure communities were fed and supplied?

Thankfully, we’ve had the benefit of apps to accommodate our everyday needs and act as a substitute for in-person behaviors. In fact, significant segments of the economy have continued to function during these unprecedented times because organizations have modern app technology that keeps everything moving, even when humans aren’t. 

What I find fascinating are the application trends that emerged as a result. Unlike the people who use them, apps don’t shelter in place. They’ve become digital lifelines during the crisis. 

This reality explains why app stores experienced the largest spend ever during the first quarter of 2020. Consumers spent $23.4 billion and downloaded over 31 billion new apps. Organizations quickly recognized this consumer shift in behavior and spending, driving mobile app development up by 366%. 

From where I’m sitting, there’s another unique perspective on applications that companies like mine can bring to the conversation. We provide a stability management solution that collects application error data. As it turns out, error data provides a rather unique lens for examining the COVID-19 economy. 

By analyzing error data from our top 750 projects, segmented by vertical, some interesting app category trends emerged. At a glance, we were able to pinpoint the app types that thrived during the early months of the pandemic, those that continued more or less as usual, and the ones that slowed down as a result of certain realities and prohibited activities.

Pandemic-thriving applications

Everyone knows about Zoom and its ascension to prominence during the early days of COVID-19. In fact, the entire web conferencing category was a big winner, as these apps softened the blow of physical distancing for work and personal communications. In North America, the category saw a 627% increase, including a 121% surge in daily active users.

While shelter-in-place boosted business-related apps like remote desktop (281%), video platforms (265%), and webinar (226%), two other categories saw a massive increase as well, namely telemedicine (613%) and electronic signature services (511%).

Through error data, we discovered additional category winners, which align with popular activities and day-to-day needs during the pandemic.

  • Media and Entertainment: With non-essential workers sheltering at home, it’s hardly surprising that streaming media and television apps experienced an uptick in usage. Our numbers jive with publicly-released statistics, which show an overall increase of 25% for entertainment apps and 21% increase for music apps in April.
  • Social Networking and Sharing: For better or worse, social media apps saw a 50% usage increase as people turned to these apps for news and COVID-19 information. Sharing apps like Pinterest also experienced a jump in usage, especially around stay-at-home topics such as health and self-care, board games and entertainment, hobbies, homeschooling, and food recipes. 
  • Health and Fitness: With gyms, fitness centers, and workout studios closed, many consumers scrambled to figure out how to exercise at home. According to error data, fitness apps provided the solution, and Pew Research agreed, stating that 18% of Americans tried online classes and videos.
  • Online Ordering and Delivery: Grocery stores became a big no-no for consumers who didn’t want to wait in long lines and risk contracting the virus through human contact. Error data demonstrated that both ordering and delivery apps for food and groceries became more popular overnight, and Pew Research once again validated the same trends, reporting 32% of American adults ordered food and 21% ordered groceries.
  • Logistics: The movement of essential goods and medical supplies has never been more important than during a crisis like COVID-19. Error data showed that many fulfillment services saw a boost in usage by merchants for online orders. Additionally, there was an increased reliance on logistics apps to support essential logistics workforces and enable seamless communication and coordination.
  • Religion: This final category should probably have its own designation because these apps didn’t thrive—they exploded! We’re talking mind-blowing escalations in app downloads and usage. COVID-19 hit the States during March and April, which is a popular time for celebrating or observing holidays across multiple religious groups. Apps became an alternative to in-person gatherings and a way to connect with communities of faith.

Pandemic-proof and pandemic-rebounder applications

Our error data zeroed in on three app categories that either experienced a small bump in user sessions or remained relatively consistent during the pandemic, which we termed “pandemic-proof.” 

The first is eCommerce, which encompasses a variety of app types. While retail app usage experienced a severe downswing in March and April, overall eCommerce app usage was balanced by the purchasing of essential goods. Approximately 40% of consumer spending went to items such as office supplies, housewares, beauty and cosmetics, home improvement, fitness equipment, toys, and hobby-related products.

In a similar manner, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps cover a wide range of services. While some SaaS apps saw a bump in usage due to the pandemic, the overall market remained level because other SaaS companies experienced, on average, a 40% decrease from sales and accounts being put on hold.

Finally, error data demonstrated that eLearning apps are pandemic-proof as usage increased during the shutdown but didn’t hit “thriving” levels. Many schools turned to video conferencing rather than introducing new eLearning apps so late in the school year. However, there’s good news for this category on the whole as investment is projected to hit $350 billion by 2025, up from $18.66 billion in 2019. 

And then there are the apps in our pandemic-rebounder category, which are unlikely to surprise anyone. Error data revealed that Consumer Services, Hospitality, and Transportation are taking the brunt of the pandemic. While these apps are currently on hold, all three categories are expected to rebound as the pandemic abates or is eradicated.

Bugs everywhere! Safeguard your apps

The pandemic has made us recognize just how integral apps have become to our society. During a global pandemic, they’ve enabled the delivery of critical services while also helping to keep people informed, entertained, and fed. 

This reality puts a huge amount of pressure on app providers to ensure application health and deliver crash-free user experiences. Since 96% of mobile app users write bad reviews for sub-par apps, you want your app to be at the top of its game (especially during a crisis) so you can attract as many consumers as possible and keep them engaged and happy. 

Here’s the good news: Much like error data can shed light on global app trends, it also projects a giant floodlight on all issues within apps. With continuous monitoring of app stability and the ability to prioritize errors for fixing, organizations can:

  • Reduce costs and increase revenue by targeting the right bugs and heading off technical issues, which is the number one reason apps get deleted. 
  • Increase team productivity by flipping from 60% wasted developer time investigating and fixing errors, to a 40% increase in developer productivity when the exact location and source of the error is provided. 
  • Retain development talent and boost morale by bringing complete visibility and cross-team agreement to software stability and the prioritization of errors.
  • Impact consumer satisfaction and usage to safeguard app store ratings by catching errors in real-time to ensure users have a positive customer experience. 
  • Improve application health by finding, fixing, and prioritizing software bugs with ease to maintain a healthy app.

When a virus is wreaking havoc, we need our digital experiences to be safeguarded from crashes and bugs. And that’s the vaccine that stability management provides.