App Marketing Trends 2021

Artyom Dogtiev

Updated: February 10, 2021

One of the major app marketing trends for 2021 will be an app user privacy becoming front and centered in app brands marketing strategy. Since 2008-2009 time frame, a mobile app user privacy wasn’t a priority for an app developer. After multiple high profile data breaches in 2015-2016, those were partly possible because of a lack of a mobile app user rights protection and negligence, finally privacy became an important thing to deal with responsibly.

Following late 2020 announcement by Apple that its IDFA policy change will take place early 2021, it’s reasonable to assume that this change will be rolled out in Q1, 2021. The major implication is that Apple will significantly limit major app marketing platforms such as Facebook Ads, Google Ads all others in collecting information about mobile app users between multiple apps. According to Facebook’s own admission, they expect the Facebook Audience Network efficiency – read “CPM rates” – to drop around 50% because of the IDFA policy change.


But app marketers around the globe will continue to rely on Facebook and Google ad platforms because to this day these two do represent around 90% of the total digital advertising market and so they just don’t have an option to switch to any other platform of a comparable size and efficiency. Because this change will influence iOS platform only, app marketers will shift their app marketing budgets towards Android.

Good old App Store Optimization will continue to be highly efficient and – because the efficiency of ad networks will be hit by IDFA policy change (from opt-out to opt-in model to provide app users opportunity to give or not their consent to collect data about them) – will become even more relevant.

Among other well established app marketing channels, Podcasts will continue to rise in their importance as part of mobile app user acquisition campaigns. Podcasts are unique in their ability to build trust and trigger a high level of engagement between apps and their users. People don’t perceive ads, heard on podcast, as annoying and artificial as regular banner or video ads, they trust podcast hosts.


2020 is a history but not the COVID-19 pandemic, which continue to be a part of people’s lives around the globe. Because it’s not over, apps from the categories that witnessed record spikes in demand such as Delivery, Education, Fitness and Communication will continue to be front runners. Naturally, with that high demand, it’ll be cheaper to acquire users and grow apps user base for apps in these categories.

The common themes are:

  • Hands down the biggest theme among all quotes presented below is upcoming Apple’s IDFA policy switch to opt-in. It will influence not only the biggest players in the paid user acquisition such as Facebook and Google but mobile app user acquisition platforms of all sizes. App marketers will need to double their efforts to find the best performing ad creatives and continue to invest into paid users acquisition via Apple’s Search Ads & Google UAC, as well as good old App Store Optimization.
  • App user’s privacy will finally become a focus for brands and app developers and rightly so.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact all aspects of our lives and obviously app marketing will be impacted as well. It will be about finding a better messaging to support people in their day-to-day struggle and not necessary being focused on an app itself.

It’s always beneficial to get a first hand perspective from professionals who have been in the app marketing field for a number of years and can project into the future, leveraging their extensive experience of running mobile app user acquisition campaigns, doing App Store Optimization, PR, Influencer marketing, advertising in podcasts, on TV, radio and more.

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  • Zoomd - Zoomd. See the Big Picture, Down to the Finest Detail
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  • Gummicube - Get the best app store optimization service from our experts
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These are the common themes among multiple app marketing professionals we reached out to pick up their brains on the App Marketing Trends 2021.

App Marketing Thought Leaders

First of is Andre of Admiral Media, one of the leading performance marketing companies. In 2020 the company was nominated ad Best App Marketing Agency of the year 2020 at the App Promotion Summit in Berlin.


Admiral Media – Andre Kempe, Founder

“Apples privacy update & GDPR will continue to fundamentally change our way of acquiring users for apps and web products. Ad monetization will be impacted dramatically and also change entire business models of companies that rely on it. We will see an entire multi billion dollar industry being changed this year.”



SDA Media – Mike Dominick, VP, Growth

“2021 is going to be a big year for innovation in the app marketing space. It has to be. The staggering growth many companies saw in 2020 will ultimately fuel the desire to continue at that same pace. IDFA and privacy changes will force marketing companies and apps to develop new technology and strategies to not only keep adding scale, but find creative ways to understand the nuances of their users.

I suspect it will also be an innovative year for app developers. 2020’s record growth primed the world for mass adoption of an app-based lifestyle. Ultimately paving the way for new and ingenious ideas to create apps that bolt to our daily lives.



Gimbal – Liz Weinsten, VP of Marketing

“App marketing tactics will vary depending on the type of app, but COVID has definitely impacted those tactics when it comes to consumer expectations. A few trends that stick out are the ability to tap into sentimentality and reaching users on a more emotional level, delivering on personalization to drive retention, and honing in on the value proposition. With new permissions on iOS 14, clearly communicating the value-exchange for getting users to opt-in to something like ‘precise location’ for curbside pickup or other location-based initiatives will be really important. The same can be said for IDFA. It all comes down to, what does the user get in return and how can you highlight that value to them?



AppAgent – Peter Fodor, Founder & CEO

“Expect ad creatives to move away from fake ads towards more differentiating and unique communication.

Why?

First, IDFA deprecation will lead to less qualified traffic and the role of creatives will not only be to convince users but also to attract the right audience.

Second, #MeToo products will inevitably fail to sustain the business this year and those investing in brand building while having a distinct identity and communication style will rise.”



Phiture – Andy Carvell, Partner and CoFounder

“There will be chaos, confusion and frustration but also opportunity accompanying the rollout of SKAdNetwork, with many agencies and advertisers failing but some adapting and thriving. In Monetization, even more apps will launch subscription plans as every publisher seeks that elusive recurring revenue: this may grow the overall ARPU pie a bit, but mostly it will result in increased competition between apps to be one of the two or three subscriptions that the average user is willing to pay for.



Appodeal – Wing Poon, VP of Marketing

In 2021, the ROAS measurement of ad revenue will continue to become more efficient for mobile apps. Every day, advertising monetization platforms and user acquisition channels are getting more aligned technologically. App marketers now have in-depth monetization insights that enable them to not only acquire more users but to aim for higher LTV & ROAS as well.



Nara Media – George Paton-Williams, Head of Marketing

“With iOS 14 coming into play, 2021 will see apps get more comfortable advertising higher up the marketing funnel. There has, up to this point, been a reticence to run campaigns that are not both hyper-targeted and designed to drive immediate performance. With targeting becoming broader, and tracking of performance becoming harder, there will be more opportunity for upper-funnel activity to prove its ability to drive longer-term business outcomes.



Zoomd – Omri Argaman, CMO

“-The first trend is to know to do UA and ad targeting with the privacy and iOS 14 issues.

-Second: more budgets to premium sources. because of the fraud.

-More SaaS-based business models for managing UA.

-TikTok is going to grow. Drastically in regards to budgets

– Creative and branding will have a bigger part in-app marketing

– Programmatic will be bigger



Digital Turbine – Scott Tomkins, Senior Vice President of Global Revenue

Consumers are going to have big “APP”-etites in 2021. People already download 3x more apps in the first 3 months of having a new smartphone. With new 5G phones hitting the market, people will be doing a double shopping spree: first for a new 5G device and then for new 5G apps.

This means, for app marketers, a 5G new device owner could download up to 5 TIMES more apps than an owner of an older smartphone. Savvy app marketers will look to incorporate new methods to get in front of new device owners – and the best way to do this is to get directly on the device through preloads. Not only does this keep you out of overcrowded app stores, but it brings your brand RIGHT to the customer. Which is right where you want to be to whet their increased “APP”-etites.



App Growth NetworkFouad Saeidi, Founder & CEO

With the changes caused by iOS 14 IDFA deprecation, the app industry will have to adapt to more uncertainty. It will be harder to attribute certain actions to users and ads, which makes metrics like CPA less notable.

That’s why we could be seeing a return to basics. For instance, promo codes. This tactic has been used for decades to generate conversion data. With the emerging need to implement simple strategies to generate clear attribution, “old school” advertising strategies may once again become trendy – perhaps with a creative twist. Forward thinkers will rise to the top and innovate alternative solutions, and we’ll keep moving forward.



AppTweakSimon Thillay, Head of ASO

“2021 is going to be dominated by the consequences of Apple limiting access to IDFA. The imminent switch to the App Tracking Transparency framework will hinder algorithm based UA targeting and marketing teams will have to adapt their strategy and rely on App Store Optimization (ASO) to improve campaign efficiency. This means marketers will have to put more emphasis on aligning creatives throughout the acquisition funnel through careful testing. More experienced teams might try to leverage ASO data for customer research to inform UA targeting. In short, marketing will need to follow a more human-based approach and not rely as much on algorithms.



CovaticNick Pinks, CEO

“Expect to see more brands bring smart personalization to apps in a bid to engage with consumers. After a challenging year, brands need to deliver exceptional in-app experiences and provide more of a human touch that resonates with users. There will be more of a trend towards humor and empathetic messaging, especially during times of crisis. Customized push notifications will be industry-standard in a bid to increase conversions and mobile marketers will start to embark on app messaging that takes a personal approach that really resonates in 2021.”



JamppGuido Crego, Head of Product

“2021 will be the year advertisers proactively push business intelligence in creative testing to the next level. Creatives have always been an important element in optimization, albeit often overlooked. In a post-IDFA scenario where marketers can’t rely on behavioral data, we expect them to be more proactive in testing creative concepts and leveraging those insights in combination with the available contextual signals.”



MoburstGilad Bechar, Founder & CEO

Firstly, influencer marketing has been rising over the past few years and it’s only going to get bigger this year coming. It’s an industry propelled by users’ exposure to traditional ads decreasing, and their quest for authenticity and connection within advertising increasing. Paid social media ads may already be targeting potential users where they’re spending the most time, but influencer marketing takes this one step further by collaborating with “real” people who are trusted and followed out of choice. Micro-influencers have some of the highest engagement rates in advertising, so it would be remiss of the app marketing industry to ignore their value.

It’s clear that one of the best ways to showcase an app is in video format, and influencer marketing allows far more freedom than an app store preview video. For starters, an influencer can give potential users an idea of what to expect, leading to increased retention rates down the line. What’s more, last year we saw TikTok reach over 2 billion users, and other platforms race to compete such as Instagram with Reels. There is more space for creativity in the influencer marketing sphere than ever before, and it can be a great way to show off your app to get those conversion rates skyrocketing.

Facing a tumultuous year ahead for paid user acquisition, ASO is going to be more important than ever. So, conversion optimization of icons, screenshots and video are going to take center stage when it comes to onboarding users. Changes to key identifiers such as IDFA have launched the paid mobile marketing world into a new era, so ASO needs to steady the boat while paid UA is re-routing.

ASO’s organic approach also taps into the same vein of “authenticity” being the driving force behind so much of what we consume these days, as opposed to invasive marketing. By A/B testing to have your best performing screenshots on display, showcasing your app’s standout features in a preview video, and ensuring your icon clearly represents what your app offers, you’re taking an approach to increasing conversions that cannot be challenged by the ever-changing privacy regulations the industry is currently facing.”



Yodel MobileMick Rigby, CEO

“People tend to think about influencers in a visual context, however influencer reach isn’t restricted to the obvious and has continued to expand into new areas such as voice and podcasts. We are already seeing that this year there is going to be a lot more action in the podcast space, or even micro-podcasting space, such as with the app Stereo. The opportunity in Audio will be high, the marketplace is already growing incredibly quickly due to it not being as mature as the visual and video influencer space. For apps wanting to benefit through getting in the door early, reach will be greater whilst cost per acquisition will be low. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to develop strong relationships for future activities.

Another area that will affect influencer marketing is the tracking challenge that will come with the new iOS 14 data privacy changes. We envisage that some of the more conventional paid user acquisition channels will have greater challenges this year in terms of tracking and attribution, which could push prices up. This means small businesses will be thinking about other solutions to drive users to their apps. As a result, influencers may play a part in a new wave of opportunities. Overall, we anticipate a greater demand for multiple influencer channels moving forward in 2021.”

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