The past year has been another huge year for mobile applications, with consumer spend on apps hitting over $580 billion. And this year is already looking like it’s going to be even bigger. 

Despite the growth, there will still be big challenges for mobile app marketers. With this in mind, here’s what I expect to be some of the biggest app marketing trends over the coming months, with predictions and advice on how you can adapt and thrive moving forward.

1. iOS 14’s privacy update will force marketers to adapt

, App Marketing Trends: Predictions for 2021 and Beyond

Some of the most significant changes in app marketing right now are due to Apple’s privacy updates arriving with iOS 14.

You’ll now need to inform users that you’re using an Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to track their actions. Then, users will need to explicitly opt-in if you want access to the device IDFA when they’re using your app.

What does this mean for app marketers? Well, it’s going to be a major shift in your processes.

To clarify, you’ll still have the same data you’ve always had on Android users — so nothing changes there. 

But, on iOS, your existing analytics and attribution tools won’t cut it if you don’t make changes to your setup. You’ll be in the dark about what actions your users are taking unless you can adapt. 

While we still don’t know precisely how the best companies will react, there are a few things we can be relatively sure of.

Firstly, marketing’s source of truth will need to shift away from existing app analytics tools focused on metrics that aren’t product-related. The data from these won’t be 100% accurate, and it’ll be harder to attribute conversions to specific campaigns. 

Instead, companies will need to invest more in their in-house data science teams who focus on probabilistic modeling to guide marketing efforts and understand attribution with a good degree of confidence.

Second, there may be a renewed focus on top-of-funnel campaigns combined with app store optimisation (ASO). Bottom-of-funnel campaigns will be harder to track, so companies may reroute resources into creatives and brand-focused awareness campaigns. Then, when an interested user lands on your app store page, everything from your app screenshots to your description, to your flowing reviews, will need to reflect the brand you’re building.

In the long-term, iOS 14’s privacy-focused changes should lead to innovation around how app marketers run paid campaigns and attribute actions. It may also lead to more creativity in how you market your app and drive your audience to your app.

The most successful apps will grow because their marketing and data science teams work in cohesion to understand and predict what actions their users will take.

2. Doubling down on the customer experience and convenience

With the arrival of the pandemic, it became abundantly clear that convenience is still key for consumers. They flocked to apps such as Amazon and Deliveroo because their levels of convenience rivalled walking into a shop and buying what they needed in person.

This means you need to treat logistics as marketing. Look at ways to improve your customer’s experience around the metrics they care about: delivery time, price, or customer service response times. If your app doesn’t enable users to quickly achieve the goals they wanted to reach with your product or service, you won’t retain users. The competition is too hot.

You should also be considering how the iOS 14 tracking changes affect your customer experience. If you can provide an experience that is actually improved through closer tracking (for example, more accurate delivery time estimates, or better-personalised product recommendations), you’ll have more users opting-in to be tracked. 

At the same time, you’ll still need to ensure your app user experience is enjoyable for users who haven’t opted-in to tracking if you expect them to return to your app regularly.

As a marketer, this means you’ll need to strike a balance to strike between personalisation and privacy, and you need to find ways to constantly improve your app user experience without compromising on those key factors.

3. Apple’s advertising will grow into becoming a key ad platform

, App Marketing Trends: Predictions for 2021 and Beyond

Another major app marketing trend I’m expecting to grow over the coming months will be more app-based companies using Apple’s own native advertising tools.

With Apple’s new focus on privacy, it will become harder to successfully advertise to iOS users on Facebook, Google, or other ad networks.

While this might hurt your campaigns at first, Apple can help you resolve it.

By combining iOS-specific advertising with Apple search optimization, you’ll be able to drive qualified iOS traffic to your app page in a privacy-friendly way — even if your ads on the third-party platforms aren’t as effective or efficient. 

You can also start using the data you gather from Apple’s ad platform to inform decisions on other platforms like Facebook where you have less data on iOS due to the privacy restrictions.

As Apple takes control of how other platforms use their user data, we could also make a prediction that Apple will soon extend their advertising tools for app publishers, allowing you to advertise across their other inventories — like Apple News, TV, and Music. 

If that’s the case, I’d suggest that now is the time to start using Apple Search Ads, gathering data, and learning more about Apple’s advertising tools. 

4. Exciting opportunities thanks to 5G connectivity

With 5G connectivity becoming commonplace around Europe, there’s now huge potential for the app market to grow even faster over the coming years. 5G’s speed and low latency will power new app features, integrations, use cases, and performance improvements

And while there’s plenty of excitement in the consumer-facing app world, 5G will also be revolutionary for B2B applications. In an article for Samsung, Mark Howden writes about this: 

“Businesses are eager to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT). But for systems to function seamlessly, they need access to a ton of data in real-time — something that modern connectivity doesn’t allow for. 5G will change all of that,” he writes. “Developers will be free of limitations, and opportunities will be fully realized in a way that current connectivity prohibits.”

He cites use cases in agriculture, where smart sensors can monitor the irrigation status of a field. And he also explains how 5G apps will allow healthcare providers to track patients remotely, and help large manufacturers to run preventative maintenance on their machines.

From an app marketing perspective, we’ll have a chance to lean more heavily on augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality (for ads and experiences). And users will be able to play impeccable video quality (live-streamed and recorded), play more intricate real-time mobile games, and enjoy a much richer overall experience with their device.

And quite simply, 5G will also reduce the time it takes for a user to download and install an application. This should reduce abandonment, as long as your onboarding process is smooth. 

Summary

The immediate future will present new challenges to app marketers around privacy regulations, user tracking and attribution, advertising channel mix, and increased competition. But overall, I think these challenges will push marketers to innovate and use resources (and data) smarter.

Winners will emerge in the app marketing world, and they’ll be the ones who have adapted quickly and taken advantage of the opportunities. And there will be losers, too — those who fail to stay on top of what’s required in adapting their processes and customer experiences. 

Samuel Olsson is a curious growth marketer in the mobile app space passionately focused on improving key metrics aligned with business objectives to drive value and scale.