Industry Outlook: Mobile App Marketing Trends in 2021

2021 Predictions - Mobile App Marketing

2020 taught us that the best roadmaps are ones that can bend to changing circumstances. In preparation for 2021, we’ve asked our own internal thought leaders plus experts across the industry to reflect on their learnings from 2020 and share their mobile app marketing trends and predictions for the year ahead.  

Meet the Mobile App Marketing Experts 

From Apple’s iOS 14 update to an overall rise in mobile activity during worldwide lockdowns, Keith MacArtney, Mobile Account Direct at Fluent, and our friends at Kochava and Branch weigh in on their key takeaways from the past year and provide tips for navigating the changing mobile app marketing landscape in 2021. 

Keith MacArtney Headshot
Fluent Logo

Keith MacArtney

Mobile Account Director

Ethan Lewis Headshot
Kochava Logo

Ethan Lewis

VP, Product Development & Engineering

Alex Bauer Headshot
Branch Logo

Alex Bauer

Market Strategy Director

Reflections & Predictions: Mobile App Marketing Trends

What was your biggest learning from 2020? 

Keith MacArtney, Fluent  

“When users are stuck at home, they turn to their mobile devices for absolutely everything – entertainment, on-demand services, social interaction, and more. During difficult times, app developers can set themselves up for success if they are nimble and quick to respond to consumers’ changing needs.” 

Ethan Lewis, Kochava 

“Uncertainty is the only certainty. Here at Kochava, we’re not harboring any assumptions heading into 2021 and beyond. 2020 proved the value of being nimble, agile, and quick to adapt to the ever-changing digital advertising landscape.” 

Alex Bauer, Branch 

“Mobile is no longer something that marketers can afford to treat as a standalone, self-contained platform. COVID-19 accelerated the digital adoption curve by several years in almost every field, and mobile is now more deeply integrated into everyday routines than any other tech innovation in history, aside from perhaps electricity itself.” 

What are some of your predictions for 2021?   

Keith MacArtney, Fluent 

“Only one thing is for sure in 2021: mobile app marketers will confront a major industry shakeup.  The most likely culprit will be the industry-wide push towards data protection and tracking transparency.  While app developers and their partners have managed to dodge and delay Apple’s iOS 14 data privacy opt-in requirements so far, we know that change is inevitable.  Those businesses who adapt quickly will be the winners.” 

Ethan Lewis, Kochava 

“SKAdNetwork is going to make its mark and I think we’ll see some very innovative approaches to maximizing performance potential within the bounds of what Apple has built. It’s likely we’ll also see greater ad spend allocation to over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV as a channel for driving mobile growth. We’re uniquely positioned in that space to give marketers the competitive edge.” 

Alex Bauer, Branch 

“A lot of the mobile ‘convenience habits’ that users picked up during the COVID-19 pandemic are ripe to stick, but won’t necessarily do so automatically; we’ll see a new focus on retention and finding ways to convert the last year of digital-only experiences back to a world where it’s possible to see other people in person again. At the same time, the awareness around the importance of user privacy (largely driven by Apple, but also through new privacy regulation around the globe) will continue growing. This will drive improved consumer privacy protections in some areas. However, the increasing difficulty of understanding ad campaign incrementality will also lead to a ‘rich get richer’ dynamic as we see an even greater consolidation around the most powerful walled garden platforms, and a re-focus toward organic/owned channels where granular measurement is still possible.” 

What can app marketers do to diversify their acquisition strategy and build a loyal user base in the new year? 

Keith MacArtney, Fluent 

“The paid subscription model will continue to gain popularity, both in the streaming services space and beyond.  As the user data privacy movement limits mobile marketers’ monetization via in-app advertising, developers will need to find new ways to ensure a steady return on their ad investment.  Streaming wars have proven that users are willing to commit to monthly payments for the services they love, so expect to see more mobile businesses follow that path.  And as more businesses offer paid subscriptions for premium offerings, the next logical step will be the emergence of new bundle service promotions, especially as users try to cut down on the number of recurring subscription payments.” 

Ethan Lewis, Kochava 

“Maximize cross promo opportunities within your app portfolio, and look to direct deals and private marketplaces. Talk with us about how we can help you bridge the gap to measure mobile growth efforts on OTT and connected TV. Level up your subscriptions game if that’s part of your monetization strategy.”  

Alex Bauer, Branch 

“It’s important for marketers not to give up after earning the install, and not to treat apps as a self-contained property, isolated from the rest of their marketing strategy. Ads will continue to be a useful acquisition tactic, but they’re not the only tool in the mobile marketer’s toolbox — marketers should look to channels they already own for opportunities to acquire high-value users, and find ways to keep new users around by rewarding them with awesome, cohesive, and delightful user experiences across every channel and platform.” 

Stay tuned for the next installment of our “Industry Outlook 2021” series where we’ll examine the future of affiliate marketing. If you’re an app marketer interested in scaling your user acquisition efforts and driving positive ROI, connect with us here.