The impact of coronavirus on the app industry

Tariq Mohammed, director at 360 OM, discusses how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the app scene in various sectors.

smartphone apps
The impact that COVID-19 has had on the global economy so far has been devastating to say the least.
With businesses having to cease operations and individuals urged to follow social distancing guidelines, we are having to get used to a new way of life.

UK high street retailers, who were already finding themselves in tough times of late, recorded the worst month on record in March due to the lockdown. The travel industry has also been forced to a standstill, resulting in massive job cuts and revenue losses as flights are grounded and hotels close their doors.

Industries have no option but to innovate and pivot to remain relevant in a new way of living that we have no expiry date on. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach in how we continue to maintain some form of revenue stream but at present businesses are utilising the world of digital where possible, which includes an emphasis on apps.

Our change in lifestyle has prompted many of us to turn to apps in a bid to stay connected, to continue with work and school and generally to pass the time. The change in the current climate has naturally affected consumer behaviour and audiences have, as a result, been opting for some apps more than others, causing both significant increases and decreases in category rankings for a number of various apps.

Digital performance marketing agency 360 OM has teamed up with MobileAction’s App Intelligence platform to delve into some well-known industry apps across five different categories: travel, shopping, social networking, business and education. The research specifically looks at the change in category rankings amid the coronavirus outbreak from January 1 to today.


Earlier we mentioned travel as one of the main industries affected by the virus and it seems that the demand for tourism-related apps has of course decreased. One particular app that has experienced a notable shift is one of the biggest travel apps on the market, Uber.

Fluctuating between 1st and 2nd place in the US between the start of January and March 17, Uber has managed to preserve its rank despite the hardships in the travel category. However when looking further into the ranking graph, the ridesharing giant dropped from 17th in the overall travel section to 84th as of March 17.

Although Uber usually claims one of the top spots as a favourite travel app for users across the globe, it seems that the organisation’s core offering isn’t applicable to the landscape that we currently find ourselves in.


Grocery shopping has been a big concern lately, with supermarkets having to change the way they work to avoid toilet paper shelves being bare and empty fresh meat counters. As we’re urged to stay at home and limit human contact to a bare minimum, people are naturally opting to order their weekly food shops online.

Looking specifically at the US market, Walmart Grocery Shopping comes out as a top favourite for those ordering food from the comfort of the sofa. With coronavirus spreading to that part of the world being particularly reported in March, there has been an evident increase in both the shopping category and overall app ranking for Walmart. Ranking 27th in the shopping category on March 5, as of 17 March Walmart was currently at 3rd place.

Another app in the US that has noticed a huge increase in demand is Instacart, a same-day grocery delivery and pick-up service from local stores in the US and Canada. Jumping from 18th to 2nd in the shopping category, Instacart has also leaped from 563rd to 7th place in the App Store’s free rankings as of 7 April.

An important factor here for the shopping industry and most specifically food and drink in the case of Walmart and Instacart is the evident returns on investment by having the option to deliver products directly to the homes of consumers.

Competing in this market? Now could be the time to introduce a delivery service if possible.

Social Networking

As people enter lockdown in their homes, it’s no surprise to see a rise in the category rankings of social networking apps.

One particular stand out in the social networking category has to be Houseparty, which has become the go-to favourite for connecting with friends and family all over the world. Once a particularly unknown app for many, Houseparty is now sitting in 4th place in the United Kingdom for the top free apps on the iPhone and 3rd place on both the iPad and Google Play Store.

As an increasing number of us sit in quarantine, the fastest and easiest way to connect with each other is through apps like Houseparty so it’s really no surprise that it’s coming out on top and as of April 7 is sitting in the top 10 of overall free app rankings in countries such as the UK, the US, Canada, Italy and France.


With schools and workplaces closing globally and as we move into the way of ‘working from home’, you’d be mistaken by thinking that education is taking a hit.

Google Classroom has now secured 1st place in the education category on both the App Store and Google Play in the US, as well as moving to 4th place for the App Store and 5th place on Google Play in the UK as of April 7.


With a lot of businesses moving to remote working for the first time to ensure the safety of employees, the surge in apps that support working from home is evident. Waving the flag in this category is Zoom, an app that allows you to do video or audio conferences whilst also having the ability to share your screen with other chat participants.

Once ranking 869th in overall rankings and 12th in the business category, Zoom has soared to first place in overall rankings across both the App Store and Google Play.

So there you have it. Four app categories that are booming and one that’s noticed a significant drop suggesting that if you’re in the shopping, social networking, education or business sector, now could be the time to push an app, not ignore it.

360 OM works with brands on a global scale and can help you to promote your app. Book a free app strategy session today by emailing

Research and data for this article has been collected from MobileAction and AppFollow.

  • 360 OM is a performance marketing agency that works with brands to accelerate growth through paid search and paid social. The firm has offices in both Newcastle and London with national and international clients including tombola, ENGIE and Europcar Mobility Group.

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