By Tiffany Ou, General Manager, Nativex – With numerous countries on lockdown to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, millions of people have turned to their tablets and smartphones in the hopes of keeping their minds active and entertained. In an era in which mobile phone usage is higher than ever, we’re beginning to see usage data and unique trends from different regions that provide valuable insights for US marketers.
One sector that has benefited more than average is online games. The industry experienced a boost in revenue and stock value across the globe because of COVID-19. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) joined in urging the world to stay at home and play video games to stop COVID-19’s spread, something it wouldn’t have dreamed of saying just a year ago.
With its lockdown starting earlier, download figures for China are gradually being replicated in other countries around the world with games, streaming, and business app downloads on the rise. With this in mind, brands and advertisers can learn from the Chinese market, particularly as the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown eases and the country begins its recovery. Here are a few things US mobile marketers can capitalize on as we progress through our COVID-19 journey.
The State of Play During China’s Lockdown
Stay-at-home measures in China, which started in January 2020, saw Chinese consumers spending 20% more time on their smartphones over the Lunar New Year holidays according to data from QuestMobile. Previous months saw a normal growth rate in smartphone usage of 8% to 9%, so a jump of more than double to 20% shows how essential mobile devices were to helping China’s residents through the lockdown period. Data from App Annie also shows that mobile games and social/streaming app downloads spiked in this time.
Credit: App Annie
From a US perspective, our numbers aren’t that far off. A study from Global Web Index found that over 80% of consumers in the US are consuming more content since the Coronavirus outbreak. US mobile marketers should take note of Chinese COVID-19 user interest and habit shifts, and adjust their strategies to reflect key learnings from that market.
The Types Of Games & The Rise Of In-App Purchases
In February, Apple’s App Store in China saw a 62 percent jump in mobile game downloads, with the most downloaded mobile games included Brain Out and Honor of Kings. Both of these titles have in-game spending mechanics, with gamers spending heavily on cosmetic items during the pandemic. Further, data from tech research firm Omida indicates that many Chinese publishers expanded their offerings to include in-app purchases in this time.
As expected, the increase in screen time, smartphone usage, and social apps also presented new opportunities for marketers to quickly pivot to games and apps. With engagement increasing on video messaging apps, the lockdown was a great time to reach out to new consumers most inclined to use them. For example, TikTok saw a rise in average time per user and total time spent in the app on Android phones. That said, US advertisers should increasingly look to engage key audiences through mobile ad experiences using the latest creative formats available.
The week of March 1 was TikTok’s biggest ever in China, with people spending more than 3 billion hours in the app; up 130% from 2019’s weekly average.
Credit: App Annie
Social media and video streaming apps experienced a surge in popularity, as residents in lockdown explored new ways to socialize and engage with each other. Food delivery apps boomed in China, while apps that center around person-to-person contact such as ride-sharing apps saw their download figures fall. This reinforces the notion that brands and advertisers should continue investing in ads but shift their budgets to channels that make sense during this time — staying away from places consumers won’t be.
Advertising For Social Good
Many brands and their celebrity ambassadors were keen to make practical contributions during the lockdown and to help ease people’s sense of isolation. ByteDance worked throughout the pandemic to help the film industry, bringing the latest releases to people in isolation through TikTok for free.
Social platforms Weibo and Wechat were also instrumental in getting medical messages across from person-to-person to encourage them to stay at home, sharing screenshots over social media to push the country’s containment efforts. Additionally, Douyin and Kuaishou became key communication tools for the Chinese authorities to show residents what was happening on the ground in their communities.
While we can all agree that life during lockdown is far from ideal, mobile gaming and streaming have created a huge distraction for consumers and subsequent opportunities for marketers. Given its head start and strong mobile populace, China provides US marketers enormous learning potential and the chance to capitalize on a new way of life for the foreseeable future.
Tiffany Ou is a seasoned mobile advertising professional, bringing over 17 years of industry experience to her clients. Tiffany has been General Manager, Americas at Nativex for two years and leads the go-to-market strategies for leading game and app developers. Prior to Nativex, Tiffany managed multi-channel advertising projects at a number of major advertising agencies.