From resilience to reimagination: how mobile apps are braving the COVID crisis

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Aditya Shankar
From resilience to reimagination: how mobile apps are braving the COVID crisis

Table of Content:

  1. How COVID-19 has impacted the mobile app world?
  2. Why does ASO matter?
  3. Real-world examples of apps leveraging ASO to their advantage
  4. Best practices to survive and thrive the crisis
  5. Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a seismic shift in our everyday life. We have picked up new habits, new routines, and also have become extra-conscious about safety and hygiene. We can’t help but repeat the overused ‘Welcome to the new normal’ greeting. Truly, welcome to the new normal. When things would be back to the old normal is anybody’s guess.

The mandated lockdown, subsequent work from home scenario and uninterrupted internet connectivity (for the fortunate majority) has resulted in a mixed bag of results for mobile apps. From fitness to video sharing, mobile apps of diverse nature have seen a spike in their installs and Daily Average User (DAU) count.

Of course, not all apps have the same story to share. While one cohort of industries that were reliant on mobile apps saw a steep loss in business, some apps were able to adapt to the times to survive and even thrive during the crisis.

With livelihoods affected and supply chain rusting in the shed, luxury shopping has come to a standstill. On the other hand, the essential consumption of products and services is on the rise. Similarly, virtual activities relating to fitness, hobbies, handicrafts are also on the surge.

How COVID-19 has impacted the mobile app world?

Earlier this quarter, MoEngage published an elaborate study on how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted mobile apps. Our study along with our partners led to some staggering findings. It even enabled us to chart a definite quadrant in which each app category can be mapped into 4 major categories.

The MoEngage COVID-19 Impact Quadrant

As is visible from the image above, the quadrant classifies mobile apps into:

  1. Explosion
  2. Growth
  3. Slowdown
  4. Emergence

It’s no secret that apps which are in the Explosion or Growth quadrant rose on high consumer demand and good ASO that drove visibility and downloads. We cannot control the former, but the latter is something that can be strategically planned, executed, and monitored to improve mobile app downloads.

And that is exactly the premise of this blog. Let’s take a deeper look at how ASO as a strategy can help mobile apps stay resilient and reimagine themselves to stay relevant in uncertain times.

Why does ASO matter?

App Store Optimization is a set of processes and best practices that are used to maximize the visibility of an app in app stores. ASO is what makes an app pop up on the top when a user searches for relevant keywords in the app store.

For businesses that are highly reliant on mobile app downloads and usage, ASO can provide some game-changing benefits like:

  1. Organic visibility
  2. Leaderboard rankings
  3. Revenue maximization

Real-world examples of apps leveraging ASO to their advantage

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the pandemic has created a major shift in how users find mobile apps, how they use them, and for what purposes they use them. Mobile app titles, descriptions, and even the app UI screenshots that used to entice users before fail to work their charm in the current scenario.

A handful of mobile apps have been proactive in picking up the trend. They have made a whole lot of changes based on ASO techniques that have given them an edge above competition.

Here are 2 industries that managed to survive and even thrive during the crisis with ASO.

Workout apps restructure their app pages

    Staying indoors for long durations has sparked a newfound enthusiasm in many to pick up healthy habits. Home-based workouts that do not require any gym equipment have increased in popularity like never before. ASO experts cite a 4.5x increase in search for ‘home workouts’ since the start of the lockdown.

    Mobile apps that earlier used to provide generic fitness advice have now started focusing on churning out workout recommendations that anybody can do from the comfort of their home.

    ‘OrganicFit’ and ‘Workout for women’ are two mobile apps that we can consider as excellent case studies to understand the same.

    As soon as they picked up the trend for home-based workouts, both the apps have changed their app store titles to include ‘workouts from home’ search phrase. Additionally, they have also included imagery that showcases women working out indoors. The revamped title along with the home-based imagery creates a subtle nudge making the user perceive the app as the ideal fit for home-based workouts.

    Taxi-hailing apps switch to delivery model

      On-demand services like taxi booking and food delivery took an instant hit when the lockdown was mandated. However, some of these apps have adapted to changing scenarios to stay afloat and also to make use of the unique opportunity.

      A handful of taxi-hailing apps in particular have switched to the delivery model. They act as list mile delivered for restaurants, grocery brands, and online medical suppliers. By switching to the delivery model, they are creating a new value proposition to an already existing user base. As a result, they are able to fill the gap in the supply chain system that was broken temporarily.

      A real-world example of this is Maxim. Maxim used to be a taxi-hailing app before the pandemic situation added delivery services to its ambit after the lockdown was mandated. By doing so, it was able to improve its app visibility by 5%. The app also changed its app title and app store imagery just like the workout apps we discussed earlier to influence its user behavior.

      Best practices to survive and thrive the crisis

      We can’t help but repeat the harsh truth that the COVID-19 pandemic has rewritten all customer preferences. Customers have a new set of expectations from businesses that are closely aligned with putting up with the lockdown situation. They place more value for utility and essentials than luxury and value add-ons. The drastic reduction in luxury spending is a testament to that fact.

      Businesses, on the other hand, must also realign their operations to meet these expectations. There are three things that you can get started with right away:

      1. Make the customer center of your Universe
      2. Deliver moments of wow
      3. Build a relationship

      Of course, these might seem like a reiteration of the tenets of customer experience. However, these tenets of customer experience matter the most today and now than ever before. The pandemic has left the whole world shaken and vulnerable. It has created a difficult situation for businesses as well who cannot market their offerings without bearing in mind the sensitiveness of the grim situation.

      However, to keep the business afloat and to meet customer expectations, a new way of working has to be devised. Especially for mobile apps that have always interacted with customers virtually. 

      Here are four ways that can help:

      Offer facilities in demand during the crisis over frills

          With their movement restricted, customers expect businesses to provide basic facilities and conveniences that provide more value than the frills. This ties back to the three customer expectations that we listed above. Putting customers at the center means providing what they need the most in difficult times. A conscious business will tailor-make its offerings so that it can serve the actual needs of its customers than use them as vulnerable targets for revenue generation.

          Exhibit online reviews to win customer trust

          The pandemic situation has made online shopping the go-to option to stock up everything from groceries to eBooks. But, there is still a small population of customers who are wary of online shopping and are more worried about its pitfalls than advantages. To appease such customers and also to make the existing customers more comfortable with online shopping, businesses need to exhibit online reviews.

          Online reviews are social proof that can tilt the customer’s decision in favor of the business. It can also help thwart any untold concerns in the customer’s mind that existing customers could have addressed in their reviews/testimonials.

          Practice sensible marketing communication

            A crisis creates an equal opportunity for marketing masterstrokes as well as gaffes. It is a situation during which a cautious approach to marketing has to be adopted. In fact, special care must be taken to ensure that the marketing communication emphasizes the customer and does not make it appear that the business is trying to cash-in on a situation. How a brand treats its employees and customers during the crisis will create its brand image for the next decade and beyond.

            Be socially responsible

                Not all companies are negatively impacted by the pandemic. There is a group of businesses that have actually managed to carry out operations unscathed by the current state of affairs. Such businesses have a responsibility towards customers and other stakeholders. They are responsible for reaching out and providing support to the society as a whole. Even small acts like offering seasonal discounts, special discounts to first responders, business packages for startups, and one-person companies can go a long way in establishing a long-term image for the business.


                For any fail-proof business, the first response to a crisis would be resilience. As the old adage goes, tough times don't last, tough people (and businesses) do. The recent COVID-19 crisis has stunted the global economy’s growth.

                Mobile apps, which have become the de facto means of communication, collaboration, entertainment, and even a lifestyle for us all, are also affected by it. But, with resilience, it is possible for app-based businesses to reimagine their business model. They can bounce back with innovative methods that will actually enable the app to thrive and not just survive during the crisis.

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