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Food Delivery Apps Soar, Rideshare Growth Plummets in China as Coronavirus Concerns Persist

Food Delivery, Business, and Education app installs spike in China as its population remains indoors, Sensor Tower data reveals.


In recent weeks, dozens of companies have highlighted potential headwinds from the impact of the coronavirus in China. Not only did the outbreak subdue the typically celebratory Lunar New Year period, but transportation shutdowns and quarantines have kept many Chinese citizens indoors. We believe Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data can serve as a resource for understanding the shift in consumer behavior during this health crisis. This update presents a look at how several key mobile app categories have fared in the Chinese market over the past several weeks.

Given the various travel restrictions throughout China, it comes as no surprise that rideshare apps have experienced a meaningful decline since the outbreak began. Downloads of the three most popular rideshare apps on iOS devices in China for the week of February 10 were down 75 percent compared to the week of January 13. These three apps, Hello, Didi, and Dida accounted for more than 70 percent of total rideshare downloads on China's App Store over the past year. Just prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Dida was seeking to raise $300 million in a pre-IPO round.

Top Rideshare App Downloads in China between January 1 and February 16, 2020

Above is the download performance of the top three rideshare apps in China between January 1 and February 16, 2020. All three of the apps have remained top performers in the Travel category, indicating overall weak category performance. Please note all above data points are from iOS.

Food & Drink

Our analysis of the App Store's Food & Drink category across China revealed more of a mixed bag: Mobile ordering and customer loyalty apps tied to on-premise eating/drinking establishments have experienced significant declines, while delivery and grocery store apps outperformed. While the order of the top apps reshuffled, overall downloads for the top 10 apps in the category still increased by 68 percent from the week of January 13 to the week of February 3.

Top Restaurant Companion App Downloads in China between January 13 and February 20, 2020

Above is the performance of the top five downloaded restaurant companion apps in the week prior to January 20 on iOS devices in China.

On January 27, Luckin Coffee, the most popular coffee chain in China, fell out of the top five food and drink apps on the Apple App Store for the first time since May 3, 2019. The app, along with the Starbucks and HaiDiLao (a popular sit-down restaurant chain) apps, largely facilitate on-premise consumption and do not include delivery functionality. Meanwhile both, Yum Brands apps, KFC and Pizza Hut, experienced declines for the first few weeks of the outbreak but have recently returned to growth. The Yum Brand apps offer both mobile ordering and delivery services.

Share of Downloads by Type of App Among Top 10 Food Apps in China for the Weeks of January 3 and February 3, 2020

Above is the share of installs among the top 10 downloaded iOS Food & Drink Apps in China, broken down by primary function.

Grocery delivery and recipe apps have quickly replaced loyalty apps at the top of the charts as people continue to look to stay indoors. Fresh Hema, Alibaba's grocery delivery app peaked on February 8, reaching nearly 100,000 downloads in a single day, compared to an average of approximately 29,000 per day during 2019.

Remote Work and Learning

The restrictions and quarantines associated with the coronavirus are the likely driver of rapid growth in downloads of business productivity and education applications. Alibaba's remote work app, DingTalk, was downloaded 670,000 times between January 1 and January 18, 2020; since then, the app has been downloaded more than 11 million times.

Weekly Downloads of Business and Education Apps in China Between August 2019 and February 2020

Above is the download performance of the Business and Education App Store categories in China over the past six months.

Similarly, Tencent's business-focused meeting app, Tencent Meeting, went from 250,000 all-time downloads to more than 5 million. For students, the Education category in China has exploded, with February downloads already more than 50 percent greater than the highest ever month for the category with one week left in the month.

Mobile Games

Another trend emerging from the increased time spent indoors is the sustained uptick in spending on Games during the Lunar New Year period. Many games in China incorporate live ops events during this time and the period is often the most important of the year for mobile games. Tencent's Honor of Kings and Game for Peace (PUBG Mobile) both also experienced downtime from server overload in recent weeks.

Looking specifically at Honor of Kings, China iOS revenue during the 17-day Lunar New Year period (January 20 through February 9, plus or minus one day) was 44 percent higher than revenue during the 17 days immediately prior. During the 2019 Lunar New Year period (February 4 through February 20, 2019), revenue for the title was up 24 percent over the immediately preceding 17-day period.

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Dennis Yeh

Written by: Dennis Yeh, Market Analyst

Date: February 2020