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Europeans Turn to Mobile Games, Entertainment, and Shopping Apps as COVID-19 Lockdown Continues

Downloads for Mobile Gaming, Entertainment, and Shopping apps are up in Europe as ridesharing takes a hit, Sensor Tower data shows.


The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across Europe, making it an epicentre for the outbreak, has resulted in countries across the region enforcing lockdown procedures on their populations as governments fight the spread. As seen in China during its own lockdown across various cities, consumer habits are having to change as citizens adapt to life under quarantine. As a result, they are turning to their mobile devices for necessities and entertainment.

Using Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data, we’ve taken a look at mobile trends across Europe to understand exactly how these habits are changing, which app categories are proving popular, and which ones aren't.

Grocery Shopping

Great Britain has seen a surge in shopping app downloads as consumers look to purchase groceries online for delivery rather than visit local supermarkets and stores. Downloads for the Shopping category in March reached 9.6 million, increasing by 14 percent compared to January and up 15 percent from February estimates.

The top apps in recent weeks have included ASDA, Tesco Groceries, Amazon Shopping, Sainsbury’s Groceries, Morrisons Groceries and Ocado. As the weeks have gone on, downloads for many of these apps appear to have hit their peak, with many seeing a decline in installs for the week of March 30.

Weekly Installs for Grocery Apps in Great Britain from February 3 to April 5 2020

While grocery shopping apps are seeing a large increase, fashion sellers are experiencing mixed results as consumers stay home. Top apps during the week of February 23, such as Depop and Joom, have seen a drop in new installs, while SHEIN and Very Fashion downloads increased during the week of March 23.

Comparing the situation to Italy and Spain, we can also see similar trends in downloads for grocery shopping apps. In Spain, downloads for the Mercadona app surged 193 percent to 51,000 for the week of March 9, compared to the week prior, and jumped another 22 percent the following week. While downloads have declined since, it remains well above pre-lockdown levels.

Italy saw a dramatic increase in downloads for shopping apps such as Supermercato24, EasyCoop and Esselunga OnLine during the week of March 9, when the country’s lockdown began. All of these apps have declined in the weeks following, but remain above pre-lockdown levels.

Ridesharing and Taxis

As citizens across Europe are asked to limit their travel out of the home to just two trips a day at most—one trip for shopping for necessities, another for exercise—the transportation industry has inevitably taken a hit.

In Great Britain, apps such as Uber, Ola and Bolt have all seen declines in new installs for weeks. For the week of March 23, downloads for Uber fell 49 percent compared to the week prior, while Ola installs decreased by 67 percent, and Bolt downloads declined by 51 percent. Uber installs bucked the trend for the week of March 30, however, spiking by approximately 40 percent week-over-week, likely due to the company’s decision to waive delivery and activation fees for Uber Eats, which is also included within the app.

Weekly Installs for Ridesharing Apps in Great Britain for February 3 to April 5 2020

Spain saw a similarly sharp decline for its top transportation apps such as Uber, Cabify, and BlaBlaCar, which saw particularly sudden decreases during the week of March 16, dropping each app below 10,000 weekly installs. Much like in Great Britain, Uber has managed to actually increase weekly downloads for both the weeks of March 23 and March 30, again likely due to Uber Eats integration.

The situation in Italy is also similar to that seen in other European countries, where Uber experienced a dip in downloads during the early weeks of the shutdown, but remained steady for the week of March 30.

Entertainment and Productivity

As Europeans look to keep themselves entertained, healthy, and informed while staying at home, a number of app categories have seen a surge in downloads. Across the region, Entertainment apps—which include the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Twitch—grew by 28 percent month-over-month in March to 132 million. That was also up 16 percent from January 2020.

Downloads in the Books category grew by 21 percent in March from both January and February levels. Music, meanwhile, did not experience such strong growth overall. Downloads in March were up 13 percent compared to February, but increased by just 3 percent compared to January.

Other fast-growing categories include News, which grew 66 percent from February and 65 percent from January; Health & Fitness, which saw 46 percent more downloads compared to February and 25 percent more compared to January; and Productivity, which saw a surge of 38 percent from February and 36 percent from January.

Weekly Entertainment and Productivity app category downloads in Europe from Feb 3 to April 5 2020

Mobile Games Setting Records

The Games category had its best-ever month for downloads in March 2020. New installs were up 19 percent from February to close to 1.2 billion, and up 14 percent from January 2020. For comparison, downloads for the Games category were 9 percent between February and March 2019, and decreased by 9 percent between January and March 2019.

Weekly Mobile Games downloads in Europe from February 3 to April 5 2020

User spending, however, did not grow as dramatically in March, but revenue did see stronger growth than between the same months in 2019. Between February and March 2020, user spending on Games in Europe grew by 12 percent to $740 million, which was also up 6 percent from January.

In 2019, user spending grew 9 percent from February to March to $605.8 million, and 2 percent from January to March. Year-over-year, user spending was up 22 percent in March 2020 compared to March 2019.

Despite user spending not seeing the same exponential growth as downloads, March 2020 still represented the best ever-month for mobile game revenue in Europe.

Permanent Changes in Consumer Habits

Across all app categories in Europe, March 2020 represented the best month ever for both downloads and user spending. As the lockdowns around Europe continue, we can expect apps across these growing categories to continue to be popular through the coming weeks.

Over the next few months, as life starts returning to normal, it’s likely that some of the new habits—such as remote working and online shopping— could remain in place for many, now that consumers have become more accustomed to these platforms and services. While the mobile app economy has been large and growing for a long time, apps are set to become even more important to our daily lives than ever before.

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Craig Chapple

Written by: Craig Chapple, Mobile Insights Strategist, EMEA

Date: April 2020