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How PicsArt has Thrived in the Competitive Photo & Video Category

PicsArt VP of Growth Marketing explains how the company has grown to a top global Photo & Video app.

PicsArt Hero Image

Sensor Tower is working to highlight partners that are leveraging data in unique ways to achieve success. This series explores key takeaways from their experiences.

The Photo & Video mobile category has experienced runaway success, as mobile users become fascinated with creative ways to take, edit, and share photos among friends. No App Store category has seen faster revenue growth than Photo & Video since 2016. Photo & Video apps earned nearly $2 billion in 2019, up from $240 million in 2016 for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 100 percent.

While many apps have managed to ride the wave as the category grows, San Francisco-based social Photo & Video app company PicsArt has seen remarkable growth over the last few years. In fact, the app ranked No. 14 in global downloads for apps (excluding gaming) in 2019.

PicsArt Chart Image

We sat down with PicsArt VP of Growth Marketing Jeff Roberto, to understand the company's philosophy around cultivating organic growth, and how the company leverages Sensor Tower in order to stay ahead of the trends.

Tell us a little bit about PicsArt's growth trajectory over the past few years.

PicsArt started in 2012 and grew to 45 million monthly active creators in just two years, mostly through word of mouth and search. We now have more than 150 million monthly active users across the globe. PicsArt is available in 30+ languages, which is why ASO (App Store Optimization) and social media marketing (sharing user edits, hashtagging, and mentioning users) have always been core growth strategies for us. We're platform agnostic and we power visual storytelling on any platform. We're also continually optimizing the product and unveiling new features and tools that make it even easier for users to begin their storytelling journey on PicsArt.

For example, we regularly optimize our share flow to make it quicker and more intuitive, and we create lots of one-tap effects, like our globally popular Sketch effect of which Kim Kardashian is a fan. We also recently rolled out a new product, called Replay, that enables anyone to easily replicate others' edits on their own photos in seconds. With just a few taps, users can apply a series of edits to their own image, making the editing process much quicker, simpler, and more collaborative, and, of course, it's optimized for social sharing.

PicsArt has managed to find a niche in the very competitive Photo & Video mobile category—how does the app differentiate itself from the competition?

Jeff Roberto

One reason why PicsArt is so popular is because we're not niche—we offer something for everyone. At our core, we're an all-in-one Photo & Video editor with a unique combination of creative tools, content, and a community of 150 million monthly active creators. With thousands of editing tools, a massive content library of free-to-edit images, stickers, photos and backgrounds, we make photo & video editing social and collaborative. Users can create fan-art or remix images from other users which creates a unique network effect.

We also have thousands of thriving fandoms on PicsArt. Everything from comics to Kpop has a community dedicated to it. And with one billion images edited monthly, PicsArt has one of the largest libraries of visual content in the world, which really makes us unrivaled in the market.

Over the past few years, PicsArt has grown significantly through organic channels. How are you thinking about organic growth in mobile, especially on a global scale?

Organic growth is key to our success, and we're in a great spot. The vast majority of our growth continues to be organic, but we amplify it with paid acquisition, retail media, and partnerships with influencers and VIPs (our homegrown influencer community). With users in every country, we have to make sure we are keeping our content culturally and regionally relevant.

Great ASO and keyword optimization help keep us in top search results, but we also stay on top of local, regional, and global trends which keeps our community engaged and coming back. We'll run photography and edit challenges that align with trending topics, and we use our social channels to amplify them.

PicsArt is very feature-driven, with popular editing packs and other tools that allow users even more customization over their photos. How do these updates factor into the app's growth?

With one billion images being uploaded on our platform every month, we have tremendous insight into our users' preferences and interests. This helps us constantly evolve and innovate the product based on user needs. We are also the fandom app of choice for celebrating the celebrities, artists and brands you love. Some of our most popular fandoms include Kpop, Anime, Gacha Life, and Billie Eilish. Oftentimes we'll work with trending celebrities and brands to create custom challenges or content for users which help drive engagement and make our app stickier.

Another recent addition to PicsArt is our new edit format, Replay. Replay goes beyond applying simple presets and filters by showing users every single edit that was applied to an image and then enables users to apply these same edits to their own photos in just a few taps. The advantage for users is being able to customize the edit in each step so they can make the image all their own. In turn, we gain the ability to drive larger editing trends. Replay also helps you get an influencer's signature look as recently referenced by the App Store.

How does the team stay on top of word-of-mouth and other, less trackable elements to ensure PicsArt is reaching new users?

We have a passionate, fast-moving 500+ person team that is able to quickly identify trends and bring them to our users the moment they go viral. We then use our social channels to highlight and track these trends. We can also gauge popularity and interest among our fandoms and in-app challenges by tracking users' hashtags and challenge submissions.

Partnerships and retail media are also part of our strategy to reach new users. Some of our most recent collaborations include Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani, The Jonas Brothers, Will Smith, and The Chainsmokers.

What has been the most surprising takeaway about PicsArt's organic growth?

PicsArt users come to the app for one or several of our main use cases—to perfect their everyday moments, express their passions, promote their business, or create art. Each of these use cases have healthy organic retention, so we create and modify our tools and features based on these needs.

One thing we've found is that most of our users download PicsArt for the editing tools but stay (and become active users) for the community, massive content library (stickers, free-to-edit content, etc.) and other added benefits like our video editor and Replay.

PicsArt Inline Image

What advice would you give to teams on what it takes to be successful in the mobile app ecosystem?

  1. Focus on having a product market fit. You want to create a product people love.

  2. Become an ASO master

  3. Continuously experiment & optimize

  4. Leverage learnings across channels

  5. Be culturally relevant and trend-focused

  6. Learn from mistakes and celebrate failures as opportunities to learn

What is the next phase of PicsArt's growth? What is your team most excited about?

We're pretty excited about Replay. Being a professional photo editor can take years to master, but Replay puts the power into the hands of today's creators—helping them showcase their entire creative process in a quick visual format—and enabling anyone to achieve the same/similar design aesthetic.

We're also looking forward to seeing more influencers building fame on PicsArt and using our tools—particularly our new and expanded video editing tools—to build out their other social channels, such as Instagram, TikTok, etc.

Where do you see the Photo & Video category going in the next few years?

Social media is the new dominant vehicle for visual storytelling, as proven with the rise of Instagram, Snapchat, and PicsArt, as well as continued dominance of YouTube and emergence of TikTok. Ten of the top 20 most downloaded apps of 2019 were photo, video, and/or social apps. Also, the Photo & Video category was the fastest growing category in revenue growth between H1 2018 and H1 2019, with 75 percent year-over-year revenue growth. PicsArt played a major part of that growth trend. PicsArt was also the No. 14 most downloaded app worldwide in 2019 surpassing Uber, Amazon, and even Twitter. (Note: These rankings and figures do not include mobile games.)

These days, anyone can be a creator, but in order to stand out in a sea of posts, stories, and similar filters, creators are looking for unique ways to tell their stories and express themselves visually. Photo & Video apps that enable users to do one thing and one thing only—filters, for example, or age yourself—will lose their momentum. The new era of influence will be centered on all-in-one Photo & Video apps that enable you to do everything from one single place.

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Lauren Hockenson

Written by: Lauren Hockenson, Product Marketing Manager

Date: February 2020