Customer engagement company Airship has announced results of its global benchmark study, examining the state of mobile app behaviors across nearly 750 million people worldwide. 

To distinguish between the impact of the pandemic and longer-term changes due to growing data regulations, more stringent app review policies by Apple and Google and ongoing evolution in user behavior, February 2020 was used for year-over-year analysis and then compared to March-June 2020. The full report is available for download here.

Key findings show that the global pandemic led to massive gains for several key engagement metrics that have been trending downward. For example, people opting in to share their location with apps has been on the decline for years since the introduction of GDPR — and this year it declined another 2.5% for a global average location opt-in rate of 7.7% before the pandemic. Between March-June 2020, location opt-in grew every single month, reaching 10.7% — a 39% growth rate and an absolute rate not seen since before 2018.

Year-over-year analysis for February showed that while global active mobile app audiences grew by more than 30%, the average number of app opens per user declined 28.5% to 17.6 app opens per user per month globally. Similarly, global average notification direct open rates decreased from 6.44%  to 6.35% (-1.4%). Both of these metrics reversed this trend by growing 29% throughout March-June, averaging 22.6 app opens per user and a direct open rate of 8.2% globally.

Mobile app engagement metrics vary at a regional level, from markets that are more mature, to rapidly emerging markets with significant mobile-only populations, as well as by industry vertical — especially those most impacted by the global pandemic. For a full view of findings by subregion, industry vertical and mobile operating system, please download Airship’s “The State of Global Mobile Engagement 2020” report.

Retail continues to have the highest location opt-in rate among the 12 verticals included in the study at 23.1%. Three verticals saw their average location opt-in rates more than double over March-June 2020, including Medical, Health & Fitness (+150%), Finance & Insurance (+128%) and Travel & Transportation (+116%).

“The pandemic has brought unparalleled change to everyone and further cemented mobile as the center of our lives for in-the-moment information and streamlined conveniences to manage through this extraordinary time,” says Brett Caine, CEO and president, Airship. “With location opt-in growing to its highest rate in years, and both Apple and Google carefully reviewing apps and providing consumers less specific and more temporary ways to share it, it’s clear that more people are experiencing the value of sharing this information with apps and brands they trust.”