Moburst’s Mobile Marketing Cure to Covid-19

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has brought the world economy to a grinding halt, and not even the mobile app market is immune to the problem. However, just because everything is seemingly frozen in time doesn’t mean your app should end up getting put on ice.
Ian Griggs
Ian Griggs 05 April 2020
Moburst’s Mobile Marketing Cure to Covid-19


With the Covid-19 virus upon us, self-isolation on the rise, and entire communities (not to mention countries) going into lockdown at once, no doubt everyone’s iPhone screen time report is through the roof.  As a result, more people are turning to mobile apps for entertainment, education, productivity, and news. Working from home has gone from an employer-extended luxury to a dreaded necessity, and if the experts are correct this will probably be the reality for the foreseeable future.

Not surprisingly this has carried over to the mobile app landscape as well, including app store rankings both within categories and as a whole.  While video conferencing apps are seeing a surge in demand, others like travel are getting hammered as more people are choosing to socially distance and travel less for business, let alone for leisure.

internet traffic growth and decline due to coronavirus covid-19
Source: Neil Patel

Even the biggest app store stalwarts such as Uber is feeling the Covid-19 pain.  So what do you do if you’re an app developer looking to make the most of these challenging times?  In short, understand that this problem is here for a while, recognize that you’ll need to make some changes, and then, of course, put them into action.  Unfortunately in times like these, it’s tough to see the forest through the trees, so to help get the ball rolling with some steps you can be taking here are a few ideas from what we’ve been seeing here at Moburst.

Rethinking Your Digital Strategy

For apps that rely on live interactions such as in-store shopping for retailers or real-life meetups for dating, now more than ever is a great time to rethink your digital strategy.  This is particularly true when it comes to online advertising where an interesting, albeit somewhat counterintuitive, development has emerged.

While conventional wisdom would dictate that with more people spending time online brands would be leveraging this opportunity to do more online advertising, in fact, the opposite has taken place.  Case in point, Facebook recently reported that just in the seven days between March 30th and April 5th its ad sales were actually down by 40% in the wake of Covid-19.  Furthermore, when combined with Google the two online behemoths are projected to lose a combined $40 billion in revenue by the end of 2020.

It’s understandable that given the economic downturn and uncertainty that companies would be holding off on putting their marketing budgets to work.  However, in our opinion, this actually presents an interesting opportunity for some brands to take advantage – including those getting hit the hardest right!

Plant Those Seeds Now & Reap The Benefits Later

Believe it or not right now is actually a great time for app developers to be building audiences at a discounted price.  As we mentioned above, as evidenced by Facebook and Google’s declining revenues, brands are clearly not buying ads like they normally do.  So what does that mean? Less competition for the same impressions. So rather than put your online advertising dollars completely on the back burner, perhaps take advantage of these lower CPMs to extend your reach, so you can tag them now and remarket to them later.

Something, however, that app developers should keep in mind if they do decide to advertise is to tread lightly in their messaging.  For example, a huge mistake would be to try to “capitalize” on this current situation while people are suffering. A classic case of this would be a travel app trying to sell the notion that given the decline in airfare prices that this is the ideal time to travel.  Instead, we suggest brands be more helpful, useful, and informative in their messaging rather than pushing for that instant conversion even if that means simply providing a much-needed escape to consumers.

Acting on Potential Pivot Opportunities

Just because an app is in a category that is being decimated doesn’t mean new opportunities aren’t available with a little ingenuity.  While rethinking your business model can seem like a drastic move to make, doing so at an auspicious time such as this might make all the difference when it comes to the survival of your business.  Furthermore, if done in a well thought out and strategic way it could even open up opportunities quicker than you imagine.

Going From On Line to Online

A great example of a company to jump on this idea is the popular shopper rewards app, Shopkick.  Previously the company’s app relied heavily on in-store visits as a signature component of its user experience.  Under its original modus operandi, Shopkick users would accumulate points called “Kicks” that they could later trade for free rewards by performing different types of in-store activities.  These included walking into stores, scanning products on the shelves, and uploading images of their receipts after making a purchase.

However, as Covid-19 spread and fewer people were going to brick and mortar stores, Shopkick decided to change horses mid-stream and shift to a user experience centered around online shopping instead.  The company quickly switched the messaging of its advertisements to stress the benefits of using their app online including more ways to earn “Kicks” easier, faster, in more places, and now safer than before. 

Additionally, Shopkick has also ramped up their creative efforts on social media to further promote their online shopping capabilities. Through the use of live streams showing products in action which can then be purchased using Shopkick, the company has begun turning consumers of their content into consumers on their app.


Following one of the most turbulent years the world has seen in decades, it’s no surprise that app store optimization has had to shift in response. Beyond the impacts of a global pandemic, the mobile marketing industry itself has been subject to dramatic updates in how it operates. We’ll cover two of the most important aspects of ASO to focus on going forward in 2021. 

COVID-19 App Store Optimization Impact

With global behavioral changes comes specific keyword trends. In the case of COVID-19, lockdowns, social distancing and a struggling economy have changed our lifestyle and spending habits significantly. People are exploring new ways to connect from afar, exercise outside of gyms, study and work from home. Where do they go to seek help? The app stores.

As a result, we’ve seen a rise in keyword trends ranging from “at-home workouts” to “games with friends”. By incorporating current keyword trends into your metadata where relevant, you can tap into the surge and increase your organic traffic. This goes for any keyword trend at any time, not just during COVID, but in our current climate these are some keyword trends to take advantage of (if appropriate):

  • At-home workouts
  • Fitness coach
  • Fitness at home
  • Games with friends
  • Multiplayer games
  • Paint by numbers
  • Online learning
  • Online shopping
  • Watch movies together
  • Stream movies
  • Telehealth
  • Restaurant delivery

Beyond keywords, you can also target your creative assets towards these trends. Make sure you’re putting your features that cater to a more socially distant world at the forefront of your app store screenshots. That could mean rearranging the order in which you display them, updating the copy only or simply adding one more screenshot to the flow.

ASO Tune-Up

It goes without saying that staying on top of your app’s ASO is always a good idea.  So if you find yourself in a rut looking for something productive to do, congratulations you’ve just found it.

Update Your Keywords

Keyword optimization is a huge element of your ASO that benefits from regular updating and maintenance.  Plus, even if you’ve just recently updated your listing’s metadata there is absolutely no harm in monitoring what the competition is up to, especially now that you have the time to do it.  Check out what’s trending online during this pandemic with consumers in your particular industry.  Discover what they’re searching for, including the non-obvious, and then find ways to work them in.   What are you waiting for? Get to work!

Note:  Be aware, however, that changing your app’s metadata too often could actually keep it from being properly indexed by these app stores’ search algorithms.  

Refresh Those Screenshots

If your keyword strategy is already in good shape, or if you’ve just recently performed a metadata update, this is also a great time to rethink your app’s screenshot gallery.  If you recently added new features that are not part of your current gallery, now is absolutely the time to incorporate them into your story. Additionally, perhaps there are existing features not part of your current messaging that has become even more glaringly relevant, for example, online shopping, Highlight that now and don’t squander the opportunity.  Not only is it key to let existing users know what’s available to them, but new eyeballs to your app as well.

Additionally, even if nothing fundamental has changed about your app or its story, keep in mind that app stores do, which can also present some new opportunities.  Take for example the Google Play Store redesign which has changed the way sizing for both portrait and landscape orientations can be better optimized.

Closing Thoughts

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has brought the world economy to a grinding halt, and not even the mobile app market is immune to the problem.  However, just because everything is seemingly frozen in time doesn’t mean your app should end up getting put on ice. If you have the budget to advertise online here’s your chance to capitalize on lower trending CPMs.  If you’ve been putting off tweaking your ASO because you haven’t had the time, good news, you just found it. Use this time to learn more about your customers and identify new use cases for your app. Leverage technologies such as video to educate customers about new ways to use your app.  Find a way to make it relevant to them now so you’ll be even that much more appealing when things get back to normal.


Ian Griggs
Ian Griggs
Ian is Moburst's resident wordsmith with a passion for mobile advertising and digital marketing. A hopelessly loyal life-long New York Knicks fan, he's also an instant decaffeinated coffee aficionado.
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