- Retailer apps saw the highest percentage of smartphone users who opted-in to share their location data at about 23% during the pandemic, a 31% gain from pre-pandemic levels worldwide. The location data opt-in rate for retailers exceeded the levels for apps in the utilities (14%), travel and transportation (12%), media (8.2%) and entertainment (7.1%) categories, per a study that customer engagement company Airship shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The increase in location data sharing during the global health crisis reversed a downward trend seen in prior years because of stricter privacy laws. After the European Union began enforcing its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) two years ago, the opt-in rate for sharing location data with apps started to fall. It had dipped 2.5% to an average of 7.7% by February, but reversed upward to climb by more than a third to 11% in the following four months.
- The pandemic also has led mobile users worldwide to increase how many apps they use each month. Before the crisis, the average number of app opens per user had declined 29% to 17.6 in February from a year earlier, and average notification open rates slipped 1.4% to less than 6.4%. The average open rate reversed upward with 29% growth from March to an average 22.6 app opens per user and a direct open rate of 8.2%, Airship found.
Consumer engagement with apps has been affected significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic, with many homebound consumers using their smartphones to shop. Airship's finding that more people shared location data with retailer apps is notable, and may be the result of consumers searching for nearby stores that are open during lockdowns. A key feature of many retailer apps is the store finder that's linked to navigation platforms.
Location opt-in rates varied by country, according to Airship's study of 750 million devices. India, Romania, Mexico, Japan and Brazil saw the biggest gains in location opt-in rates during the pandemic while the U.K. was sixth and the U.S. ranked ninth. Countries that experienced the most growth in direct open rates included South Africa (up 147%), Austria (92%), Taiwan (69%), Belgium (64%) and France (63%), Airship found. The findings indicate that more consumers are comfortable sharing their location data despite heightened awareness about data privacy.
Growth in the average number of apps people open indicates that smartphone users had more time to use the mobile devices and may have tried out different services. For example, mobile banking apps saw a 200% surge in registrations in April from a year earlier while traffic jumped 85%, per Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) data cited by CNBC. These behavior changes may last beyond the pandemic as consumers discover the range of services they can find on their smartphones.