As countries and cities slowly open a year after the pandemic, what can app developers and owners take away from a year of social distancing? How can they ensure that their apps can continue to survive even in the years to come? Here are some thoughts.
When we think of 2020, it’s no surprise that the first thing that comes to mind is the onslaught of Coronavirus. The pandemic hammered every country and disrupted industries across the board. To ensure business continuity, companies rapidly adapted to digital solutions and pushed everyone to communicate and collaborate virtually to replicate offline experiences online.
However, despite the unprecedented challenges that came with COVID-19, the silver lining lies in all the lessons we can learn from this experience. The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation — and to cope with the physical restrictions, previously unimaginable events took place online with immense engagement and success.
The year of unimaginable change
A significant shift happened to the workforce where companies had to resort to remote work to remain business as usual. But not without any unexpected yet amusing consequences — including a lawyer turning into a cat because of a filter or kids joining parents’ meetings during Zoom calls.
Meanwhile, schools opted for e-learning to enable students to continue their studies during the lockdown. According to United States Census Bureau, nearly 93% of households with school-age children reported their children engaged in some form of “distance learning” from home due to the pandemic. Schools and colleges also conducted graduation ceremonies virtually. For instance, last year, Johns Hopkins University held 10 virtual commencements in May and saw around 9,000 students graduating via video conference.
Major industries have also found ways to utilize technology to their advantage through memorable marketing and sales efforts happening on the mobile front. Virtual concerts not only took place on video sites but also on other unexpected platforms, such as that of rapper Travis Scott’s first virtual concert on the game app, Fortnite. As much as 12.3 million people saw the in-game show, far more than what today’s concert venues can accommodate.
Retail brands have also amped up their digital presence using virtual try-on, digital pop-ups, and live commerce. Fashion powerhouse Gucci even launched a virtual shoe try-on on the social app Snapchat to reach new and younger clientele who are more tech-savvy and are slowly becoming influential across various industries. In collaboration with fashion-tech company Wanna, the Italian brand enabled the digital purchase of Gucci sneakers on the app as a part of their expansion in virtual clothing.
In an interview with Business of Fashion, Wanna co-founder and CEO Sergey Arkhangelskiy said he is confident in the digital fashion market. He also predicted that AR technology will be further integrated into brands and retailers’ online shops. “In five or maybe 10 years, a relatively big chunk of fashion brands revenue will come from digital products,” he said. “Our goal as a company is to actually supersede the product photos... and substitute it for something which is way more engaging and closer to offline shopping.”
These are just a few instances where the pandemic accelerated digitalization. And if we look at what these events have in common, they all utilized the power of social media to amplify their brand and message despite the distance constraints.
The question is, why social media?
The social media supremacy
TechCrunch reported that mobile adoption soared last year partly due to market shift during the COVID-19 pandemic. App analytics and market data company App Annie in their report earlier this year, recorded a whopping 218 billion app downloads in 2020, marking an accelerated growth in the mobile usage habits by two to three years.
And in a year when everyone was forced to socially distance, social media apps topped the list of the most downloaded applications in 2020. Providing refuge while distributed, social media apps connected people and allowed them to enjoy virtual communal activities they used to do together offline.
However, even before the pandemic, companies with applications are already taking notes on the success of social media platforms. Why won’t they? In the last 10 years, social media apps have been dominating the most downloaded applications worldwide. In another report from App Annie, 9 out of 10 most downloaded apps have been social media platforms in the past decade.
In a world increasingly dependent on digital technology, social media apps have provided a way for people to engage and interact with each other on a scale we once thought only possible offline. They enable us to establish connections for socializing anytime from anywhere by replicating our physical interactions virtually.
Because COVID-19 removed that opportunity for us to interact in person, we resorted to social media apps and other online communications to stay connected with our family and friends, even though we were in different places. The fact that social media apps made such an impact and garnered much success during the pandemic was no surprise to anyone.
From 2021 and beyond
Consumer expectations have been disrupted by today’s rapid digitalization, especially in their customer experience. And with the pandemic accelerating this transition, customers now expect companies to provide products and services the moment they need them. The same goes for applications and digital platforms.
With customer demands constantly changing at the same pace of digital transformation, coupled with countless apps debuting in the app market daily, how can you adapt your app to survive in this rapidly changing environment? With the same efficiency and engagement as their offline experiences, customers want immediate yet personalized online experiences, too.
Looking at the success of social media apps, companies now see the potential of adding social features to their platforms. The current situation opened opportunities to expand their products and services and add more value to their platform to keep their users engaged and hopefully retain them.
"The 'social trend' is only going to get more and more ingrained in every single aspect of our lives, so I think every company is going to embrace this in one shape or another," said Brian Clarke, Bryan Clarke, Chief Product Officer at True Digital Group, whose app TrueID, pivoted to become a more social platform. "And you have to have social [features] integrated experience on whatever you offer," he added.
With the ever-changing digital landscape, you have to make sure that your app stands out from all its competitors. Today’s top social media apps have perfected this recipe by tapping into the very essence of our being — our need to connect and engage with fellow human beings.
Any app has the potential to become a success, like social media apps. Social features can help you replicate their success in your platform, making them a crucial ingredient in increasing your app and digital platform's ability to succeed today and in the years to come. They enable you to build meaningful, long-lasting relationships with your users, and at the same time, they also let your users stay connected with their community. In turn, they can help in driving engagement, increasing in-app retention, and opening new revenue streams for your platform.
Delivering a unique, positive, and social user experience is the ultimate goal to ensure your app survives. By integrating social features into your platform, you’ll serve a delectable user experience your customers will keep coming back for more.