Mobile app downloads in the UAE grew by 23 per cent annually in the first half of 2022 as smartphone use increased due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finance-related apps registered a surge in demand, with downloads jumping 183 per cent during the six-month period, the latest data from AppsFlyer shows.
Downloads of travel, entertainment, social and food-related apps also grew by 36 per cent, 31 per cent, 30 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, during the period.
However, retail app downloads dropped 9 per cent as more people visited physical stores after the UAE eased pandemic-related restrictions amid a lower number of infections.
“It is clear that as we emerge into the post-pandemic world, the accelerated momentum towards mobile that we have witnessed over the last two years has now created a mobile-first mindset among consumers and businesses,” said Samer Saad, Middle East manager at AppsFlyer.
“Our findings indicate a growing preference for mobile apps as the primary engagement channel. While this is ushering in a new era of convenience for consumers, it has greatly increased the competitiveness of the space.”
As demand for mobile apps grows, businesses must now seek “innovative and measurable means of enhancing user experiences and increasing engagement on their mobile apps”, he said.
The latest data comes at a time when consumer spending continues to rise in the UAE as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
Spending on retail items grew 16 per cent, year on year, in the first six months of 2022, while spending on non-retail goods rose 31 per cent in the same period, mall operator Majid Al Futtaim said in its State of the UAE Retail Economy report this month.
The UAE economy is set to post its strongest annual expansion since 2011 after it grew by 8.2 per cent in the first three months of this year on higher oil prices and measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, according the UAE Central Bank.
The Arab world’s second-largest economy, which expanded 3.8 per cent in 2021, is expected to grow by 5.4 per cent and 4.2 per cent in 2022 and 2023, respectively, according to the latest projections by the regulator.
The International Monetary Fund projectsthat the UAE economy will grow 4.2 per cent this year while Emirates NBD forecasts a growth rate of 5.7 per cent and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank expects a 6 per cent expansion, supported by a sharp rise in the oil sector.
The AppsFlyer study shows that consumer spending on mobile apps is also growing.
Over the one-year period between March 2021 and February 2022, in-app purchases increased 9 per cent, with finance app purchases recording a threefold jump while spending through e-commerce apps rose 41 per cent.
“While there clearly appears to be a growing preference among UAE consumers to engage with businesses via apps, the fact that nine out of 10 UAE organisations today offer a mobile app makes this a highly competitive space,” the study said.
“For this reason, mobile app marketers have a key role to play in driving the success of their organisations’ mobile-first strategies.”
Remarketing, the tactic of focusing on users who have shown some interest in the brand, in particular, has also proven to be “highly effective” with UAE consumers, with conversions from this activity growing 43 per cent in the first half of 2022, compared with the first half of 2021, the study said.
“In today’s mobile-first world, growing app installs and increasing purchases made via mobile apps are two sides of the same coin,” Mr Saad said.
“To achieve what are now business imperatives calls for a multifaceted approach, combining a focus on exceptional mobile user experience and highly strategic marketing efforts.”