Rebecca Castellani

Like every other industry, mobile app marketing was transformed by the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19. Routine trips to the bank or grocery store were quickly replaced by apps. Streams and downloads attempted to fulfill our need for shared experience, while digital devices facilitated most human connection. The world became more online than ever before, and mobile app marketers had to adapt – and innovate – accordingly. 

Now that a new year is upon us, it’s time to apply the lessons learned in 2020. Here are five trends mobile app marketers would be wise to explore further in 2021. 

“At-Home” apps

As the pandemic continues, App Annie predicts “at-home” apps – aka couch commerce or m-commerce – “...will dominate our shopping experience and engrain app habits.” In 2021, expect food delivery and grocery apps to maintain their relevance, fintech to displace brick-and-mortar banking, home fitness apps to continue their surge in demand, and mobile video streaming to exceed “1 trillion hours on Android phones alone” (App Annie). Moreover, App Radar suspects 2021 will see a rise in “social media commerce” as shoppable advertising infiltrates social networks and users continue to spend time at-home, and in-app. Expect app developers to take notice and competition to heat up. Existing apps should think about customer engagement and retention as challengers arise.

Hyper casual games 

App Annie also declares “2021 to be the year of the hybrid mobile game genres.” In the first six months of 2020, there were 5 billion worldwide downloads of hyper casual games, and consumer spend is expected to exceed $120 billion in 2021. Trends within the hyper casual gaming sector include the adoption of more midcore elements to increase user engagement, more multiplayer casual games – like 2020’s breakout star, Among Us! – and the continued popularity of games that allow users to connect with friends and family while playing. If you haven’t already, consider adding these increasingly popular features to your game to stay relevant.

Video marketing 

Video ads aren’t just a trend, they’re quickly becoming the standard for mobile marketing. Cisco predicts “total Internet video traffic (business and consumer, combined) will be 80% of all Internet traffic in 2021,” while Ericsson reports “Video traffic in mobile networks is forecast to grow by around 30 percent annually up to 2025” and will soon account for close to three-quarters of all mobile data traffic. “Sight, sound and motion have been unleashed in a way that no one could have imagined just 10 years ago,” reflects Forbes, “The golden age of video is upon us, and it looks as though video advertising is poised to become a marketing juggernaut.” But all video advertising is not created equal — so get to know the different formats and figure out which ones work best for your brand.


Thanks to emergent blockchain technology, a new kind of distributed-app – aka “dApps” – are poised to majorly disrupt the mobile marketing industry. “Running atop a blockchain peer-to-peer (P2P) network that acts as a kind of operating system,” Computer World explains, “dApps create an innovative open-source software ecosystem that is both secure and resilient.” Privatization of information appeals to the consumer, and as more companies adopt blockchain, the more mobile marketers will have to innovate. Finances Online concludes, “As information and applications are decentralized across trusted nodes in the network, it will take time for marketers to create ingenious technologies and ways to reach audiences with marketing messages.” 

Empathetic messaging

2020 was a tough year for everyone – so when it comes to your app’s messaging, take a personal approach. “Users are more likely to react positively to humor and empathetic messaging (especially during times of crisis!), so it’s important to consider incorporating this throughout the full user journey,” says Fullstory. For messaging that resonates in 2021, mobile marketers should lead with strong core values, empathize with the shared struggle, give back to the community, and – when appropriate – offer a little levity. 

In conclusion, mobile app marketing in 2021 should...

  • Lean into the increasingly “at-home” nature of our lives by adopting elements that pique user attention – like hyper casual games and video.
  • Allow users to connect and communicate in-app. 
  • Prepare to find new, innovative ways to target your audience as blockchain disrupts traditional information sourcing. 
  • Make messaging personal as users continue to feel the effects of COVID-19.


Image by GiFri from Pixabay.