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Software Bugs Don’t Shelter in Place: What app usage and error data reveal during COVID-19

Some apps thrive while others survive during a global pandemic, with the largest consumer spend ever occurring in Q1 2020

Few people predicted that 2020 would become the Year of Coronavirus. While the world grapples with lockdown measures and physical distancing guidelines, consumers continue to rely on applications for everyday needs while discovering new apps that can stand in for their previous in-person behaviors.

Contrary to the humans who rely upon them, applications don’t shelter in place. App usage is keeping segments of the economy moving while also providing insights into how people can have their needs met through technology. 

Q1 2020 = largest consumer spend ever in app stores1

>$23.4 billion

spent through the app stores2

>31 billion

new apps downloaded3

20%

increase in Android app usage and time spent in apps YOY4

366%

popularity rise in mobile application development5

Remarkably, error data provides a rather unique lens through which one can examine the COVID-19 economy. Bugsnag conducted data analysis by examining its top 750 projects, segmented by vertical. Through a comparison of user sessions pre-COVID versus session data during COVID, some insightful trends emerge:

  1. Some applications are “pandemic-thriving” and have seen a substantial boost (and, in some cases, explosion) in usage during coronavirus.
  2. Other applications are “pandemic-proof” and have continued more or less as usual. 
  3. Given certain realities and prohibited activities, the final category of apps are “pandemic-rebounders.” Usage has slowed down but will likely rebound when things begin to normalize.

Pandemic-thriving applications

Perhaps the buzziest app during the early days of COVID-19 was video conferencing application Zoom, which quickly became the “genericide” phrase used by millions to represent “jumping on a video chat.” In less than a month, Zoom experienced a 300% increase in its global user base and was the top ranked iPhone business app in terms of daily downloads in 141 markets (in comparison to one market at the end of 2019). With the onset of coronavirus, Zoom suddenly supported more than 200 million daily meeting participants, up from 10 million in December 2019.6

With the onset of coronavirus, Zoom suddenly supported more than 200 million daily meeting participants, up from 10 million in December 2019.7

Video chat and online conference apps saw a 627% increase in download in North America and 121% increase in daily active users.8 As work became remote, Skype for Business, GoToMeeting, and JoinMe apps saw downloads increase 66%, 85%, and 43% in March.9

App categories with big growth increases10
Web conferencing
627%
Telemedicine
613%
Electronic signature services
511%
Remote desktop
281%
Video platforms
265%
Webinar
226%
Web portal
199%
Live chat
194%
Financial technology apps have also seen a boost from the pandemic

35% to 85%

increase in mobile app banking11

55%

increase in time spent in-app on Android apps since the end of December 2019 to April 202012

Bugsnag’s customer data points to additional category winners (below) during COVID-19 with app usage increases in the range of 25-126%.

Gaming

Media and Entertainment

Social Networking and Sharing

Health and Fitness

Online Ordering and Delivery

Logistics

Religion

Media and Entertainment

With non-essential workers urged to stay at home, one of the less surprising bumps in usage is seen in media and entertainment apps. Many consumers have turned to streaming media services and television apps to occupy their free time, as mobile apps have taken on a new prominence.

In April, entertainment apps saw an overall usage increase of 25%, and music apps were used 21% more frequently.13 The coveted 18-25 year-old consumer category increased their intake of streaming television by 54% and spent 18% more on entertainment.

The Disney+ app experienced a week-over-week install bump of 46% in mid-March.14

Netflix saw a 55% increase in app downloads at the end of March.15 For the first quarter of 2020, Netflix reported over 59 million installs.16

YouTube had a great start to the year as well with $110 million spent in-app, which put it at the top of major streaming apps.17

Gaming

Similar to the increase in media and entertainment app usage, there’s been a remarkable uptick in gaming app usage and downloads. In April, 40% of app users reported playing mobile app games more frequently.18 And Verizon noted a 75% increase week-over-week in gaming app usage.19

Specifically, usage shot up 67% for CoinMaster, Daily Themed Crossword Puzzle, and Words with Friends from January 2020 to March, while new installs were up 95% for Candy Crush, Coinmaster, Peakgames, Foxnext, and Subway Surfers.20  

In addition to mobile app games, Amazon’s game streaming platform Twitch stood out as one of the most downloaded apps on a global scale and collected almost $20 million in user spending.21

One week of physical distancing = 858 million gaming apps downloaded22

21%

increase for card games

14%

increase for word games

13%

board games

Social Networking and Sharing

There’s been a lot of speculation about the role of social networking apps and the spread of misinformation during this pandemic. The situation is highlighted by the 50% increase in U.S. consumers using social media apps to link out to other websites for their news articles and updates. Facebook leads the pack as the top social media platform used for coronavirus news (35.8%), followed by Twitter (17%), YouTube (16.3%), and Reddit (12.4%).23

Snapchat and TikTok were big winners in March with 49% and 32% more new app installs, respectively, while Instagram had a 48% uptick in February.24

Apps like Pinterest, which support personalized “catalogues of ideas,” are seeing record-rates of searches and saved images and media. Topics such as health and self-care, board games and entertainment, homeschooling, and food recipes are seeing the biggest boost in content searches and saves.

Pinterest is experiencing a 60% increase in searches year-over-year, a 43% increase in pinboard creation, and a 30% increase on Pin click-thrus.25 

Consumer searches and saved items on Pinterest26

Health, wellness, and self-care

3x

increase in search for home bodyweight workouts

Parenting and homeschooling

128x

increase in search for easy lunch ideas for kids

Food

45x

increase in search for yeastless bread recipes

Beauty and personal care

5x

increase in search for home haircuts

Entertainment

125x

increase in search for family movies

Hobbies & home

2.4x

increase in search for best books to read in 2020

Holidays & events

20x

increase in search for virtual graduation parties

Health and Fitness

With gyms, fitness centers, and workout studios closed, many consumers are relying on fitness apps to exercise at home. According to Pew Research, the pandemic has encouraged 18% of Americans to partake in online classes and videos.27

While the digital fitness industry created $3.6 billion in U.S. revenue in 2019, it’s anticipated that 2020 will see that number boosted even higher.28

The popular Peloton app was downloaded five times more in March than in February.29

Aaptiv saw a 50% increase in engagement with non-equipment programs in mid-March.30

Online Ordering and Delivery

With restaurants closing off dine-in options and grocery stores suffering from long lines (and consumer fears over contracting the virus), many have turned to mobile apps to order takeout and delivery of meals and groceries.

Supporting these restaurant deliveries were apps such as GrubHub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates, which saw a 60% bump in downloads in early March.31

In April, DoorDash boosted the highest number of new U.S. users with 150,000 added.32

Ordered food online or through an app33
Ordered groceries online or through an app34
Ages 18-29
53%
Ages 30-49
38%
Ages 50-64
22%
Ages 65+
19%
Ages 18-29
22%
Ages 30-49
26%
Ages 50-64
17%
Ages 65+
19%

32%

of American adults ordered food

21%

of American adults ordered groceries

When it comes to ordering groceries online or through an app from a local store, an overall 21% of Americans have done so, with 50 and older ordering at the highest rate (36%), followed by 30- to 49-year-olds (26%).35 The big winners in March are three grocery delivery apps—Instacart, Shipt, and Drizly—which saw a 166% increase in downloads.36

Instacart went on to experience a 650% increase in new U.S. users between March and April.37

Logistics

One of the most crucial industries during this pandemic is logistics, which includes B2B and B2C business models such as logistic service providers, carriers, and courier companies. With COVID-19, the movement of essential goods and medical supplies has been more important than ever to ensure communities have exactly what they need. And, with non-essential stores closed, many fulfillment services have been used by merchants for online orders. 

Logistics organizations rely on technology for coordination, communication, and collaboration between workers, drivers, and office employees. During a global crisis like COVID-19, digital capabilities have risen in importance to support the workforce, communicate seamlessly, and improve visibility and flexibility across supply chains and logistics ecosystems.38

Religion

While perhaps not the first category of apps to jump to mind during COVID-19, use of religious apps has exploded during this pandemic and proved invaluable for people of many faiths who couldn’t gather together during March and April. With Christians moving from Lent into Easter, Jews celebrating Passover, and Muslims observing Ramadan, many believers took to a virtual observance of faith and joined their communities in an app or online tools such as Zoom and social media.

One app example is Churchome, whose usage numbers have increased 150%. For a regular Wednesday night service, the 1,500 in-person crowd has morphed into 600,000 online.39

Another related category winner, Bible apps, which was demonstrated by a 54% jump on Easter with usage by 40.6 million people.40

Pandemic-proof applications

Certain types of applications have seen a healthy bump in the number of user sessions during coronavirus, which support their status as “pandemic-proof” applications. Consumers have continued to download and use these apps, but the increase has been moderate. 

Bugsnag’s customer data points to three application types that fall into this category.

eCommerce

SaaS

eLearning

eCommerce

The sentiment around eCommerce is that, overall, apps will see continuous increases as a result of COVID-19. With retail stores closed, consumers are 30.6% more likely to purchase online than they were a year ago.41 Since 24% of consumers express discomfort with in-person shopping at the mall for at least the next six months, it’s primetime for apps and online shopping.42

And the good news is that U.S. retailers are seeing their revenue growth increase year-over-year for online sales, hitting as high as 68% in mid-April.43 What’s emerged is a need for “essentials,” which include items needed at home during lockdown. As a result, approximately 40% of consumer spending has been on items such as office supplies, housewares, beauty and cosmetics, home improvement, fitness equipment, toys, and hobby-related products.44 

How COVID-19 impacts U.S. consumer shopping behavior45

44%

conducted shopping online in mid-May

36%

won’t visit brick-and-mortar stores until a vaccine is available

68%

Plan to buy essential goods online indefinitely

SaaS

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps cover a wide range of services. On the whole, the overall SaaS market is facing challenges with companies experiencing, on average, a 40% decrease in sales and accounts being put on hold.46

With that said, the importance of remote work is being highlighted during this time, and some SaaS organizations are seeing growth in usage, especially when free trials and discounts are offered to entice new customers and encourage continued usage.47

B2B SaaS apps that cater to essential services have seen an increase in usage, such as businesses on Yelp who use the service to broadcast delivery or pick-up services and hours of operation.

eLearning

With across-the-board school closures at every level and in-person corporate training halted, eLearning platforms and apps have risen quickly to prominence on a global scale and experienced a significant uptick in adoption and usage.

Education technology trends
Investment48

$18.66 billion

$350 billion

2019 investment

2025 projection

1,876% projected increase in 6 years

VC funding49

$500 million

$7 billion

2010

2019

1,400% increase in 9 years

Investment
VC funding

2019 = $18.66B

2010 = $500 million

2025 projection = $350B

2019 = $7 billion

1,876% projection increase in 6 years

1,400% increase in 9 years

With 1.2 billion students in 186 countries impacted by COVID-19, schools are using online learning software, video conferencing, virtual tutoring, and eLearning apps to replace in-person classroom time.50 In addition, eLearning apps for adults have seen an increase in learners who want to take courses, with 17% of adults attending a class because of the pandemic.51

Pandemic-rebounder applications

While COVID-19 has uplifted app providers in industries that benefit from consumers sheltering at home, it’s been hard on industries that depend upon movement and travel. As long as consumers are restricted with where they can go and what they can do, these apps are on hold but will likely rebound as the pandemic impact abates.

Bugsnag’s customer data points to three application types that fall into this category.

Consumer Services

Hospitality

Transportation

Safeguard your apps from bugs

For many app providers, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to keep consumers happy, healthy, and thriving in their homes during shelter-in-place months. Apart from app services that depend on in-person interactions, the pandemic has illustrated what a digital life can look like.

Even more importantly, the overall increase in application usage demonstrates a stark reality for app developers: Application experiences must be safeguarded from crashes and errors. 

Because stability management and error monitoring paint an insightful picture into business performance and demonstrate consumer trends, error data provides compelling metrics and should represent a de facto KPI for applications. 

Here are five reasons how an error monitoring solution helps to keep applications thriving:

1. Reduce Costs and Technical Debt:

Save $1,500 per engineer, on average, each month over debugging.52 Provide a metrics-driven conversation and singular goal around application stability to reduce technical debt.

2. Increase Team Productivity:

Flip from 60% wasted developer time investigating and fixing errors, to a 40% increase in developer productivity when the exact location and source of the error are provided.

3. Drive a culture of code ownership:

Streamline workflows and error triaging in multi-team applications. Filter out the noise originating from another team’s codebase and begin to build team alignment around these bugs.

4. Impact Consumer Satisfaction and Safeguard App Store Ratings:

Since 96% of mobile app users write bad reviews for sub-par apps,53 application stability and error monitoring help organizations avoid poor app store ratings and help keep customers satisfied.

5. Improve Application Health:

Stability scores (think critical stability as an SLA  and target stability as an SLO) calculate real-time error rates and session data to reflect the percentage of successful user interactions per release. 

There’s never been a better time to rely on an error monitoring solution and the insightful data it provides, especially during a global event such as COVID-19. Whether we experience a resurgence of the virus or another global issue that sends everyone home, every application team benefits from monitoring its own stability, knowing which bugs are the right ones to fix, and achieving complete visibility into the app user experience. 

No one knows what the future will hold, but organizations that adopt stability management are better prepared to keep all customers happy and loyal, which is critical when you have their undivided attention. 

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