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Product Management

Post-Pandemic Mobile App Improvement Strategies by Industry | Travel & Hospitality, Retail & Shopping, Food & Drink

Madeleine Doyle  //  September 3, 2020  //  7 min read

We won’t waste your time by belaboring the point that COVID-19 has dramatically impacted almost every industry in the world. We’ve been in this global crisis for long enough that most enterprises have gained enough of an understanding of what’s going on so they can stop treading water and start swimming toward the future.

According to a report by Statista, this is how various industries have been impacted by the pandemic. The chart below ranks impact on a five-point scale with one being minor impact and five meaning severe.

Statista Report COVID impact by industry graph

This summer, our team looked at how COVID-19 has impacted mobile app usage patterns by industry.

Key findings from our research include:

  • Looking at DAU over time is the best way to understand drastic changes in app usage.
  • Almost all apps have experienced one of three significant changes to their DAU due to COVID-19: massive drops, huge spikes, or higher frequency of app usage.
  • For apps in the hardest-hit industries, DAU is down 60-75%.
  • For apps in industries that have fared well, DAU is up over 200%.

*The data used throughout this post is from anonymized, US-based Apptentive customers’ iOS apps. For additional COVID-19 resources, see our dedicated hub for the latest marketplace news, tips, and feature suggestions.

Almost all of our customers’ apps have experienced a significant change in their DAU due to COVID-19. There are three main trends taking place:

  • Massive drops. For example, an app that has regularly had five million Daily Active Users drops to one million.
  • Huge spikes. Some apps have had their DAU go up by over 500%, and often, it happened in only a matter of days.
  • Higher frequency of app usage. For example, apps that historically seen predictable weekly trends in usage are now seeing entirely new patterns.

→Read the full DAU report for all industries here

Looking at the data from our DAU report and this report from Statista, we want to focus on providing some actionable benchmarks and suggestions for the following industries that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19:

  • Travel & Hospitality
  • Retail & Shopping (including eCommerce and grocery)
  • Food & Beverage (including QSR)

Travel & Hospitality

According to Statista’s report, this industry was the second most impacted by COVID-19 – and for obvious reasons. With less people traveling and making plans, there’s less demand for these services.

Below, you see two apps in the Travel category, but the industries are different. The first app is an airline, which has seen a massive drop in DAU. The second is an app in the lodging industry, which has also seen a massive DAU drop, but spread differently week-over-week. The data tells us that the lodging industry was impacted more quickly than the airline industry as COVID-19 began to take hold in the US, even though both industries were hit hard.

Travel apps DAU

So, what are Travel and Hospitality brands to do?

Here are our top recommendations for Travel and Hospitality brands at this time:

  • Focus on reducing customer churn and boosting loyalty. Since you’re likely not gaining many new customers right now, it’s imperative to focus on retaining the ones you do have. We know that mobile customers tend to be the most valuable and engaged, so look into ways to improve the mobile experience, surprise and delight customers, and continue to make changing plans a smooth and seamless process within the app experience.
  • Make a plan for a large surge in travel after a vaccine becomes available. Likely, DAU will spike up dramatically when this happens as everyone finally feels safe to travel and be in public. After being cooped up for so long, people will be bursting at the seams to travel. Make preparations now in your mobile app and fine-tune team processes so you’re braced for impact. Start asking for feedback now so you’re not scrambling to understand customer needs when it’s too late.

→Download our five-stage framework to reducing mobile churn

Retail & Shopping (including eCommerce and grocery)

With foot traffic down (and in some cases, completely nonexistent), it’s never been more important to perfect the mobile and digital shopping experience. From account creation to browsing to checkout to shipment tracking, digital is the only place customers are experiencing your brand at the moment.

In terms of traffic and usage, apps in the Shopping and Retail category have seen major disparity based on industry. Let’s look at two companies as an example: a mobile grocery ordering app and an online clothing retailer.

  • Mobile Grocery Ordering: Unsurprisingly, DAU skyrocketed for the mobile grocery ordering app right as stay-at-home orders went into effect, and has begun leveling back down now that restrictions are being lifted (although engagement is still high, which is also unsurprising as many consumers who hadn’t experienced mobile grocery ordering are now having positive experiences).
  • Clothing: The clothing retail app saw a steady increase in DAU that has stayed higher than average — almost comparable to DAU during the holiday shopping season in Q4.

Advice for mobile apps in the Retail and Shopping category:

  • Proactively ask for feedback from customers. The way customers are using your app right now will likely continue through the holiday season. Ask for feedback now from your customers so you have time to adjust your product roadmap and make changes before DAU surges again in the fall and winter.
  • Pay particular attention to fostering relationships with new customers. For many mobile customers, this could be their first time using your app or engaging with your brand if you’re a mobile-first company. Ensuring the onboarding process is seamless and account creation is easy will be key. Once they’re active in the app, make sure you’re identifying any points of friction or frustration and then solving them quickly before they churn and move to use a competitor. If you play your cards right and continue to foster loyalty with these customers, they will likely continue to be valuable customers in the long-term.

Food & Drink (including QSR)

Now, Statista didn’t report on the impact of COVID-19 on the Food and Drink industry, but our data shows that these apps have seen an incredibly industry-specific impact. In our conversations with customers, this industry has experienced a ton of change and many product managers have been forced to pivot over and over as consumer needs shift and change over time.

→Watch: Q&A with a senior product manager from Dunkin’

The first two apps below are in the restaurant industry. Both apps are considered quick-service restaurants (QSRs), with one main differentiator: the first business relies heavily on the use of their drive-through option, and the second business offers drive-through service, but not as a primary offering.

The first QSR app’s DAU has fared relatively well through COVID-19’s impact, likely thanks to its ability to comply with social distancing by encouraging customers to use its drive-through option. The second QSR app’s DAU was hit hard and continues to be negatively impacted as consumers are encouraged to continue staying at home.

Food and Drink apps DAU

Advice for mobile apps in the Food & Drink category:

  • In-restaurant dining is not expected to spike back up after a vaccine is available because it’s likely people will still be wary of populated public spaces. It’s imperative brands in this space continue to improve the mobile experience, push for digital transformation, and continue to finesse operational systems like curbside pickup, mobile order and pay, and more.
  • Utilize surveys and proactively gather feedback. One of the biggest struggles enterprises face right now with launching curbside pickup and other new operational systems is the disconnect between what the company thinks each location needs and what they actually need. It’s difficult to understand what’s working and what’s not without actually being on the ground every day at the stores. And without real-time feedback from customers, there’s not a clear way to know what’s needed to improve the experience. Surveys can help you identify those gaps and make quick product decisions to solve customer pain points.

If you’re a mobile product manager for a company in one of these categories, we’d love to hear from you to learn more about what your team is doing to prepare for post-pandemic mobile customer behavior shifts. If you’d be interested in sharing what you’re up to with us on a virtual panel, we’d love to host you! Send me an email at

And if you’re a mobile PM ready to get started proactively collecting, analyzing, and acting on customer feedback, schedule a quick demo with our team here.

About Madeleine Doyle

Madeleine Doyle is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Apptentive. No stranger to B2B tech, Madeleine enjoys translating complex concepts into easy-to-digest pieces of content.
View all posts by Madeleine Doyle >

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