Commentary

App Economy On Fire, With $6 Trillion Expected By 2021

Sure, apps might seem very 2010. But over the next few years, it’s hard to overstate the opportunities that lie ahead for enterprising developers.

Worldwide, the app economy will mushroom from $1.3 trillion last year to $6.3 trillion in 2021, according to a fresh forecast from App Annie.

Danielle Levitas, SVP of research at App Annie, tells me there is a combination of reasons for the burst of growth in the app economy.

“For one, we are seeing consumers in more mature markets using apps more often,” she said. “Additionally, companies from across industries are investing in apps to offer a more intimate and personalized experience for consumers.”

Also, “Apps are no longer solely used for games, social or communications purposes,” Levitas notes. “Rather, we are seeing a growth in verticals such as shopping, banking, fintech, travel and hospitality.”

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In part, the windfall is also a product of larger audiences. By 2021, the number of app users will nearly double from 3.4 billion, last year, to 6.3 billion by 2021, the measure firm predicts.

That, and people continue to spend more of their time with apps. By App Annie’s calculation, total time spent will surge from 1.6 trillion hours, last year, to 3.5 trillion hours in 2021.

Oh, and people are spending more money in apps. From 2016 to 2021, consumers’ average annual spend will climb from $379 to $1,008.

Stateside, the data definitely suggests that consumers are increasingly willing to spend dollars in apps -- and convert larger and larger basket sizes.

In fact, thanks to a compound annual growth rate of 21%, App Annie expects U.S. consumers to spend $31 billion in app stores by 2021.  

For domestic publishers, apps are expected to generate $72.5 billion by 2021 -- up from $28 billion, last year.

Yet if App Annie is right, mobile commerce could be the biggest story through the end of the decade. Indeed, by its own reckoning, mobile commerce spend per user will skyrocket from $613, last year, to $2,012 by 2021. If on target, that would represent an increase of 228%!

So how do developers get a piece of this growing pie?

Earlier this week, I heard from Kemal El Moujahid, a product manager at Facebook, on the subject. He believes it’s all about more personalization and increasingly anticipating consumer needs.  

Not surprisingly, those are the driving forces behind M -- Facebook Messenger’s smart assistant.  

Since launching in April, M has been popping into users’ active conversations and suggesting what it “thinks” are relevant content and actions.

If M determines that a conversation is light, for instance, it might recommend some funny stickers to share with friends. If money is being discussed, it might suggest options for sending and receiving funds. If the subject of travel comes up, M might suggest sharing one’s geographic location.

Following Facebook’s lead, the message for developers is clear: Get smarter or go home.

“Entrepreneurs with great app strategies who understand the power and intimacy of mobile will be the ones that thrive, regardless of the size of the company,” Levitas assures. Along with the bigger players, “this is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and startups.”

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