COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey — Developers Have a Higher Duty to Protect Mobile Users

COVID-19 has transformed the mobile app economy in some big ways. Overnight, more people and more businesses than ever are using and relying on mobile apps. Here at Appdome, we wanted to know if mobile consumer expectations about the security in mobile apps has also shifted. And if so, by how much — so we asked mobile users directly. Understanding mobile consumer perspectives is critical to building sustainable mobile economies, protecting mobile data, and protecting mobile users. We hope you find this COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey research useful in building your own mobile business.

Executive Summary of Appdome’s COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey

This is a four-part blog series that examines consumer attitudes toward mobile app security, including how the pandemic has shaped mobile consumer expectations and perceptions about mobile app security. Given the extensive nature of the research, I’ll cover the results in separate blog posts as follows (this blog is part 1):

  1. Mobile Threats and Consumer Fears
  2. Global Trust and Expectations
  3. Appdome’s Annual State of Mobile App Security research

Methodology Behind the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey

The data used in the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey came from multiple internal and external sources, including a new independent survey Appdome conducted with over 4,000 mobile consumers in the United States and globally. We asked each respondent a series of questions about their mobile app usage, experiences, and purchasing behavior. Next, we asked about their their expectations regarding app security and their reactions to security threats and mobile app breaches. The results were stunning, relevant, and extremely useful.

Mobile App Use in COVID-19

With COVID-19, the role mobile apps play in our lives has grown in importance. We use mobile apps for just about every relevant function in our lives — both our personal and work lives. We know that mobile app usage has grown significantly since the outset of the pandemic. All key metrics such as app downloads, engagement, time and money spent in apps have all experienced significant increases. App Annie published a fascinating report on this.

Mobile App Trust in COVID-19

We asked mobile users questions about their comfort level using mobile apps as well as how much they trust the apps they use. The results were surprisingly low. For example, we asked “How comfortable are you with making purchases and other financial transactions on mobile apps in COVID-19?” Only 39% of respondents stated that they are comfortable making purchases using mobile apps. Said another way, that means 61% of respondents are less than comfortable or not comfortable at all with mobile app purchases. Wow.

A Lot of Work is Still Needed to Gain Mobile User Trust

Mobile Banking apps were the only app type that received 40% of respondents reporting the highest level of trust (i.e., 5-star rating). Rideshare & Gig economy apps, it turns out, had the lowest number of respondents reporting high levels of trust (at 16.6%). They also had the highest number of respondents reporting the lowest level of trust (at 23.1%). We suspect that this could result from the string of vulnerabilities or bad press these apps have experienced. No matter how you slice it, the data revealed that the mobile industry has a long way to go in order to build and retain consumer trust.

Mobile Consumers Expect Developers to Protect Mobile Users

Against this backdrop, we wanted to understand a bit more about mobile users’ expectations regarding app security. We believe this information is critical to helping mobile developers understand the unique requirements for building and delivering secure mobile apps to consumers.

Consequences of Mobile App Breaches in COVID-19

So far, the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey revealed three important considerations for mobile developers and security teams in: (1) mobile usage is up dramatically (2) trust in mobile apps is low, and (3) mobile security expectations are high. But what about the consequences of failing to protect mobile data and users, or an actual breach? There too, the COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey revealed a dramatic shift in consumer emotions during the pandemic.

Protect Mobile Users or Expect Harsh Reactions

The COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey revealed developers should expect a harsh reaction to security issues (real and perceived). The data shows that mobile users will abandon mobile apps that either fail to protect their data or experience a breach. We asked “If you discovered your app doesn’t protect your data, how likely are you to stop using it?” An overwhelming 70% of mobile users responded that they would stop using a mobile app if they learned the app did not protect their data.

The Impact to Mobile Business Metrics

Given the high usage, high expectations, low trust and harsh consequences, mobile developers find themselves at a crossroads. Those that choose to secure the mobile app experience should enjoy better growth and unit economics. Those that choose not to secure the mobile app experience will face lower growth and unit economics. More importantly, those that choose not to secure their mobile apps face a ticking time-bomb, where the app’s lack of security could destroy the mobile business model entirely — in a flash.

Trust Is Critical to Every Mobile App Business

Now let’s talk a little about the trust. Forrester measures brand “Trust” as a major factor in its Consumer Energy Index. The index tracks consumer readiness and willingness to engage with mobile brands. In the latest release, Forrester cited a dramatic drop in Trust during COVID-19. According to Forrester, “this indicates that consumers are less optimistic that people and companies will follow through on the promises they make.”

Recommendation for Mobile App Developers: Protect Mobile Users!

The COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey reveals that mobile consumers place a high degree of confidence in the apps and brands they trust. They expect mobile app developers to protect their use and ensure a safe mobile experience. If mobile consumers perceive that app makers do not take their trust seriously, their reactions can be strongly negative and can cause lasting damage to a company’s brand and revenue. At the same time, one can expect that the inverse also holds true — good security can be a competitive advantage.

  1. Improve growth in unit economics and mobile app revenue
  2. Position the developer, app and mobile business as leaders in mobile trust and security

What’s Next — COVID-19 Mobile Consumer Survey

I encourage you to take a look at our next blog in this 4-part series. Next up, we’ll dive deeper into the specific fears and threats that are top of mind for mobile consumers. After that, I’ll reveal the international similarities and differences in mobile consumer expectations about mobile app security. Finally, stay tuned for the last blog of the series where I will cover our State of Mobile App Security research. Learn how the world’s biggest brands measure up to mobile user expectations about app security.

ALAN BAVOSA is VP of Security Products at Appdome, a no-code mobile app security and development platform.