Globally, consumers accessed financial apps one trillion times from their mobile devices in 2019, and fintech companies are engaging in a “global arms race for audience and market share,” according to a recent report.

Throughout most of the world, adoption of fintech apps, which allow people to manage their financial livelihoods and assets from a mobile device, is now outpacing the adoption of banking apps, which offer saving, checking, lending and credit cards at rates superior to those offered by most brick-and-mortar banks, according to the 2020 Mobile Financial Applications Report from Liftoff and AppAnnie. Fintech apps were able to grow their user base by 20% in 2019 compared to 15% for banking apps.

In the U.S., many of the fastest growing apps by year-over-year increase of iOS and Google Play downloads were payment applications. The five “breakout” finance apps of 2019 by downloads, according to the report, were CashApp, Zelle, Venmo, Chime – Mobile Banking and Experian.

The report also uncovers a persistent trend in fintech applications – they’re simple to install on devices, and users breeze through the process to register for a fintech service in an average of 14 minutes and is shrinking over time, but the time to activate an application, be it an investing, mobile banking or payments app, is on average 11 hours and 35 minutes and growing over time.

The report’s authors posit that some of this delay is behavioral – while users may be enthusiastic enough to installing and register an app on a whim, they require more time before making an actual transaction. There’s no guarantee that efforts to prompt users to take action faster via segmentation, personalization and retargeting will be effective.

Consumers in China, India and Brazil accessed mobile financial apps the most in 2019, with the U.S. coming in fourth. The report’s authors note the strongest year-over-year growth in developing markets like Indonesia (115%) and India (95%), generally healthy growth in developed markets like France (15%), Germany (30%), and Japan (30%), and flatter growth in Canada (2%) and the U.S. (10%).

In what the report’s authors call a “healthy” install-to-register rate, 46.2% of consumers who install a mobile financial application on their phone or tablet device end up registering for free services – however, financial applications had a 19% install-to-purchase rate – the rate at which consumers who download the application end up paying for additional features, services and products. According to the report, install-to-register rates are growing, while install-to-purchase rates have plateaued since reaching 18.7% in 2018.

App developers get more bang for their buck focusing on Android devices, according to the report, the cost to acquire an Android user for a fintech application is $1.28, 77% less than $5.54 cost of acquiring an iOS user. The cost to acquire users who register and install is also less expensive on the Android side of the universe. The cost to acquire users is most expensive in the Asia-Pacific region, cheapest in Europe-Middle East-Africa, with North America falling in between.

The report’s authors also looked at when users were installing, registering and activating their financial mobile apps. Cost-per-install rises in the fall and winter months and tends to fall during spring and summer – perhaps because in spring and summer, more prospective users are  looking for ways to save for vacation or invest their tax returns.

Cost-per-registration and cost-per-activiation vary more throughout the year, but cost-per-registration tends to be higher in the winter months and lower from early spring to early fall. Cost-per-activation hits its peak in January, with a trough in late spring, rises again in September and then drops again in November and December – perhaps because consumers are planning their finances for the next year in those fourth quarter months and adopting new technology to do so.

For this year’s report, Liftoff and AppAnnie analyzed 117 applications, 22 billion user impressions, 382 million clicks and 7 million installs throughout 2019.

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