Consumers Expand Use of Mobile Apps During Coronavirus Pandemic

77% using them to buy groceries and other essentials during crisis
A food delivery app

For those slow to embrace mobile apps, the coronavirus pandemic may be what ultimately pushes these consumers toward their use.

More than three-fourths of consumers (77%) are turning to apps to order groceries, food and other products and services during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by location technology company Bluedot.

Though some are experienced app users leaning on technology more heavily than before while others are exploring for the first time, the majority is recognizing how mobile apps can be beneficial during a pandemic.

A desire to reduce human contact

A focus throughout the pandemic has been social distancing and avoiding human contact. While many consumers have attempted to avoid brick-and-mortar stores, some human interactions have been necessary. Those interactions come with a cost: 80% of survey respondents said they have experienced fear or anxiety when entering a store or restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers are responding by turning to mobile apps. In fact, 53% of respondents are downloading more apps to cut down on interactions with on-site staff at businesses. Among respondents, 51% have downloaded at least one new app to buy food and essentials, while 42% said they are ordering food, groceries and other items using mobile apps more often.

More than a third of respondents (37%) have downloaded more than two apps during the pandemic. Among longtime app users, 45% said they have added two or more apps during the crisis. Specifically, consumers are downloading apps for:

  • Big retail (24%)
  • Fast food (23%)
  • Groceries (20%)
  • Food delivery (19%)
  • Social media (19%)
  • Fast casual restaurants (18%)

Mobile app usage varies with age

There are some generational differences in mobile app usage, the study found. Millennials and Generation Zers were more likely to use fast food and delivery apps — in fact, they were twice as likely to download a delivery app and 3.5 times as likely to order food from fast food apps than baby boomers.

Some consumers may be more willing to give mobile apps a chance in light of the pandemic, as a survey released earlier this year found that many consumers were disappointed with food delivery apps.

Younger consumers also had different reasons for downloading apps, according to the Bluedot survey. While baby boomers are most likely to use mobile apps to cut down their contact with a business’s employees, more than 60% of millennials and Gen Zers said they are downloading more apps and using them more frequently because apps ease the ordering process.

Methodology: Bluedot surveyed 1,630 adults on April 3 and 4. Of those surveyed, 1,366 respondents were self-described users of mobile apps. The survey sample also spanned different generations: 27% of respondents were baby boomers, 29% were Gen Xers, 27% were millennials and 17% were Gen Zers.

Baby boomers were classified as those born between 1944 and 1964, Gen Xers were those born between 1965 and 1979, millennials were those born between 1980 and 1994 and Gen Zers were those born in 1995 or later.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.