Four mobile app predictions for 2023 that every UAE marketer should be aware of
Posted on 2022 Dec,14  | By Paul Wright

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Paul Wright, General Manager for Western Europe and MENAT at AppsFlyer, shares four emerging trends that marketers should take into consideration in order to navigate what is likely to be a rollercoaster 2023 year

Mobile apps continued to grow in importance, across the UAE, in 2022. In the first nine months of the year, app instals grew 25%, as consumers increasingly turn to mobile apps to game, shop, manage finances, and more.

Organisations from telecom services giant Etisalat to start-up Astra Tech were looking to emulate ride-hailing super-app platform Careem, which was so successful that it was acquired by Uber in 2019 for US$3.1 billion. Additionally, the Arab Gulf region is still predicted to become a gaming hub, with the mobile segment dominating both revenue and penetration. Marketers are responding to this growth with increased spend and activity. Indeed, app install ad spend was up 31% in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing however. The recent global economic downturn combined with the stubborn longevity of both inflation and supply-chain issues will impact many app marketers. In addition, the introduction of the UAE’s federal Personal Data Protection Law in January has challenged the app-building community to come up with different ways to achieve opt-in, as has Apple’s release of ATT (app-tracking transparency) in iOS 14.

As we look to 2023, marketers should be guided by four emerging trends in order to navigate what is likely to be a rollercoaster year:


1. Leverage of owned media

The social commerce industry in the UAE was estimated to be worth more than US$800 million in 2022 and is expected to reach almost US$3 billion by 2028. As external developments — both regulatory and economic — continue to challenge marketers’ budgets and resources, both B2C and B2B brands are turning to social channels and other owned media, such as web and email, to reach their audiences. These investments will likely dominate in 2023. Economically speaking, using owned channels is often cheaper than paying for user acquisition campaigns, and because they rely on first-party data given consensually, it is also a more privacy-first option.


2. More privacy-preserving technology

Speaking of privacy, this will continue to be an area marketers need to prioritise in 2023. They must move away from an over-reliance on user-level data, and understand how they can gain relevant insights from aggregated data. Next year, marketers will turn increasingly to privacy-preserving technologies, not only for regulatory purposes but because such tools are designed for the marketing professional to regain the value of their data. Data clean rooms, which allow two entities to share data and generate insights without privacy concerns, will become the de facto standard of sharing data and gaining insights without compromising the privacy of app users. The clean-room approach has already been implemented in industries such as healthcare, and FSI. Marketing teams will become the latest benefactors.


3. Navigating economic uncertainty

Marketers in 2023 are likely to feel the impact of global economic downturns, and will be expected to do more with less. Those that can accurately measure the ROI of their campaigns, and understand where to invest budgets to get the maximum return will likely fare better in this climate.  If they can show that funds are safe, or even profitable, in their hands, they may manage to loosen the wallets of risk-averse CFOs. Once they get a little momentum and start outpacing the competition with well-placed messaging campaigns, their resource pool will improve further.

The enduring truth of tough times is that those who survive them can certainly be found among those who played it safe and cut spending. But those who thrive are invariably the ones who dare to keep investing. However, it may take marketers time to convince their decision makers to become spenders again. In the meantime, message-crafters will look to squeeze as much value as they can from their budgets. As has already been mentioned, owned channels will play a significant part in this. So too will audience segmentation and retargeting, as marketing professionals try to scrape enough insights to reach the right people and enhance ROI.


4. Understand changes in consumer behaviour

The economic downturn is also going to impact consumer behaviour. They will likely be spending less, and looking to make more informed, cautious decisions when they do spend. This will likely impact eCommerce apps, as well as subscription apps. More subscription apps will likely think about alternative ways they can monetize their apps, as has already been seen with Netflix, which is switching to an ad-based model. As always, ensuring that any changes are implemented carefully and don’t disrupt the overall customer experience will be key.

As consumers become more cost-conscious and marketers find their purses lighter than ever, attribution tools will be necessary to prove ROI and ensure that messaging can keep finding the right audiences. If marketers find the optimum mix, they can sprint to the front of the pack and hold position, building on their successes by building lasting relationships with customers.