Americans are increasingly turning to smartphones to navigate the looming uncertainty around the economy and consumer finances. But, while many financial apps are providing users with valuable information, not all are reaping the potential benefits in terms of brand or app growth.
The latest BRAG (Brand Relative App Growth) Index Brand Insight Report, developed by Digital Turbine in partnership with Apptopia, reveals that a select few are poised for long-term growth and becoming a household name brand in the finance category.
Here are five key findings about mobile apps in the finance category:
1. Financial Apps are the Fastest Growing App Category in User Interest
Overall user interest in financial apps is up by 32 percent, the BRAG report found – the largest percentage growth of any app category surveyed (over Shopping, Streaming Video, Food, and News). At the end of Q2, 50.2 percent of mobile users said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in using Financial Apps. That’s an increase of 32 percent from just a few months prior, in October 2021, when only 38.1 percent of users were interested.
Increased user interest in financial apps may reflect the broader trend of consumers taking action to improve their personal finances and increasing interest and comfort in peer-to-peer payments. Financial literacy as a topic reached an all-time peak in search volume this year, according to Google Trends. And 76 percent of Americans chose “being smarter with finances” as their New Year’s resolution.
2. Financial Apps with Mass Appeal Turn to Mass Media for Growth
The BRAG report uses a proprietary metric called Growth Potential to measure the size of an app’s brand funnel. This metric is calculated based on an app’s category interest, app awareness, and install intent among users who don’t currently have the app. Apps that experienced a large percentage of growth fell into the mass appeal of “new banking trends” like Chime (+296 percent), an online-only bank app, Coinbase (+267 percent), a user-friendly cryptocurrency app, and Cash App (+172 percent), a peer-to-peer payment app.
All three financial apps invested heavily in advertising and influencers to buoy their growth, with cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase being perhaps the most noteworthy example. After the app’s groundbreaking Super Bowl QR code ad aired, the Coinbase website saw 20 million visits in just one minute — six times above what their marketing team had projected.
Mobile payment service Cash App delivered more than 30M installs in Q1 2022. This is despite fewer than 40 percent of financial app users even being aware of the app just six months prior. Late last year, Cash App focused on expanding its market to teens and partnering with influencers like TikTok star Jojo Siwa on a social media sweepstakes. The TikTok star’s tweet announcing the sweepstakes generated over 5,700 retweets, 6,500 quote tweets, and nearly 16,000 likes.
The teen-focused strategy paid off, for Cash App and other rising apps like the mobile banking app Chime. Today, six in 10 Gen Zers and Millennials who have their primary checking account with a digital bank use either Chime, PayPal, or Cash App, as reported in Forbes.
3. PayPal’s Brand is Growing Beyond Payments Into An Industry Leader
Financial powerhouses are not one-trick ponies. They’ve leveraged a strong brand along with product diversification to take a greater share of a household’s monthly budget. In looking at the BRAG data, it’s clear that PayPal is propelling its brand forward to the future.
The report measured three key app metrics around brand favorability: overall consumer sentiment, the net change in sentiment, and brand awareness. Overall consumer sentiment was captured by calculating the ratio of consumers that like vs. dislike the app. PayPal, along with Current, topped the list of financial apps where app likers far outweighed the app dislikers, at a ratio of nearly 25:1.
PayPal’s CEO, Dan Schulman, described the company’s desire to “become a super app” as it explores innovations that’ll help morph it into a “one-stop shop for all consumer financial needs.” PayPal is already moving beyond its existing offerings and inching toward other financial services, such as crypto, banking, and stock trading. These moves have helped PayPal’s one-stop financial services shop ambitions and increased its consumer sentiment.
4. Consumer Sentiment Increases for P2P Apps Point to Gains in Users and Transactions
Net Sentiment Change was also measured, which expressed the change between the percentage of consumers whose opinion of the app has improved and the percentage whose opinion has lowered over the last three months. Peer to Peer payment apps dominated this category with PayPal (up +19.8 points), Venmo (up +11.8 points), and Cash App (+10.0 points), and Zelle (+8.7 points) being 4 of the 5 top apps. The only non-P2P finance app in the top 5 was Chase (+9.1 points). The increases have led to Digital Wallets being the most preferred payment method, accounting for 44.5 percent of eCommerce transaction volume – and are expected to overtake cash and credit cards for in-store purchases as well.
5. Finance Brands Need to Better Explain Their Consumer Value
Brand awareness is different from having brand equity – where the target market understands and values what your brand represents. The BRAG report’s App Gap metric measures the percentage of people aware of an app, but not familiar enough to express an opinion — favorable or unfavorable — thus representing the “gap” between overall awareness and deeper understanding of the value offered by the app. The BRAG report found that when compared to other categories, financial apps had the largest App Gaps, or the biggest delta between Brand Awareness and Brand Equity.
One glaring example of this is the app SoFi which has the largest gap between awareness and deeper understanding. Their sponsorship of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers home stadium, and also the stadium that hosted the Super Bowl in February has led to a great general awareness of the brand in general.
Fast Company noted that SoFi has stuck true to its strategy: “Build an aspirational brand that engenders loyalty, and avoid competing with other lending startups on price.” And, yet, while their stadium sponsorship has certainly increased people’s awareness of who they are, there also is a lack of an understanding of what they do.
SoFi’s target customers are what it calls ‘high earners not well-served,’ as well as people who have taken out financial offerings from multiple banks. But this new approach to personal financing isn’t something that naturally will pull installs without consumer education. In order for SoFi to capitalize on its increase in brand awareness, they need to incorporate UA strategies that leverage its large audience and highlight its breadth of services to deepen understanding and, by default, convert more users.
Developed by Digital Turbine in partnership with Apptopia, the BRAG Report looks at changes in growth potential, brand favorability, and category interest of financial apps. The data is based on a survey of 3,000 U.S. mobile consumers in April/May of 2022 and explores changes to the brand funnels (i.e. overall consumer awareness and intent to install) of leading apps since October 2021.