As young apps like BeReal can become the most downloaded, non-gaming app globally seemingly overnight, it's a reminder that top apps should aim to be future-proof. In the latest iteration of the Brand Relative App Growth report created with Digital Turbine, the BRAG Index II pulls apart brand strength and mobile performance to determine which apps have serious staying power.
Each app category we cover in the index (Fintech, QSR, Streaming, Shopping, News) faces its own BeReal, be it another app or changing consumer behaviors. By using the methodology established in the inaugural BRAG Index – to isolate brand as a variable and create a comparison of end-of-quarter install volume that “normalizes” and “corrects” for the various sizes of Brand Funnel – the BRAG Index II surfaces otherwise buried brand strength and performance metrics that point to an app's sustainability.
Listen to the BRAG Index II findings on Growth Masterminds
Best Positioned to become a Super App: Cash App, PayPal, Zelle, and Chase
Among fintech apps, staying power lies in super app status. In a future world where people download less apps because they can do more on only a few, payments is an essential function and none of the top 20 fintech apps want to be left out.
Cash App has moved from a lesser known app, or BRAG Transcender, to well known as a BRAG Leader, closing in on Zelle, PayPal and Venmo in Brand Funnel rank. Its install efficiency continues to top the category, with a BRAG Index far above the category.
More than that, it had a 46% Engagement Index (Daily active users/ Monthly active users) in Q2, above the 44% average of the other top P2P payments apps, which includes PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle. PayPal brings up the average with an impressive 62% Engagement Index, which also puts it in the running for Super App status. As Digital Turbine CMO Greg Wester points out in the Mobile Growth Masterminds podcast episode above, "more engagement means more opportunities to cross-sell."
The QSR Brands Best at Rebuilding Engagement after Food Delivery App Domination: McDonald's, Starbucks, Domino's, Taco Bell, Chipotle
DoorDash and Uber Eats offer variety and convenience at a larger scale than any one QSR brand, but food aggregator apps are limited when it comes to creative branding to drive engagement and loyalty. Lately, that appears to resonate with consumers more when it comes to Food & Drink and Shopping apps. Looking at our top performing QSR brands in either/both brand funnel growth (Brand Power) and engagement, each one has a creative campaign with notable results. Apptopia X-Ray Intelligence shows that on average, QSRs have more features in their app than DoorDash and Uber Eats. Features like Gift Cards, Sharing, iMessage support, review stats, recipes, and certainly store locator, do not make sense for aggregators but help an individual brand better engage with its customers.
- McDonald’s is the only app in any category to lead in BOTH Brand Funnel rank and BRAG Index. Q2 promotions driving mobile engagement include ordering the strategically scarce Szechuan Sauce through the app, National French Fry Day, and a digital summer camp aimed at Gen Z and Gen Alpha, complete with exclusive access to virtual concerts and merch.
- Starbucks, with a top tier Brand Power posting and a strong Engagement Index of 48%, created customer loyalty through a Thursday Happy Hour that provides discounts and promotions only on the app.
- Domino’s, which has the highest Brand Power in the industry thanks to the biggest ratio of Fans-to-Distractors, drove app growth with a Piece of the Pie” rewards program that allows users to collect points on every order that are redeemable for promotions on the app.
- Chipotle’s Brand Power lags behind other apps on this list (they weren’t on our last report so they don’t rank in Brand Velocity yet), but its promotions have done so well creatively that their Engagement Index (49%) ranks higher than any other QSR app, full stop.
Shopping apps that are still able to engage customers during spend slowdown: SHEIN, Klarna, eBay, and Etsy
At Apptopia, we have been observing the "Inflated Retail Records," or app categories that are benefitting from price being top of mind. At first, grocery stores and gas apps jumped and lately, like in QSR, loyalty programs are driving record growth and engagement for retailers. This reflects in the BRAG Index II Brand Power and Brand Velocity ranks. Brand Power, which ranks brand funnel growth, is more favorable for the mass merchants –Amazon, Walmart, and Target – that shot up in relevance when price hikes were felt in Q2. Brand Velocity, a measure of brand equity, favors a more specialized group of retailers: buy now, pay later provider, Klarna, consumer marketplaces Etsy and eBay, and low-cost, cult favorite ecommerce player, SHEIN. The only mass merchant to materially increase brand equity was Target.
The Shopping apps ranking high for Brand Velocity have something in common that plays a familiar theme throughout the report: engagement. Klarna set an all-time-high monthly active users (MAU) in May and SHEIN topped every brand in Average Time Spent Per User in both Q1 and Q2 of this year. If you are a mobile leader wanting to assess business sustainability in any app category, this report is chock full of the mobile marketing and product innovations driving the current leaders across Shopping, QSR, Streaming Video, News, and Fintech.