young woman looking down at her phone with text app monetization trends 2024
Mobile Data , Monetization

App Monetization Trends: 3 Ways to Monetize an App in 2024

There are things mobile app publishers can’t control. The cost of living crisis, when and where users want to spend their disposable income – and how this affects app users around the world. 

But there are things publishers can control. The most successful app monetization teams in 2024 will think about moving beyond whale-focused app monetization strategies to focus on 

  • building connections with diverse users through a thoughtful app UX
  • empowering users with optionality in the app
  • prioritizing transparency in uncertain times

These teams will continue to spread their app’s revenue load across different mechanisms and user segments by getting these fundamentals right.

1. Create Seamless Value for Users

What publishers can’t control: Users are picky with where and how they spend their time. 

App downloads are stagnating – that’s the first thing a publisher should note. Instead of expecting users to come to them, apps must be able to meet users where they are. Many users in 2024 don’t want to download yet another app. They want to see greater value in the apps they already use.

But it does look like users are spending more time on their mobile devices – six percent more than in 2022. Of the total 14 billion hours per day globally spent on Android devices alone, 2.3 trillion hours were spent in social apps. Entertainment apps and utility apps – such as Google Chrome – also drove twelve-digit engagement times in 2023.

bar chart showing top app subgenres by engagement

We know that the longer users engage with an app, the more they value that app. Every second a user spends in an app is crucial for boosting a publisher’s ARPU – whether this engaged app usage then leads to greater IAP revenue, ad revenue, or in-app reward payouts.

What publishers can control: App monetization solutions might be marketed as shiny and new – but successful publishers will master the basics and innovate from there. They’ll deliver an app UX that users want to spend time in and ensure that it fits seamlessly into and enriches users’ everyday lives. They’ll understand how to convert casual users into monthly active users – and a powerful revenue stream.

McDonalds, Fetch, Starbucks, and Dominos reward users for both their online and offline everyday activities. Whether it’s eating food, ordering a coffee, paying a phone bill, or filling up with gas. McDonalds’ loyalty program, currently worth 20 billion US dollars in revenue, has committed to growing its daily active user base from 150 million to 250 million by 2027.

McDonalds’ highly relevant app UX has made it one of the world’s top-five most valuable consumer-facing brands. It’s a prime example of how much value loyalty programs can bring to brands and their apps.

infographic showing loyalty program revenue increase for mcdonalds

Brands and apps must find where their users are and identify gaps in their everyday lives where they can enjoy greater value. Is it a case of gamifying or adding branded games to increase engagement and daily app usage? Is it a case of building a more user-centric loyalty program, where value is top of mind? These are the questions app monetization teams must answer in 2024.

2. Empower Users with Options

What publishers can’t control: Users are picky with where and how they spend their money.

App consumer spend has been heavily influenced by disposable income across the world. This is a fair assumption, right? False: Correlation is not causation – and a fair assumption here is not the correct one.

Let’s use the US as an example:

chart showing app consumer spend growth vs disposable income in US

Mobile apps are not as expendable as one might expect; consumers are simply more selective with their spending. At 64 billion US dollars, consumer spend in nongaming apps is higher now than it has ever been – especially in social apps. 

TikTok is the first-ever app to have hit ten billion dollars in all-time consumer spend. The majority of the platform’s IAP revenue comes from one-time in-app purchases, when users buy coins to digitally tip content creators. TikTok has managed to thrive in a vertical where others, such as Snapchat, rely heavily on subscription-based revenue.

And entertainment apps such as Netflix and Disney+ need little introduction – over the past few years they introduced an ad revenue stream and have reaped the benefits: Netflix’ global ad revenue is now estimated to reach almost four billion US dollars by 2030. 

bar chart showing Netflix's subscription and ad revenue

What publishers can control: It’s not a case of one size fits all. Publishers must build optionality into their app monetization strategies to give users multiple ways to get value from a single app. Publishers this way can empower users to spend how they want by adjusting price plans or ways for users to consume in-app content – whether through recurring payments, one-off payments, or consuming ad content.

3. Build Trust Everywhere with Everyone

What a publisher can’t control: Users are picky with brands and will turn away from any they don’t trust.

We said last year that brands must build trust during recessionary or financially uncertain periods. Businesses and consumers are less inclined to take risks and more inclined to stick to what they know. 

Consumers are also more skeptical toward big brands; 52 percent of consumers in the US blame inflation on corporate greed.

What a publisher can control: The extent to which users trust their brand or app. Trustworthy publishers give users reliable, quality in-app content in a way that is accessible and easy to enjoy – whether they pay for this content or not. Trustworthy publishers prioritize serving quality ad experiences with relevant advertisers, rather than monetizing with any old spammy ad.

Users enjoy spending time and money in an app once there is an established trust between them and the brand. For publishers who monetize their app with ads, brand safety measures will therefore become even more crucial.

And advertisers are also prioritizing brand safety more than ever before: 67% of advertisers say that brand safety is key for them. Publishers will therefore have to ensure they can deliver high-quality ad inventory in their app that’s fit for monetization. 

young man looking at phone with stat about brand safety

Zoom out a bit further, and you might remember that last year was big for antitrust movements targeting the Google monopoly. Publishers in 2024 will continue to move away from the traditional mediation providers toward those offering transparent unbiased ad mediation solutions.

We said this last year, and we predict the same will continue to happen this year:

  • Publishers will ask for greater control and transparency over their revenue and become more savvy vis-a-vis revenue-sharing models
  • There will be higher competition among advertisers and the bids they place on a publisher’s ad inventory
  • There will be greater potential for higher publisher revenue thanks to a programmatic model with no hidden costs

It’s a Year to Focus on Users

Don’t make your app expendable in 2024. Listen to the data – your users’ data.

Successful publishers will build stronger emotional connections with their users – especially in challenging times. They’ll address their users’ needs and everyday priorities when devising their app monetization strategies. 

If they do this well, they won’t have to worry about churn. 

If they don’t have to worry about churn, they can focus on further high-impact engagement mechanisms to boost their app’s retention rate and revenue.

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