i3 | October 02, 2020

Why Mobile-First Firms are Crucial

Jim Harris

Mobile-first firms have an 825% higher value upon IPO than companies with no mobile focus, highlighting how essential mobile technology is for success. 

This is a staggering finding from the 2020 Mobile Report by App Annie. Here are a few reasons.

Mini Supercomputers

In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov. For IBM, this was a $100 million project. Today most smartphones have more raw computing power than Deep Blue. 

Companies that have no mobile focus are choosing not to use the smartphone supercomputer that rests in billions of peoples’ pockets or purses.


The highest revenue for any non-gaming app is on Tinder, which uses geolocation to match users with others nearby. In the same way, LetGo and OfferUP use geolocation to connect local buyers and sellers of second-hand items instantly. 

Both companies have a valuation of $1.5 billion and announced in March 2020 they are combining their operations.

All Needs

Millennials and GenZ live a mobile-centric life. They use their smartphones to connect, for entertainment and news, for dating and relationships, for buying and selling, for researching purchases, for health and fitness, education, work, and watching video and movies. Note, they are bringing their experiences and expectations to every other company and industry.

COVID Driving Mobile Surge

During Q1 of 2020, mobile use surged by 20% compared to Q1 2019, driven by the COVID crisis, notes Lexi Sydow, senior market insights manager at App Annie. In 2019, the average global smartphone user spent three hours and 40 minutes on their smartphone per day. In April 2020 during the COVID crisis that spiked to four hours and 20 minutes. How many firms have the luxury of choosing not to interact with the primary channel their customers use?

For example, Uber Eats saw its business grow 89% in April 2020, according to the company. How many companies can claim that kind of growth with the economic lockdown? And while gaming and entertainment apps have seen significant growth, business app downloads nearly doubled on average compared to 2019.

Future Growth

Gen Z (born after 1997) spends 40% more time on mobile devices than others, says Sydow. Gen Z is the largest U.S. demographic, highlighting how mobile usage will continue to grow.

For example, asset managers retain less than one third of client assets after they die, often because they don’t serve their clients’ children in the way they wish to be served. So, investment firms would benefit from a mobile-first focus even though their current clients (aging boomers) are not asking for them.

COVID Consequences

It took 10 years for e-commerce to grow by 11% — from 5.6% in 2009 to 16.3% in 2019. When COVID hit, online shopping grew by 11% in eight weeks from 16.3% in 2019 to 27% at the end of May 2020, according to a report from Bank of America, U.S. Department of Commerce and ShawSpring Research.

When most retailers were shuttered except grocery stores and pharmacies during the coronavirus, Amazon hired 175,000 people during this period to keep up with orders. Millions of people are now familiar with the ease and convenience of e-commerce. And it’s not just Amazon benefitting from surging demand; Walmart.com experienced a 74% surge in online sales in Q1 of 2020, according to the company. Many e-commerce page views are from mobile phones. 

A mobile strategy is crucial for company’s to thrive in the post-COVID world.

i3 magazine September/October 2020

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