Blog South Korea in three charts: Installs, s...

South Korea in three charts: Installs, sessions, and retention rates

The app market is thriving in South Korea, with a revenue figure of $18.86 billion in 2022. South Korea has one of the most advanced mobile infrastructures in the world and a highly tech-savvy population, making it an extremely lucrative app economy. Over 97% of South Koreans are using a smartphone and 4G connectivity along with free wi-fi are available in the majority of the country. South Koreans are also highly engaged in-app and rank among the most active app users, spending an average of 5 hours daily on mobile.

Adjust data revealed that, in line with global patterns, app installs in South Korea were down slightly in 2022. However, 2023 looks optimistic as installs in January were 31% higher than the Q4 2022 average, creating a vast opportunity for app marketers to continue succeeding in this marketing moving forward. In this article, we look at the top app verticals with the highest downloads, session growth, and best retention rates to give marketers an overview of how apps are performing in South Korea.

Mobile gaming comes out on top

According to Apptopia, mobile games had over a billion downloads across all platforms in South Korea last year, making it the top app vertical. In second place were fintech apps, which had over 300 million downloads, followed by shopping, utility, and entertainment apps. The top app verticals for iOS were slightly different, with lifestyle coming in second, followed by fintech, shopping, and photography.

Fintech, shopping, and utility app sessions surge in 2022

Sessions for entertainment apps saw a year-over-year (YoY) boost of 48%. South Koreans’ love of K-dramas is a major factor in why video streaming is one of their favorite forms of entertainment. While Netflix and YouTube Premium are the two most popular video streaming apps among Millennials and Gen Z, homegrown services such as Watcha and TVING also have a solid following with highly engaged users. Music streaming apps are popular as well, with K-pop as a driving force in South Korean culture. The best way to listen to K-pop is through Korean music apps like Melon, Genie, Flo, and Vibe.

Another vertical that saw remarkable growth was fintech, growing 57% YoY in 2022. And this growth is only accelerating in 2023, as sessions in January increased by a massive 495% YoY. Sessions in January were also 31% higher than the Q4 2022 average. Utilizing fintech apps has become a standard practice in South Korean households and industries as they make paying bills, accessing banks, and shopping online easier than ever. The growth of fintech apps can be primarily attributed to the support of the South Korean government. The Financial Services Commission recognized the fintech sector as a key driver of economic growth and job creation and introduced the Financial Regulatory Sandbox in 2019. This has allowed fintech startups to experiment with new services and develop innovative products.

South Korea is the fourth-largest gaming market in the world, driven by the popularity of esports and increasing availability of high-speed internet. A recent survey found that around 74% of South Koreans played mobile games in 2022, and sales revenue nearly reached 14 trillion in South Korean won. However, consistent with the global market trends, mobile gaming sessions dropped in 2022, decreasing by 13% compared to 2021. On the bright side, sessions in January 2023 were 20% above the Q4 2022 average, signaling a bounce back in growth this year.

Lifestyle apps had the second-highest number of downloads on iOS, and sessions grew across platforms. According to Adjust data, sessions for lifestyle apps increased by 24% YoY in 2022. In January 2023, sessions were up by 57% compared to January 2022 and 22% compared to Q4 2022.

South Korea has the sixth-largest e-commerce market in the world, with a predicted revenue of over $109 billion in 2023. South Koreans spend an average of 96 minutes traveling to and from work every day, giving them a lot of time to use their smartphones to pass the time and shop online. Our data reflects this as shopping app sessions surged by an enormous 123% YoY in 2022, a year where many people resumed commuting. The growth has carried over into 2023, as sessions in January increased by 19% YoY.

Utility apps saw the most impressive session growth in 2022, increasing by 124% YoY. Additionally, in January 2023, sessions grew 21% YoY. Utility apps have grown in South Korea because they offer valuable features and functions that help users save time, streamline tasks, and achieve their goals more efficiently.

Retention rates are highest for gaming and shopping apps

In Q4 2022, lifestyle apps posted the highest Day 1 retention rate at 23%, followed by mobile games at 22%, shopping at 18%, fintech apps at 17%, entertainment apps at 14%, and utility apps at 13%.

Mobile app usage in South Korea is charting considerable growth in 2023 so far, representing huge potential for app marketers looking to expand their user base. However, the South Korean app landscape is highly competitive, and marketers must tailor and personalize their campaigns to cut through the noise. Localizing your app to succeed in this market is especially vital as consumers prefer apps that use their language and culture. App store optimization (ASO) is also crucial to increase visibility and downloads, so make sure to also translate your app titles, descriptions, and keywords.

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