There’s a mini-industry of research firms who spend their time burrowing into app analytics to estimate downloads, revenue and other metrics for the apps and publishers on Google and Apple’s app stores. App Annie, SensorTower and Apptopia being just the three most prominent examples. Now the last of those has kicked off the latest wave of speculation about how much money TikTok might be making from in-app purchases.
“TikTok has its best quarter ever,” tweeted Apptopia’s VP of insights and alliances Adam Blacker, accompanied by a moneybag emoji and a graph suggesting that TikTok’s in-app purchase revenue has grown by 310% year-on-year, globally. Note, this is just money spent by TikTok users within the app on its virtual coins – advertising revenue is not included (nor, for that matter, is a specific figure for what the IAP revenue is, although the graph indicates it’s north of $50m in the final quarter of 2019.)
The tweet and its subsequent media coverage sparked more figures from one of Apptopia’s rivals, SensorTower. It told TechCrunch that its estimates suggest that TikTok’s in-app spending actually reached $87m in the final quarter of 2019, making for year-on-year growth of 521%. The fact that two companies tracking the same market can come up with differing figures is a reminder that app-analytics based estimates can vary according to methodology. The figures shouldn’t be treated as definitive, even if the trends they show are still useful.
The trend they show here, clearly, is strong growth for TikTok’s in-app spending, even if that’s from a small base. TikTok remains a platform that’s very much about reach, virality and free content – even its advertising business is still pretty nascent. However, it does spark the question of what might happen if and when TikTok puts even more effort behind what its users can do with those virtual coins.
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