At this moment, mobile marketers might be thinking about their prospects for the new year and asking: Is the glass half empty or full?
On the one hand, the future looks brighter than ever. Mobile ad spending continues to soar. App usage is off the charts. And at a time when consumption and purchasing habits are being greatly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, mobile devices are playing an even bigger role in driving commerce in categories like food service, retail and travel (as the recent hype around the DoorDash IPO would attest). Increasingly, mobile is viewed by all companies—not just those normally thought of as mobile-centric—as the most effective way to reach and engage with consumers.
And yet, there is cause for concern because of stricter consumer privacy protection laws and recent changes to major ad platforms, including the removal of IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) on the new Apple iOS 14, slated for some time early next year. Going forward, iPhone users will be prompted to opt-in to data sharing via its new AppTrackingTransparency framework, a step that is expected to dramatically reduce participation rates. Of course, doing more to protect users’ data privacy is absolutely the right thing to do—for both marketers and consumers. It helps to build trust and confidence in the system, which can increase engagement over the long term. Still, any reduction in the amount or quality of data from platforms such as Apple, Facebook or Google—without an appropriate, privacy-centric replacement—threatens to weaken the attribution models that advertisers rely on to improve campaign performance and ROI.
But marketers can be reassured: By no means is this outcome a foregone conclusion. On the contrary, there are proactive steps that all brands can take right now to prepare for the future and lay the groundwork for continued success in mobile advertising. At the top of the list is measurement. Any measurement approach must be flexible enough to adapt to a rapidly changing mobile ecosystem that increasingly prioritizes user privacy over reporting data for advertisers. Fortunately, there are new tools and measurement techniques that allow brands to identify and communicate more effectively with their best customers in a privacy-compliant manner, with some of the most exciting innovation in incrementality-based solutions.
Leading the shift toward aggregated data
Incrementality is at the forefront of an industry shift away from “deterministic” models that require access to user-level data toward “probabilistic” models that rely on aggregated sets of privacy-safe, anonymized data. Incrementality is a proven scientific method that offers an integrated approach to measurement. Whereas traditional attribution models “match” an ad click or impression with a conversion, incrementality uses test and control groups to isolate many affected variables, which allows the marketer to validate assumptions for a wide range of use cases. The challenge, however, is that incrementality testing is a complex process that may be prone to poor execution and interpretation. Insufficient data samples or commingling of data sets from different ad platforms, for example, will likely skew results.
AppsFlyers’ new Incrementality solution addresses these common pain points and gives marketers the ability to measure, analyze and optimize the incremental lift from remarketing campaigns. By utilizing controlled experiments, Incrementality allows brands to delineate between organic and remarketing engagements, shift budgets to better performing channels and optimize for the best performing audiences. Mobile game developer Kabam, for example, wanted to measure the incremental lift of in-app purchases driven by their remarketing campaigns—a strategy that set Kabam apart from other gaming companies who were focused solely on attribution. Using AppsFlyer’s Incrementality solution, Kabam was able to launch experiments on a variety of channels and confirmed that its remarketing campaigns achieved an incremental lift in revenue of almost 20 percent.
Consumer education is key
While new measurement tools are critical for mobile advertisers, they alone are not enough to guarantee success. A broader strategy will be needed to educate consumers on the benefits of data sharing—whether it’s for Apple’s new framework, or any other system that may emerge in response to laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act. The state’s recently passed Proposition 24 extension may limit the use of sensitive personal information such as geolocation, race, ethnicity and health information.
All mobile players have a vested interest in undertaking this critical educational effort. Below are three keys to any successful approach.
• Work to improve data literacy. Marketers understand the difference between personalized and anonymized data—but most consumers do not. Mobile app developers can help build confidence in the system by being fully transparent to advertisers and end-users about which data is being shared and for what purposes.
• Clearly communicate the value exchange. Make consumers aware of how data sharing benefits all mobile participants, including the user, by allowing advertisers to deliver more relevant ads, as well as by making the entire ecosystem safer and more efficient.
• Prioritize the user experience. Data-driven insights often get funneled back into a better user experience. App developers can leverage tools such as deep linking to seamlessly connecting e-mails, social media posts, referral programs and their website into the web-to-app journey.
Make no mistake: Navigating this new landscape will not be easy. Mobile measurement is a complex puzzle, and the data challenges will continue to intensify. But by working together, all mobile players stand to benefit from a future industry that is at once more focused on its customers’ needs, more transparent about its data practices and better able to give marketers the tools that are mission critical to attribution success. This is not an “either or” proposition. For the key players—brands, app developers and publishers (and everyone in between)—it is an opportunity for a true triple-win.