Unified measurement for iOS mobile attribution is better than friendly fairies

By John Koetsier May 10, 2024

How can you get a single, de-duplicated, and accurate view of user acquisition activity on iOS devices? It’s much harder than it appears. And it doesn’t actually require magic. But it is necessary for the most efficient iOS mobile attribution.

Hit play, then keep scrolling …

What you really want from iOS mobile attribution

What you really want from iOS mobile attribution is not hard to figure out. It’s pretty much what you used to have pre-ATT. 

“You want to see in a single place: just show me how many installs are every channel driving? What’s my ROAS for every channel?” says Singular VP of Product Evyatar Ram. “And it’s all over the place: some of the data’s here, some of the data’s there, some of the data’s cohorted, some’s not cohorted, some’s available immediately. some’s available three days later … it’s painful.”

This is of course the challenge that SKAN was supposed to solve, post-ATT. And it does, to a degree, but not completely. 

Because SKAN on its own is not enough. 

Because sometimes, the friendly fairy lies. Or … omits some information.

SKAN is a friendly fairy (or: explain it to me like I’m 5 years old)

We recently had an excellent question in our 2024 iOS Acquisition Deep Dive webinar from an anonymous attendee:

“How would you explain SKAN to a 5 year old haha? I still find it a bit complicated.”


iOS mobile attribution


So I asked GPT-4 how SKAN does iOS mobile attribution. And here’s what the AI-powered magic 8 ball said:

SKAN is like a friendly fairy that makes a secret mark in a magic notebook every time an ad works.


skan iOS mobile attribution


So SKAN is a magic database (notebook) and a friendly fairy: OK, got it. That’s mostly accurate, actually. But naturally it leaves out a lot of detail, just like SKAN drops a lot of data.

And that’s the challenge.

Unfortunately, the iOS mobile attribution magic database isn’t complete

We all know that sometimes, the friendly fairy doesn’t tell the whole truth. 

The friendly fairy knows that if she makes a secret mark in the magic notebook every single time a kid sees the sign and comes to the store, eventually the toy store owner might figure out which mark belongs to which kid … and privacy is gone.

Which is why privacy thresholds in SKAN 3 and crowd anonymity in SKAN 4 ensure you’ll never get all the postbacks from all your installs. 

So what you get from SKAN is reliable but incomplete. It’s deterministic, but censored and not granular: decoupled from actual devices and people.

It works with a lot of data science help from Singular’s SKAN Advanced Analytics, but there are still discrepancies compared to other forms of measurement.

Plus, every time you measure you get different answers

The challenge is familiar to all iOS UA managers, and it makes iOS mobile attribution tough.

Consider getting 100 installs for your app from a marketing campaign in 1 week.

  • SKAN postbacks tell you you have 83 new users
  • Your ad partner’s dashboard says they drove 123 new users
  • Your MMP tracked data sees 92
  • Your internal user data tells you without a shadow of a doubt that you have 157 new users in the last week, which you realize includes both organic and paid user acquisition

But you have an open question: how many installs did your paid marketing campaign actually deliver?

The real-world impact is considerable:

“The impact is it’s really hard to be a marketer these days,” says Singular product marketing manager Kelsey Lee. “They can’t trust their channel performance because they’re looking at all of these different attribution decisions, and each decision makes the performance look different based on different methodologies.”

The good news is that now you actually can know, thanks to Unified Measurement from Singular, which we announced about a month ago and is simplifying life for customers every day. 

I spent some time with Evyatar and Kelsey Lee to get more details. 

(Scroll up to watch the whole episode, or just subscribe to Growth Masterminds.)

The solution: Unified Measurement is deduplicated and accurate

What you really want in iOS mobile attribution is one source of usable data that is accurate and unified. So what Unified Measurement does is combine multiple sources of insight into one number, with full transparency into the other analytics.

Ultimately, by combining SKAN Advanced Analytics and multiple measurement sources, Singular has been able to provide:

  • Cohort capabilities: providing insights into post-install performance up to D35
  • Side-by-side comparisons: allowing marketers to analyze SKAdNetwork data, tracker data, and unified metrics simultaneously
  • Full SKAN conversion payloads: maximizing SKAN utility for data collection by not stealing half of your potential values
  • Accurate deduplication of sources driving your app installs

Beta testers of Unified Measurement, including companies running significant ad budgets, have reported substantial improvements in their campaign performance. Reductions in effective cost per install, revenue reallocation, and more accurate partner reporting are just some of the benefits witnessed by users of Unified Measurement.

“Unified measurement is a way to get a single duplicated and accurate view of your UA activity on iOS,” Evyatar Ram says. “Essentially what it does is it combines SKAdNetwork data together with tracker data in a way that is de-duplicated and accurate, so you know the real number of installs that are driven from every channel and you know your actual number of installs.”

And not just installs, he adds.

Unified Measurement is for installs and revenue cohorts and also in-app events.

As Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv reported when announcing Unified Measurement, it’s making a big difference for clients doing UA on iOS. Each client is different of course, with different spend profiles and different ad partners, so each sees different results.

What we’ve heard from customers includes stats like these:

  • 57% reduction in eCPI
  • 31% reallocation from organic to paid
  • 17% more accurate partner reporting
  • 88% higher SKAN revenue
  • 19% reduction in double-counted revenue
  • 109% increase in attributed installs
  • 43% boost in D14 ROI

Each number is from a different customer, and what you see when you try Unified Measurement will vary as well depending on your unique circumstances.

The outcome: better decisions

Ultimately, you collect data to make better decisions, and that’s what Unified Measurement is designed to deliver.

“It’s not complicated,” says Ram. “You want to see the channel, you want to see the campaign, you want to see the installs, and you want to see the post-install cohorted performance: what happened after day 1, day 3, day 7, day 14 … and I think kind of our North Star was to get you back there.”

The result, he says: better decisions, and empowering UA managers to do their jobs much more effectively.

Take a test drive?

Unified Measurement has been live for months. If you’d like to experience it for yourself, book a demo and a Singular representative would be happy to show you how it works.

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