The future of iOS user acquisition: 21 questions and answers

By John Koetsier February 15, 2022

How do you outperform your competitors in iOS user acquisition? It’s almost a year after Apple dropped iOS 14.5 like a bomb in the mobile marketing community and there is still a huge amount of uncertainty, confusion, and angst about how to operate in this new reality.

But you need clarity on a path forward.

So we recently gathered an all-star cast of mobile marketers to clear the fog and walked through all the issues. (Check that out right here.)

  • Anthony Willis, Growth Manager @ Neonplay
  • Eddie Garabedian, Head of Marketing @ EA
  • Yusuf Barutcu, Director of Business Development @ MobileAction
  • Alexandre Dohrmann, Global Sales Engineering Manager @ Liftoff + Vungle
  • Eran Friedman, CTO & Co-founder Singular

We still had questions from the 1,500 mobile marketers who signed up for the webinar. Here they are, along with the answers.

Questions and answers for iOS user acquisition

1. Targeting
Q: Should we be targeting users that are pre-iOS 14.5 because we can track them?
A: No. First, there’s not enough of them, and second: the valuable users are almost invariably on the latest versions of Apple’s operating systems.

2. Facebook
Q: Are the panel guests seeing any meaningful improvements from Facebook in terms of tools for attribution, measurement and/or targeting on iOS?
A. Short answer: yes. Slightly longer answer: there’s still some way to go. With missing data due to privacy thresholds, getting better and more reliable modeling is critical.

3. ID or no ID?
Q. Do ID-related optimizations really apply to no ID? How different is ID UA performance vs. no ID?
A: Broadly yes and specifically no. Broadly yes because people are people, and if you have a significantly large sample of known people, either via IDFV or some internal identification like a sign-up or registration, you can cautiously generalize some aspects of what works to others.

However, there are problems.

First of all, the kinds of people who sign up or are known to you are different from those who haven’t in at least that aspect, and maybe more. You’ll need to make a judgment call on that yourself. And in terms of those who are making extra efforts to be anonymous by using ad blockers or VPNs or other technology, you can make a fairly safe bet that they’re not your average consumer.

4. ATT on Facebook?
Q: When using Facebook Ads to acquire users with SKAdnetwork is it necessary to trigger the iOS Tracking Transparency Prompt?
A: No. You don’t need to use the ATT prompt to rely on SKAdNetwork at all. Some Singular customers don’t use ATT at all: they simply decided not to ask consent from their customers and their users, not get the IDFA, and not attempt to track … and they can still use SKAN across our network.

5. Costs up 5X
Q: Regarding iOS 14+ campaign CPIs. We have seen a 5x increase in CPIs versus pre ATT for certain ad networks. Is that something you also see?
A: We saw a ton of that in the data that Singular has as well. The reality is, since you didn’t see all of the installs due to privacy thresholds, the ones you did see seemed to take up all your cost of advertising. So suddenly, if you had many small campaigns that didn’t hit enough volume, it was five times more expensive to get a user. The reality is: that it was more a function of the measurement changing than the world-changing.

6. Deep funnel optimization
Q: Do you have any intuition on comparing deep funnel event optimization in Apple Search Ads versus Facebook?
A: The big difference between Apple Search Ads and Facebook is that Facebook has to rely on SKAN while Apple Search Ads doesn’t. They don’t have SKAdNetwork. They provide you the actual users who came from Apple Search Ads. So it’s easier to look at the funnel events coming from Apple Search Ads versus Facebook where you’re limited to the measurement period of SKAdNetwork.

7. AAA campaigns on Facebook
Q: What are your experiences/results with AAA campaigns vs manual campaigns on Facebook acquisition?
A: Automated App Campaigns, or AAA, is the way to go, according to Anthony at Neonplay. They use it for all of their campaigns. Main reason: it just makes things so much easier. You can’t get as much detail on the ads themselves, but it makes the campaign optimization so much quicker.

8. Fingerprinting
Q: Lots of networks have claimed that the majority of their clients are still using p-matching (probabilistic matching … i.e., fingerprinting). Aren’t they openly breaking Apple’s rules?
A: Essentially yes. Apple has stated that fingerprinting is not OK, and they will probably make it impossible with Private Relay at some point.

9. Aggregated data
Q: What is “aggregated metadata” and can you give some specific examples?
A: Aggregated metadata is just a kind of fancy way of saying groups of users versus individual users. That means looking at more contextual, higher level, higher funnel data around things like source app, or combining data like IP address, device, language, device model type in bigger kinds of aggregate datasets to provide deeper insights into groups of users.

10. Optimizing for LTV
Q: How are you optimizing for LTV with such limited data?
A: This is definitely an issue with SKAdNetwork. There are two stages here.

The first thing is you need to make sure you get all the data, actually see the data that makes it past the privacy thresholds. So you want to make sure you get as many conversion values first before you start optimizing towards LTV. Now once you have good visibility there, the second thing is that you want to collect the signals from the limited data, the limited measurement periods, to calculate and predict the LTV. Here you need modeling using the signals that help you predict the lifetime value of the user. And clearly that needs to be refined over time.

11. CPE for UA
Q: What do you think about CPE (cost per engagement) as a UA model?
A: Alexandre says that he’s seen clients use specific events or conversion values, or intermediate events as retention goals for day 1, day 3, day 7, etc., as a placeholder for engagement metrics.

12. Testing changed under App Tracking Transparency?
Q: How has testing changed from before ATT?
A: Eddie from EA says that testing budgets have increased as an overall share of per percentage of spend, mainly on iOS. In prior years you could spend a small amount to see if something has promise, now you really have to be much more deliberate and bold with your budget decisions.

13. App Store badges
Q: Does including both app store badges in the creative help or hurt overall creative performance?
A: Yusuf from MobileAction says it doesn’t depend on only the badge that you’re using … there are many other instruments that you can play around to have better results with creative optimization. So I recommend testing more.

14. SKAN buckets for gaming apps
Q: Any advice on how to set up iOS SKAN buckets on your MMP for gaming apps?
A: Eran says there are definitely more optimized buckets to make sure you get the most accurate revenue and actually help you predict LTV. You need to really look at the model and the behavior of the users to see the most optimal distribution of the revenue buckets and use it.

Oh and … shameless plug …

Singular actually has some really cool new releases upcoming to help you find the ideal buckets for your revenue model.

15. App Store optimization and organic uplift
Q: What is the minimum daily spend for ads to increase ASO? Will the App Store notice that we are driving 500 installs per day from paid acquisition?
A: Yusuf answers: there is no definite upper or lower limit for you to get an impact on your app store’s optimization listings by spending money on Apple Search Ads.

The only metric that you should be concerned about is having better CTRs and CRs. Once you have a value over the average in the market, Apple’s algorithms detect that, and we see very good ramp-ups in organic rankings. So I wouldn’t say minimum installs: I would just recommend you focus on your conversion values first.

16. Privacy thresholds
Q: Do you have any model recommendations for small companies that can’t overcome privacy thresholds even for upper-funnel events?
A: Contact an expert at Singular for specific advice for specific apps and situations, but the general advice is this: run everything in a single campaign to maximize your ability to get data even with the privacy thresholds.

17. Organic uplift again
Q: Are my assumptions correct that relying purely on revenue and profit from paid installs is wrong, and that we should take into account extra organic installs which were caused by driving paid installs?
A: Eddie from EA says: absolutely, organic uplift is real and you should be looking at it. More often than not, we’ve sharpened the edge on paid attribution over the years. But this change in the industry is really asking us all to sort of look at all of the signals that are available in the market that are actually driving installs. So things like awareness, things like peer-to-peer sharing, all of those things really do play a role in overall growth. And so yes, the instincts are right.

18. UA on different networks
Q: Did user acquisition dollars move to networks like AppLovin, ironSource, and Vungle because they can do fingerprinting and Facebook can’t?
A: Not really. A bigger contributor to their success over the past year has been their massive drive to acquisition and aggregation of networks and tools for mobile growth.

Get more detail on this in the 2022 Singular ROI Index.

19. Best mobile attribution platform
Q: What attribution platform do you consider as the most reliable and accurate for iOS tracking?
A: Well …

20. Probabilistic data
Q: Do you see any risks about using MMP probabilistic data? Do you think it might go away?
A: For Singular, it’s only used in situations that are safe and approved. Apple’s position on this could change in the future (see our post on Private Relay for some insight) but we’re compliant and safe now, and will remain so.

21. Channel measurement and comparison
Q: What strategies have you employed to effectively measure performance between channels (web, iOS, Android) How do you decide where to shift budget?
A: This is what Singular was created to do. Use an MMP like Singular to track spend and ROAS between all campaigns and channels, and compare the results. You can also use Singular data in conjunction with timing techniques for incrementality testing if you wish.

So much more in the webinar

There is much more information in the full webinar, including hard data on what’s changing and how user acquisition on iOS is evolving in the era of ATT and SKAN.

Two things to do:

  1. Check out the full webinar here
  2. Get some advice: chat with a Singular expert

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