Mixtiles co-founder on marketing, identity, privacy, iOS 14, IDFA, and app vs web

By John Koetsier February 22, 2021

Sometimes a smaller top of the funnel is better than a big gaping maw that hoovers any and all potential customers in. And sometimes the web is a better option than a mobile app.

Those are just two of the learnings from half an hour with Mixtiles co-founder Eytan Levit on today’s hot topics in the iOS 14 era: is web better than app? Can we live without the IDFA? How do you measure marketing effectiveness with less signal? Is SKAdNetwork the only answer now on iOS?

If you’re a marketer who is wondering how to navigate the new privacy-safe reality in Apple environments, Mixtiles is a good company to look to for insight:

  • Super-fast growth over the past few years
  • Hot D2C (direct to consumer) category
  • Heavily focused on iOS
  • Overwhelmingly multi-channel and multi-platform user journeys
  • Not dependent on IDFA

Watch the whole video below, and subscribe to the Growth Masterminds podcast while you’re at it:

Email, first-party identity, and booting people from the funnel

It won’t come as a shock to marketers that first-party data will matter more than ever in the emerging privacy-safe world of marketing and attribution. And email addresses, even though they’re decades-old technology, are great first-party data for identifiers.

They actually help in multiple ways:

  1. Simple, first-party cross-platform attribution to measure marketing effectiveness
  2. Follow-up mechanisms to potential customers who don’t complete their purchase
  3. Friction point to weed out people who won’t buy

“We start collecting emails very early in the funnel, just as a response to how can we monitor that journey,” Levit says. “Actually collecting emails early really helps … we found out that losing the people that don’t move forward in the funnel because they don’t want to leave their email … it’s not a huge loss because most of them usually also don’t end up buying.”

Levit is probably the fifth top-level marketer to have told me in the last month or so that adding friction to the customer journey can be a great thing, something we never would have heard or even dreamed of years ago. And this method, which aligns with what Singular clients like Draft Kings, Riot, Digit, and Truebill are doing, not only helps marketers focus on those potential customers who are most likely to convert. It also gives them a gauge for assessing cross-platform marketing effectiveness.

Does an ad on Instagram, for example, result in a sale? Even if not right away, perhaps two or three months later?

As a Mixtiles customer, I’m pretty sure that’s how it worked for me. But without an email address — or another step Mixtiles takes that I’ll talk about below — marketers don’t know. And that means they could end up shutting down top-performing channels accidentally.

Getting attribution right matters. It really, really matters

Cross-channel measurement was a big deal for Mixtiles in 2020, but it wasn’t a smooth journey. In fact, in early attribution models, something odd, counterintuitive, and downright dangerous appeared in the data.

“We basically found out that every time we improved the email marketing machine, Facebook spend goes up and profitability tanks,” Levit told me.

This is of course insane: owned data and owned platforms getting more successful at delivering customers should not increase paid spend — what Levit calls “toll platforms” — and should increase ROI because you’re not buying every customer any more … you are earning them organically via owned platforms.

More tweaking, uplift models, UTM parameters, and a bit more sophistication separated out what email did, what Facebook did, what Google did, and revealed that over-eager attribution claims were eating profit.

“All these platforms … they steal attribution from other channels all the time,” Levit says.

One surprisingly low-tech way to run a sanity check on attribution models?

An after-purchase survey.

“We learned that putting a pre-purchase and post-purchase survey actually works,” Levit says. “It’s not 99% accurate, but it’s like 80% accurate. So if you want to look at things from the big picture and to understand — big picture — what works and what doesn’t, especially for channels that are harder to attribute like YouTube or television, that’s actually a really useful tool.”

Count me shocked when I heard that, because if there’s anything I hate as a consumer it’s the website survey pop-up or the how-did-we-do-today questionnaire in a store or restaurant, or the post-purchase survey in a digital retail context.

But Levit’s no idiot.

He’s not presenting a 10-question survey to his valued prospects and clients — something that I’d argue is sure to annoy and anger them. Instead, it’s simply one single question. Something like, I imagine: “Where did you first hear about us?”

That doesn’t even present as a survey. And it can be answered by a single click or tap on a laptop or mobile device, which means it’s incredibly easy. The result is a quick straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth sanity check on your technology. Mixtiles runs it on about 5% of their customers, and it sounds like an incredibly valuable way to ensure your marketing is on track.

While Levit won’t reveal which channel, he says this survey method was critical in determining that an apparent money-losing marketing channel was actually ROI-positive and has great long term impact. (Don’t tell him, but I’m guessing the channel he’s talking about is good old-fashioned TV ads.)

iOS 14 as an opportunity

Interestingly, Mixtiles is viewing iOS 14, App Tracking Transparency, and the impending downfall of the IDFA as a significantly-useful marketing identifier as an opportunity, not a problem.

Levit compares iOS 14 to the introduction of CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act last year. And he thinks that now, like then, Mixtiles can steal a march on the competition.

“We did benefit, by the way, from the rollout of the new privacy measures that happened in California,” he told me. “We came very well-prepared and we were like, we had one month with CPAs that were super low in California and we were having a blast.”

The plan for Mixtiles in 2021 is to get a similar bump in the early days of iOS 14’s full privacy measures and ATT rollout.

While prepared for a dip in advertising effectiveness — perhaps 20-30% — Levit says Mixtiles is investing “serious resources” in preparation for losing IDFAs, and planning to be one of the brands that is ahead of the curve in technology and technique.

Mobile web: spending more

Mobile web has downsides, as mobile marketers know. It’s not as sticky as an app. And, often when you get there, you’re in a sandboxed browser opened by Instagram or another app, and your potential customers don’t have access to their saved passwords, stored credit card numbers, or the ability to save a bookmark.

The result isn’t great, but it’s also not bad.

Mixtiles expected a hit on retention rates when they ramped spending on mobile web, and that does happn. However, it’s not as bad as they feared, and Levit says they were so surprised by their web growth that they shifted a lot of their spend there. (One thing I’ve heard from other marketers recently that might be at play here as well: ad costs are much lower on the mobile web than in apps, so you can withstand lower metrics and still come out ahead on ROI and ROAS.)

Plus, Mixtiles sees larger orders on web, making that marketing shift make sense.

Add it all up: YMMV, but test

Ultimately, of course, every brand and every marketer is different. What the Mixtiles experience does highlight is that you can swim upstream, try something different, and get happily surprised at how well it works.

If you’re interested in learning more about IDFA, SKAdNetwork, iOS 14, and how Singular can help you run and manage cross-platform marketing measurement, give us a chance to show you.

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