Performance user acquisition in 2023 and beyond: 5 expert opinions

By John Koetsier June 12, 2023

51% of mobile marketers in our recent Kickass UA in the Privacy Era webinar think that platform-provided measurement frameworks like SKAN and Privacy Sandbox on Android are the future of marketing measurement for performance user acquisition on mobile. 60% think MMM is a big part of the picture, while two-thirds were hot on first-party data in this pick-all-that-apply survey.

Only 12% said fingerprinting was part of the future.

And that was before WWDC 2023 and iOS 17’s privacy manifests, required reason APIs, and traffic blocking to tracking domains. 

So what do the performance user acquisition experts say? 

We assembled 5 of the best:

  • Jayne Peressini, UA consultant and formerly at EA, Dapper Labs, Draft Kings, Machine Zone, and more
  • Shamanth Rao, CEO and founder of Rocketship HQ
  • Claire Rozain, founder of Global Warming Games, senior UA lead at Carry1st, and formerly at Rovio, Gameloft, Pixel United, and Match
  • Philip Weiskirchen, SVP and Jammp
  • Gadi Eliashiv, CEO and co-founder at Singular

How many mobile marketers are experts at performance user acquisition using SKAN?

Performance user acquisition was hard with IDFA. It’s now much harder under SKAdNetwork.

I’ve seen estimates as low at 35% in the fairly recent past: that only 35% of UA professionals can successfully run user acquisition under SKAN. But there’s definitely been some upskilling, according to Jammp’s Philip Weiskirchen:

“We are seeing roughly 65% of all our clients in the U.S. — which is obviously an iOS heavy market — successfully running SKAN campaigns at the moment.”

That sounds not too bad, but it means that 35% of advertisers are failing to run effective SKAN campaigns: a significant issue before WWDC 2023, and a critical one after Apple’s recent privacy announcements. (Or, when iOS 17 drops.)

For those who still aren’t, Jayne Peressini has some bad news:

“I think there are a lot of overly confident marketing groups out there that think they can get away with things that are just gonna go away … like fingerprinting or other means.”

Presumably that number is decreasing given what we now know about privacy manifests and require-reason APIs in iOS 17: you’ll have to declare the APIs you’re calling, and those that are particularly privacy-sensitive — and useful for fingerprinting — are going to need to have plausible and accurate usage rationales.

In other words, the hammer is finally (mostly) dropping on fingerprinting.

The good news: SKAN is enough on iOS, according to some

This would have been a super-controversial point just a few months ago, but particularly with SKAN 4’s additional data and postbacks, SKAdNetwork is enough to run ROI-positive user acquisition campaigns on iOS. At least if you’ve cracked the code, says Jammp’s Philip Weiskirchen:

“I believe SKAN is enough if you have figured out the setup.”

Jayne Peressini agrees.

“I think less is actually more in this case. It’s just a matter of agreeing on a source of truth. You agree on the methodology and you move on.”

In other words: it’s not perfect, but it’s a measuring stick that can make iOS UA performant. With a good setup and with modeling for missing data, this makes a lot of sense … especially with SKAN 4. The modeling is still a critical component, particularly under SKAN 3 where despite the framework’s limitations, Rovio still managed to get accurate predictions to drive spend

The also-good news: if you need more, more is available

Not all experts agree about everything, shockingly, and in this case RocketShip HQ’s Shamanth Rao is one of them. Rao thinks that SKAN is not enough for scaled-up advertisers.

“If you are at scale and on multiple channels, you do absolutely need additional measurement methodologies.”

The good news here is that multiple measurement methodologies are available. 

One that Rao employs with clients is media mix modeling based on Meta’s open-source Robyn package. For Singular clients, the even-better news is that they can start using hassle-free zero-implementation media mix modeling with automated onboarding from Singular. (Thanks to the fact that all your cost, campaign, ROI, and conversion data is already collected, aggregated, and calculated by Singular.)

One challenge: once you employ multiple methodologies, you start having to answer questions about which forms of measurement are more valid, as Peressini pointed out. 

Claire Rozain agrees:

“I think it’s also a matter of picking your battles.”

One potential way to resolve that conflict might be use cases: daily/weekly campaign optimization with more direct and quicker forms of measurement such as SKAN, the IDFA remnant you might have if you pop the ATT question, and — in the future — Privacy Sandbox on Android. And, for longer-term allocation and incrementality measurement, a dose of MMM.

But … we all need to get comfortable being uncomfortable

Not only is measurement getting harder, mobile user acquisition leads will need to get comfortable with uncertainty. It’s not the perfect message to give to a CFO, but it is the reality. As Rao says:

“Understand that nondeterministic measurement is the present and the future. And I think people should just get used to the new reality.”

That’s also an opportunity, however, according to Peressini.

“I want to see a lot more failure in this industry … this is a really hard thing to solve … start getting messy with it and start testing a bunch of stuff.”

In other words, stop hanging on to old methods that you know are getting phased out and start building your next framework that will … accepting some bumps along the way, and understanding that the old ways are not coming back. Which is not easy, of course, and probably why Rozain adds that she thinks “you need to be a positive kickass marketer” and power through the challenges.

One good thing about Privacy Sandbox when it comes

Just like we have referrers on the web so a website understands where a visitor is coming from, it looks like Google will keep the Google Play Store referrer, Eliashiv says.

Which is huge:

“That means that if somebody clicked on your ad and landed in your app, they’ll still have that information. That means that click based attribution is still deterministic at the user level. Now you can argue: does that represent the full picture? Probably not because viewthrough’s not gonna work with this referrer … people still need to go to Privacy Sandbox but if the referrer stays, that’s also an insane game changer because you haven’t lost that much fidelity.”

Much more in the full webinar

As always, there’s much more insight in the entire performance user acquisition webinar.

Access it instantly on-demand right here: Kickass UA in the Privacy Era.

Stay up to date on the latest happenings in digital marketing

Simply send us your email and you’re in! We promise not to spam you.