Server to Server Support – better Conversion Models & Ultimately better SKAdNetwork Performance

By Kelsey Lee February 10, 2022

Does your secret sauce have all of it’s ingredients??


The right conversion model is central to a marketer’s success with SKAdNetwork-based campaigns. In part, SKAN conversion models are defined by a set of configuration options provided by a marketer’s MMP (mobile measurement partner), but it’s also part “secret sauce to success” and speaks to a marketer’s business model, user behavior, and level of sophistication. Some high stakes are riding on that conversion model – it restricts and determines the performance data that SKAdNetwork can report back. The bottom line means you need to make the most of it and encode the right events into your model! Is your conversion model where it needs to be – are you missing a little seasoning in that secret sauce? And have you identified the event combination that best indicates your users’ LTV?

Just because a strategy is the strategy you launched with, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Server-side revenue, the backbone of optimization. 

SKAdNetwork is riddled with limitations that marketers need to navigate, and the conversion model is no exception. The events that are encoded into the conversion models need to be updated by calling an Apple function within the app – requiring app developers to own this mechanism development themselves or use an MMP’s SDK to manage it and communicate with SKAdNetwork. This means only events occurring within the app, otherwise known as SDK events, can be considered for a conversion model. This means app developers with server-side events, especially ones as crucial as revenue are out of luck!

Server-side revenue events are validated and processed on the app developers’ servers before sending to the MMP to ensure that revenue numbers are aligned post-processing. Teams opt to implement server-side revenue for various reasons, but most commonly, this enables marketers to filter out invalid revenue events, apply specific currency conversions, or allows teams to remove fees (ex. like a driver fee for an on-demand app).

Any app developers working with an MMP in a dual or hybrid integration (i.e., using both the MMP SDK and server-to-server integrations to track and report events) would have an incomplete view of their SKAdNetwork performance and therefore would have subpar SKAdnetwork campaign optimizations. Additionally, this means marketers running on Facebook would not be able to run VO campaigns (Value Optimized campaigns), which means huge limitations for Facebook campaign spend and performance for most UA teams. If you’re a marketer with an app that has server-side revenue, that revenue is the backbone of your SKAN performance and key to having an optimized conversion model. Running a conversion model without revenue and without being able to run Facebook VO campaigns, simply is not an option for some teams. Which is why some invested in heavy dev intensive resources and built out a server-to-server SKAdNetwork integration. But this isn’t a realistic option for most app developers – so what’s an app developer to do?

This is another limitation built directly into the framework of SKAdNetwork that either puts a burden on app developers to invest a lot of dev resources, forces them to run marketing campaigns with insufficient tools, or requires partners to build and innovate to close this gap and limitation.

Enter MMP’s. Luckily, MMP’s are perfectly situated to close this gap, and Singular signed up to help!

So, how does this work??  

Singular knows the secret sauce is crucial to SKAdnetwork success, so they did a little Singular magic (put R&D to work), and now marketers can use a conversion model that encodes their client-side/ server-side events!

An app developer will be able to send app events as well as server side events to Singular; say an SDK conversion event like a user sign-up, and a server-to-server revenue event like a subscription purchase.

Let’s take a closer look at the details.

  1. Singular will check the latest conversion value updated on the device. Server to server support for conversion models
  2. Singular sees that the subscription event is encoded into the conversion model and calculates a new conversion value to represent the sent server-to-server revenue event.
  3. Once the new conversion value is calculated, it’s updated on the Singular servers.
  4. Lastly, the Singular’s SDK fetches the newly updated conversion value and calls an Apple function, “updateConversionValue”, which updates and sends the conversion value to Apple.

Now it’s time to look at the opportunity cost of updating your conversion value. We know it’s scary and can have big impacts on campaigns, but if you haven’t been including revenue in your conversion model and your app has server-side revenue, the conversion model update is calling your name. It will enable the strongest signals that are able to better predict performance KPI’s like D7 Revenue and will allow you to take that sauce to the next level.

SKAdNetwork also presents a unique situation in which the best signals for a conversion model may not be leveraged in your marketing optimizations and feedback loop today. There may be events captured on your backend that could more accurately represent your SKAdNetwork campaign performance which in turn could be implemented as server-side events. Implementing these signals server-side would allow you to incorporate these signals into your conversion model with less resources than implementing an SDK event. The limitations built into the conversion model should push teams to think critically about the signals coming from users today. Are there signals that could be better predictive of future revenue? 

The big question, what’s next?

We’re working on several paths to help marketers better optimize their conversion models with the end goal of perfecting this critical piece of a winning SKAdNetwork strategy. Today it’s server-side support for conversion models, so go talk to your CSM about implementation or reach out to talk to an expert to review Singular’s full SKAdNetwork solution.

And not tomorrow, but veryyy soon we’ll be announcing a new conversion model! Hint hint; it will allow you to combine s2s, in-app, and/or ad based revenue with events in a single model with all the automated mapping and decoding of conversion values you get with all Singular conversion models. The conversion model possibilities won’t be completely endless, but they’re more likely to be limited by the data science resources you have at your disposal. Keep an eye out!

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