Singular SKAN: How to manage, monitor, and optimize conversions in iOS 14 with SKAdNetwork

By John Koetsier October 7, 2020

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so someone once said. With iOS 14 what’s changing (eventually) will be the loss of device-level data … and therefore some of mobile marketers’ existing ability to manage, monitor, and optimize conversions.

But not all. Not by a long shot.

What’s staying the same, of course, is that to stay competitive in mobile, you’ve got to learn, adapt, grow, and use new tools in new ways.

That’s why we’re starting a new blog mini-series that we’re calling Pillars of SKAdNetwork. Each episode will focus on different aspects of Singular SKAN, Singular’s mobile measurement solution for iOS 14. As you know, Apple’s new mobile attribution framework is here, it’s going to be fully implemented in every way in a few months, and growth marketers need tools and insights on how to do their jobs in a new world. In that new world, IDFAs are probably going to be scarce. In that new world, optimizing for conversions will be very different.

But: still very possible. And, along with some smart new software from Singular, still very powerful.

In this first post we’re chatting with Singular’s chief architect, Ron Konigsberg, about the challenges, the solution Singular built, the benefits it offers, and how to start getting those benefits now.

Listen to the interview behind this story in the Growth Masterminds podcast:

Setting the stage: SKAdNetwork basics

John Koetsier: Let’s start super-basic: when we talk about mobile marketing and conversion models … what are we talking about?

Ron Konigsberg: Up to this date, and of course until IDFA will be fully opt-in sometime in 2021, mobile marketing measurement is based on accurate user-level attribution. That means marketers can measure the value of campaigns by how many events or how much revenue was generated by people who installed the app as a result to each campaign.

Fully implemented as Apple conceives it, iOS 14 eliminates the model of user-level attribution.

When that happens, conversion models are the new method as part of SKAdNetwork to uncover the utility of marketing campaigns driving app installs.

John Koetsier:  What’s tough about conversion models in SKAdNetwork? How are they different than iOS 13 and an IDFA-based marketing model?

Ron Konigsberg: SKAdNetwork creates a fundamental change in the way marketers measure. The main differences are:

  1. First, no user-level attribution
    Insights are based on aggregate data rather than bottom-up from user-level data.
  2. Second, the way conversion events work
    Conversion events are limited to one conversion event per install. So you only have one shot to relay all the data you need. On top of that, this event is limited to six bits, which are merely 64 values.
  3. Third, time limits
    Also, no there is a time limit to report this conversion. If you don’t increment the value for over 24 hours, that’s it: it’ll be sent.

Challenge: what happens if marketers don’t adapt?

John Koetsier: OK … if you can’t solve conversion optimization with SKAdNetwork … what are the consequences? What happens?

Ron Konigsberg: Once IDFA will be deprecated at some point during 2021, the only compliant way to get wide visibility into performance (knowing if a campaign was successful, and if it generated new users) is going to be conversion optimization with SKAN. So, if you aren’t implementing it in a way that represents your business, you will just run blind and lose the ability to properly run performance marketing.

Solution: what is Singular SKAN … Singular’s solution for optimizing marketing in SKAdNetwork?

John Koetsier: Singular has a solution for this you call Smart Conversion Management. What does that mean? How does it work?

Ron Konigsberg: Singular’s solution provides a platform for controlling conversion values end-to-end. It provides an easy set-up allowing you to identify the method that models your KPIs best and implement it within your app.

The way it works is really simple.

You implement our SDK and send us events and revenue events, just as you have been doing up to now. On our web app, you can then analyze which model is the best for your KPIs, whatever they are. Once that it’s done, you can just configure it from our app and we will automatically report SKAdNetwork conversion values based on that.

John Koetsier: What are the conversion models that Singular supports?

Ron Konigsberg: We support multiple different models …

  1. Conversion events
    Conversion events indicate if specific meaningful events have occurred (things like sign ups, purchases, etc.)
  2. Engagement
    When using engagement models, you are measuring how many occurrences a specific event had, and you can count this in different buckets for different events.
  3. Revenue
    Here you’re simply measuring how much revenue was generated by your users. Again, you’re using different buckets ($0, $0-10, $10-50, or $50+)
  4. Retention
    How long users are staying in your app
  5. Time
    And lastly, we are also able to add the dimension of time, adding cohorts and allowing you to extend the measurement period up to 7 days.

Another important factor to add, for the more advanced companies out there, is that all these models don’t have to use events that have actually occurred. They can also include events that you predict might happen, based on your machine learning models … which provides even better ability to model your real KPIs.

John Koetsier: So … you can change your measurement methodology without touching a line of code?

Ron Konigsberg: That’s correct, you just set it up via our dashboard and we are able to signal back to our SDK when to update the conversion value and what’s the new value to be set based on that.

John Koetsier: Can you use this capability to simulate different conversion models?

Ron Konigsberg: That’s actually one of the coolest properties. In the end, the conversion value exposes six bits of data that you can use, but you can decide to use every set of bits independently for a different model. So you might decide to do something like two bits for time (which gives you 4 days), two bits for meaningful conversion events, and your final two bits for revenue buckets.

Or whatever you want.

In engineering, we call it a composite of models, and it’s a great method of mixing multiple types of information so that what is on the surface reporting only one conversion event can actually be much, much more powerful.

John Koetsier: This sounds pretty advanced … is it better than what you could do pre-iOS 14?

Ron Konigsberg: To be honest, not really. In the end, you could do all this and more with attribution based on user-level data. But the important thing is that with creative solutions, you can still have meaningful insights and run smart performance marketing.

Benefits: what will Singular SKAN do for marketers?

John Koetsier: How do you see mobile marketers using this?

Ron Konigsberg: We see mobile marketers first testing it out: that’s the real benefit of Apple’s grace period extending IDFA deprecation. Once marketers test it side-by-side with their existing marketing measurement methodologies — and gain confidence in their new models — we see them using it as their core way to optimize and analyze performance for iOS in the future.

John Koetsier: What do you expect as results?

Ron Konigsberg: I think the adaptation period will vary based on the properties of each customer, how long it takes for them today to measure their KPIs, and how complex it is for them.

But, after this initial learning and adaptation period, I expect marketers to get good visibility to performance. The ultimate goal: marketers will still be able to run smart user acquisition and be able to drive growth for their companies.

Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.

Action: what do marketers need to do?

John Koetsier: How do they get started?

Ron Konigsberg: Our SDK is ready for marketers to implement, and our platform is ready for them to start working. Just shoot us a message and our team will help you set it up.

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