User acquisition in iOS 14: 24 questions answered

By John Koetsier August 24, 2020
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With big changes come big questions.

Our recent user acquisition in iOS 14 webinar answered dozens and dozens of mobile marketing questions about SKAdNetwork, IDFA, and Apple’s new policies. Growth experts from Lyft, Homa Games, ironSource, and Singular gave their insight on new challenges in UA and how they’re planning to still drive massive mobile growth. Besides that, we’ve recently had EA’s senior leader for mobile marketing and growth give her insights, and N3TWORK’s growth leader offer his input.

But inevitably, there are more questions.

So here are 24 questions — and answers — that we could not get to in the webinar. A number of Singular engineers helped compile them, including Alon Nafta, our VP of Product, and Yonatan Komornik, who leads our fraud team. If you have more, let us know. And, join the Mobile Attribution Privacy working group in Slack. We’ll answer it there, or if you prefer, privately in-person.

Update December 2020

Facebook has now released many more details on how it is treating Apple’s SKAdNetwork. See this post by Singular COO Susan Kuo on Facebook SKAdNetwork. Also, Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv unpacked the details of Facebook’s updates in a detailed post on the key takeaways about advertising on Facebook on iOS 14 devices.

Without further ado …

On Facebook, Google, and self-attributing ad networks

1. Facebook & Google
When can we expect an official public statement from Google & Facebook? Before or after the iOS14 release?

A: First, the legal mumbo jumbo: We’re not Facebook or Google, so can’t speak definitively for either of them. However, this is what we’ve heard …

Both Facebook and Google have confirmed that they are working on SKAdNetwork solutions that are compliant with the new Apple privacy policy. We do expect to see updates from them soon. In fact, Google has already updated its customers around the use of Firebase for Google-based attribution, suggesting they deprecate tROAS for tCPA, for instance.

Update: here’s what Facebook has announced about SKAdNetwork.

2. Facebook & Google, part two
What are your thoughts on how the Google/Facebooks of the world will work with MMPs versus simply operating directly with SKAdnetwork and their own signed-in data?

A. (See legal mumbo-jumbo above.) MMPs are working with Google and Facebook as well as with other partners to collect and aggregate SKAdNetwork data. The MMP goal is to validate the postback signatures, enrich them with more marketing granularities and translate the SKAdNetwork conversion value to meaningful events/revenue for reporting and postbacks. MMPs, which will manage the conversion value on behalf of the advertiser, are also working with Google and Facebook to ensure the conversion value is managed from a single SDK.

We believe that Facebook, Google, and other SANs will continue to maintain MMP programs and share their data with MMPs through these programs. We also think that there will continue to be limitations on the data you get from someone like Facebook (e.g., you may not get raw SKAdNetwork data from Facebook as you would for SDK-based ad networks).

In addition, Singular has outlined a very simple way of setting up third-party measurement.

Update: Facebook has said that MMPs are central in the administration of SKAdNetwork data and strongly recommends advertisers use an MMP for SKAdNetwork attribution management to ensure conversion methodology consistency across partners.

3. Just Facebook this time
Will campaign optimization events work on FB post-iOS14?

A. (This is a loop: see legal mumbo-jumbo above the above.) Yes, Facebook will continue to optimize by events. We expect to see SKAdNetwork-derived guidelines in terms of what types of events you should send to Facebook (and possibly how to update SKAdNetwork in order for Facebook to use this data for optimization).

Update: more details based on additional statements from Facebook here.

On SKAdNetwork details, strategy, technicalities, and action items

4. Postback windows
I would like to know more about the advertiser view on SKAN updateConversionValue and timers paradigm they are going to use. More specifically: what are the click-to-postback windows we should expect?

A. Advertisers can leverage the SKAN updateConversionValue and timers paradigm to extend the measurement period of the user’s post-install activity. On one hand, extending the post-install measurement period is critical for advertisers as it enables analyzing retention, cohorted events and LTV prediction. On the other hand, shorter windows between the click and the delivery of the conversion event will support better optimization capabilities for ad networks. Therefore It is recommended that conversion values are sent for the first 3 days of app usage, and up to 7 days max.

I think different advertisers are still taking time to understand what their options are here. The most significant thing is understanding how you should update conversions in order to maintain a meaningful ability to accurately report on ROAS that is 3-day/7-day and even 30-day … if 7-day is a good predictor of it. But these questions remain open and really depend on the type of app, when are users converting (e.g., is there a trial period?), and what types of events it makes sense to optimize on.

Note: Seven-day, 14-day, and 28-day attribution windows are dead on Facebook.

5. Creative details
Will it be possible to get ad group or creative level attribution from SKAdNetwork?

A. This is one of the limitations in SKAdNetwork’s current state. Campaign ID is currently the only way to pass data about the campaign, but it’s limited to 100 unique values. Ad network partners are experimenting with innovative ways to encode more information into the campaign ID (very similar to how Singular is working with advertisers in encoding information into conversion values).

We expect some ad networks to use the SKAdNetwork’s Campaign ID field to optimize other fields such as Ad Group and/or creative. But the limitation remains and it will vary by partner.

6. Influencer marketing impact
How are more organic acquisition channels like influencer marketing affected, since this will be outside SKAdNetwork?

A. Organic acquisition is indeed impacted and should be measured outside of SKAdNetwork by leveraging other aggregated attribution capabilities. Web and web-to-app might be a good solution here. Singular can help you with this.

7. Granularity
Can you elaborate how you plan to create granularity with SKAdNetwork?

A. SkAdNetwork currently supports campaign and publisher level granularity (the SKAdNetwork postback contains both the campaign ID and the source app ID). Partners are building innovative ways to encode more information and granularity into the SKAdNetwork campaign IDs (1-100)

For example, networks can encapsulate their outward-facing campaign and creative IDs into one value of SKAdNetwork campaign ID. We are working closely with ad partners on building an integration to get a mapping between their SKAdNetwork campaign IDs to their outward-facing marketing params. This information can be used to build various performance reporting for our customers.

8. Top immediate action items
What are the top tasks which MUST to done by a developer/publisher before iOS 14 is rolled out? Is it worth waiting to update the iOS client on the App Store until iOS 14 is rolled out?

A. Here are a few recommended steps you should consider doing before iOS 14 is rolled out:

  1. Plan your consent strategy using AppTrackingTransparency
    1. Review Apple’s User Privacy guidelines
  2. Consider if and when you’d like to ask for consent for IDFA
    1. Make sure your internal systems are ready for more zeroed out IDFAs
    2. iOS traffic today already has ~30% users without IDFA, but this rate will probably increase
  3. Plan your SKAdNetwork and overall measurement strategy (we can help with that; feel free to reach out)
  4. Consider integrating with SKAdNetwork and think how you will manage the SKAdNetwork conversion value intelligently
    1. You can simulate different conversion models based on your existing datasets
    2. Reach out to your partners and ask them about their plans on how they will support iOS14

9. Remove all tracking?
I hear people considering removing all tracking to reduce risk of churn .. what’s your opinion? Any knowledge from others on that?

A. Most advertisers we are talking to, including our customers, are now busy trying to understand how to both implement SKAdNetwork, to make sure they’re compliant, as well as try to understand how to best leverage the new dataset to continue and optimize user acquisition. It’s not going to be as good as ID-based attribution but there is a clear path forward here.

10. Retention & engagement
Do you see asking for consent potentially having a negative effect on retention or other engagement metrics in the app? Will not asking for consent at all be a viable strategy?

A. Yes, we can expect some advertisers to not bother with asking for consent. Since there are a lot of open questions — for example what will be the exact language of the ATT pop-up — this remains an option. But it could also be that opt-in rates will be higher than originally expected which over time will get back advertisers to ask for consent.

11. Mobile web
How do you see mobile web ads affected? Is SKAdNetwork relevant to web mobile ads?

A. We see mobile web as one path that will pick up in the new iOS 14 reality. Mobile web follows the rules of the browser the user has … which is likely to be Safari.

12. Campaign IDs in SKAdNetwork
Does anyone know how campaign-id is set for the SKAdNetwork postback? Do publishers have control over this value?

A. Ad Networks and DSPs will be in charge of controlling the SKAdNetwork Campaign IDs (1-100), and they are likely to use it to its fullest potential, by assigning different campaign IDs to different creatives, time periods, geographies, etc.

13. In-app purchases (IAPs)
If your app only monetizes via IAP, what is the value of using SKAdnetwork?

A. The SKAdNetwork conversion value can be utilized to connect post-install activity such as the IAP events/revenue values to an app install campaign and achieve CPA/ROAS. To learn more about this, see our new SKAdNetwork solution.

14. Campaign optimization
If ad networks are not able to link any given conversion value postback from SKAdNetwork to a specific player, will they even be able to optimise a campaign using these feedback conversion events?

Even if they know that conversion value X is good and their campaign generated Y number of those, it is unknown which players are responsible for these values … not to mention delays of receiving these postbacks.

A. There is still hope. First of all, ad networks are working on innovative ways to optimize their campaigns based on the conversion values, and can use them as a feedback for their optimization algorithms. Plus, there is still geo/region information that is available. And, some brands we’re talking to think that optimizing based on campaign will actually work quite well.

15. Singular’s SDK and Singular’ SKAdNetwork solution
If we are confident in Singular’s solution for SKAdNetwork, do we (as an advertiser) also need to implement SKAdNetwork directly in order for the MMP solution to work?

A. As suggested in SKAN, MMPs will be responsible for implementing SKAdNetwork for the advertisers. Singular’s SDK implements SKAdNetwork on behalf of the advertiser and provides intelligent management of the SKAdNetwork conversion value.

16. Migrating campaigns
Do advertisers actually plan on migrating campaigns to SKAdnetwork upon iOS14 launch?

A. To track your existing campaigns with SKAdNetwork we recommend reaching to your partners to validate if these can be tracked with SKAdNetwork. In terms of attribution, SKAdNetwork will work if both the publisher and the advertiser app implemented and called the SKAdNetwork framework.

17. IDFA consent
Isn’t the opt out by default OFF and you have to actively go to the settings in order to even enable the pop-up?

A. The ATT pop-up will not show by default. You have to call it in order for it to show, and in order for IDFA to be populated in case the user has opted in. If the user turns advertising tracking off completely in the settings, calling ATT will simply return zeroes, but this is not off by default.

18. IDFA pop-up
How is the opt-is going to work in regard to publishers? Will both advertiser and publisher need to get the opt-in to allow the use of IDFA for tracking?

A. Yes, both the publisher and advertiser apps will need to get the user’s consent to use the IDFA for tracking in order for IDFA based attribution to work.

And other assorted questions

19. App Clips
It seems possible to pass in a unique click ID via App Clips, could you please speak to this? Is there any other way to pass in a unique click ID?

A. The main thing is not if it’s possible to pass unique IDs but if it’s allowed by Apple. In order to be compliant with Apple’s privacy guidelines, you should avoid using or collecting user-level identifiers without getting the user’s consent. Failing to do that risks getting your app pulled off the App Store.

20. Ad monetization
How will ad monetization be impacted in general?

A. Ad monetization data is not impacted but the ability to create reports on ROAS is as affected as any other type of activity. ROAS reports will be more limited depending on how smart your conversion management system is. At Singular this is one of our key focus areas and we’re pushing to solve ROAS for ad monetization data as well.

21. Fraud
How will fraud on the UA side be impacted?

A. The SKAdNetwork framework introduces a deterministic way to validate installs but also some new risks. To validate installs MMPs as an unbiased facilitators should collect all the SKAdNetwork postbacks on behalf of the advertisers, validate their signed signatures, and dedupe by their transaction IDs to avoid double counting.

Currently, a limitation of the SKAdNetwork framework is that the conversion value and the geo information are not signed and can therefore be tampered with. To solve that, we published our secure SKAdnetwork solution which collects the SKAdNetwork postbacks directly from the device before any fraudulent activity can happen.

22. Fingerprinting by any other name
What are your thoughts on the rebranding of fingerprinting which is happening across the industry, such as probabilistic modeling etc?

A. It is not in agreement with what Apple wants and is not going to be permitted.

23. Higher costs
Shouldn’t we expect the decrease in granularity on targeting to increase CPIs?

A. In all openness, we’ve heard both. Some believe that we can expect CPIs will generally increase. Others say that since publishers won’t know how to value their traffic as much, advertising prices will drop. The reality is that we will all have to experiment.

24. E-commerce
Can you give an example for e-commerce … can we use login data or email registrations? What if a user denies tracking after that?

A. First party identifiers can still be collected and used for measurement. The consent is related to collecting and tracking the IDFA.

More questions? More answers!

Thank you for all the questions! I’m sure there are still more, but here are some good ways to get them answered: Join the Mobile Attribution Privacy working group in Slack, or visit our iOS 14 Attribution Resource Center, or ask us one-on-one

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