Mobile App Terminology


What is SKAN (SKAdNetwork)?

SKAN (StoreKit Ad Network, or SKAdNetwork) is a framework created by Apple for privacy-preserving mobile app install attribution. It aims to help measure conversion rates of app install campaigns without compromising users’ identities. The first widely usable version of SKAdNetwork was SKAN 3, which is still the most used.

Slowly the industry is transitioning to SKAN 4, which offers more postbacks for more measurement and optimization signal, and Apple has announced SKAN 5 will be coming at some point.

In SKAN, the App Store itself is serving as a facilitator of marketing measurement. The attribution process is conducted by Apple’s technology and digitally signed by Apple’s servers. A core difference between SKAN and an IDFA-based attribution flow is that SKAN is inherently privacy-safe and does not supply granular per-device data.

SKAN also limits the number of marketing campaigns mobile marketers can measure, and limits post-install conversion data to a single data point, accessible via a marketer-configurable timer. It does not support frequency capping or real-time data, but thanks to an update does now support view-through attribution.

Where SKAN 3 offered 1 postback notifying marketers than an install happened and providing 64 possible values for conversion events, SKAN 4 offers 3 postbacks. At very low crowd anonymity, the first SKAN 4 postback will offer even less data, but at approximately equal levels of anonymity it will offer more data, and at high levels even more:

SKAN postbacks

Postbacks 2 and 3 under SKAN 4 offer limited data, and arrive significantly later.

What are the uses of SKAN?

Before we get into the main use cases of SKAN, let’s first review how the framework collects and sends data to advertisers as highlighted in our guide on the topic.

When a user clicks on an ad that opens the App Store and then downloads an app, the app and ad network provide basic information including the publisher, campaign ID, and ad network. The App Store then sends confirmation to the network of a conversion, which will then be reported alongside the conversion value and sent to the advertiser.

Under SKAN 4 this could be followed by up to 2 additional postbacks if the ad campaign that triggered the install has achieve enough crowd anonymity. In SKAN 5, you’ll be able to tell if this is remarketing: an app open by someone who had previously installed the app.

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This notification of a conversion is sent after at least 24 hours (48 hours under SKAN 4) and does not include any information that can identify the user. As a result, while the ad network receives confirmation of an app install conversion, the install isn’t connected to a specific user so privacy is still preserved.

As an advertiser, you receive the following data:

  • Click-through attribution for ads seen in mobile apps
  • The publisher ID of the publishing app
  • Campaign ID that provides information such as the campaign, creative, and placement
  • The first time the user installed the app
  • A conversion value between 0 and 63 that must be set by the advertiser, which is designed to provide estimates of the users’ quality as opposed to specific revenue data
  • A cryptographic verification of the attribution and parameters
  • Accurate attribution that is mostly free of fraud

Under SKAN 4 you get additional source information and campaign data, including up to a 4-digit source identifier in which advertisers can encode campaign, geo, creative, or other data which is helpful for optimization and measurement of their ads.

In order to user this data provided as an advertiser, below are a few must-haves that should be in place to get the most out of your ads:

  • Your media partners must support and integrate with the SKAN API
  • You’ll need to collect and confirm the install data from each media partner to identify any fraud or misuse
  • Analytics and reporting to easily make sense of all this data
  • Intelligent parament section can also be used to optimize ads based on the conversion information and parameters provided from the 0-63 conversion value data (and more in SKAN 4)

As you can see, the vast majority of advertisers are not going to set up all the technology required to make the most of the SKAdNetwork, and instead rely on third-party mobile measurement partners (MMPs) like Singular. In addition, Singular operates inside your own app using your first-party data to model conversions, engagement, and revenue and give you more accurate insights into your SKAN campaigns.

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How Singular helps advertisers use SKAN

MMPs are uniquely positioned to help advertisers with the entire process of using SKAN, all the way from integrating directly with media partners, implementing conversion models, verifying the conversion data, and providing a simple reporting and analytics interface. That also includes translating your events to ad networks in ways that allow them to optimize campaigns on your behalf, and presenting enriched iOS ad campaigns results back to you for the most accurate possible view of performance.

Specifically, Singular’s SKAdNetwork attribution provides everything that advertisers get the most of their ads, including:

  • Granular analytics data for ROAS and cohort reporting
  • Centralized data in order to have a single source of truth for your marketing data
  • Customized conversions based on the ideal model for your app
  • Fraud prevention techniques to verify all the data

Finally, given that Singular is fully compliant with all the App Store’s policies, this makes it the ideal way for advertisers to improve the ROI on their advertising, without the risk of using shady workarounds.

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