With more than 1 billion people worldwide on iPhones, Apple’s move last year to restrict the way app developers and marketers could track consumers may be the most significant shift in mobile marketing’s history to date. The loss of this signal from its AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) policy was a heavy blow for any company that relied on this data for a myriad of uses across targeting, personalization, measurement, and optimization.
While all businesses with apps were impacted, it’s the app-first brands that woke up that day in April 2022 to find that the world had forever changed. With iPhones representing nearly half of all smartphones in the U.S., they would need to find new ways to do business on the mobile web.
“It was like a light went off for app marketing,” says Hawley Shpiro, Head of U.S. App Strategy at Skai. “To say that this is one of the biggest shifts ever to mobile advertising would be an understatement.”
Now, almost a year later, app marketers are moving forward with a new set of best practices to continue driving the performance goals of their campaigns.
A portion of today’s content is from Skai’s report, The New App Marketing Best Practices in the Privacy Era.
5 new app marketing best practices under AppTrackingTransparency (ATT)
Before ATT, users could opt-out of [IDFA-based] tracking, but after the change, they now must opt-in to enable brands to track them. While the numbers vary by study—some say just 4% of users choose to opt-in while others show as high as 38%—the fact is that pre-ATT tracking enabled app marketers to target, personalize, measure, and optimize their campaign activity with deep granularity.
The following best practices are some of the ways that app marketers have adapted to this major industry shift:
Increase your iOS opt-in rates
Remember, the iOS signal isn’t “gone.” It’s still there. You just have to make a good case for your iOS users to enable tracking. Of course, you’ll never get back to 100% of the signal, but if you could get your opt-in rates higher than your peers, you’ll have a unique asset and a competitive advantage.
One of the best ways to help users decide if they want to enable tracking is to give them a good reason. Marketers may not realize that they can customize some of the messages in the pop-up to consumers better understand how the app is going to use the data. This can help increase your opt-in rates.
Strengthen your brand—it pays off in the long run
Over the last 20 years, online marketers have sometimes been criticized by traditional [offline] marketers for relying too heavily on uninspiring, programmatic tactics to drive one-time consumer action and not enough focus on building their brands which can impact long-term consumer behavior.
We know that brand building has been proven over decades of studies to increase awareness, trust, loyalty, and myriad other benefits. Ultimately, having a solid brand has proven to impact the bottom line, just not in the instantaneous way that direct response (DR) advertising does. Some marketers even call brand marketing delayed response as a complimentary term to direct response marketing.
Building your brand with consumers can help lift the rest of your advertising’s response and conversion rates in a post-ATT world.
Rethink Your Creative Strategy
Pre-ATT, many app install ads focused on getting users to the app install page. There, your content on the product page, videos, reviews, and even ad variations using Custom Product Pages could make a compelling case for why the user should ultimately install the app. If the user didn’t install on that visit, it wasn’t that big of a deal because retargeting could be used to keep nurturing that user until the install occurred.
In a post-ATT world, your app ads need to carry a bit more of the work. Instead of just working to fill the funnel and turning over the bulk of install conversion responsibility to retargeting campaigns, your ads have to do more of the “selling” as well.
Broaden your app’s creative ad strategy to be more inclusive of all types of people: those who have your app installed, those who have had it but uninstalled it, and those who are completely new to your brand.
Optimize based on results, not reporting
Many app marketers have reported that sales numbers have been maintained even while reporting has suffered. “Despite the data loss in-platform, real-world sales and revenue data is proving to be higher and in line with business goals, making it more important for advertisers to measure beyond platform data,” said one industry exec.
The problem is that no one knows just how far off their reporting is. In a September 2021 post, Facebook’s Vice President of Product Marketing Graham Mudd addressed this:
Our estimate is that in aggregate we are underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%; however there is a broad range for individual advertisers. We believe that real world conversions, like sales and app installs, are higher than what is being reported for many advertisers. We are committed to helping you better measure these outcomes and improve your performance.
As these reporting issues get figured out, look at your final conversion activity to understand if your marketing is working.
Don’t focus on what’s lost; switch your mindset
Digital advertising has constantly been in flux since its inception two decades ago. So, it makes sense to adapt to industry changes when possible. But, at what point does the old way become too complex or too impossible to keep going, and adapting to the change is needed?
Successful app marketers aren’t focused on combating ATT; they are adapting to it. Of course, this may be easier said than done. But being able to let go of the frustration and focus on the job at hand is helping app marketers move on from this shift.
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The best, best practice: Apple Search Ads (ASA)
For app installs on iOS, the best option is still Apple Search Ads.
“Apple Search Ads continue to be one of the top-performing app marketing channels available to mobile advertisers,” says Justin Trieu, Client Success Director at Skai. “Given the new tracking limitations across all other UA/re-engagement channels app marketers relied on before ATT, ASA is even more important now than ever since the new AdServices Framework continues to provide visibility to conversion tracking.”
Here are some great tips about how to get the most out of your Apple Search Ads in the post-ATT world:
Open up your target audience. Targeting users on devices over iOS14.0 will no longer filter out what was once known as LAT users. With AdServices Framework, you are able to cast a wider net by targeting while still retaining the ability to track conversions for users on iOS14.0 and above.
Custom product pages (CPP). This new feature enables app developers to test different product pages to better optimize App Search Optimization (ASO). These CPPs are also available to be leveraged on the ASA front, giving the advertiser a lot more room for customization in the ad creatives.
Don’t rule out Search Tab campaigns. Many have found that Search Tab campaigns can work for re-engaging returning users to drive additional in-app actions.
Looking to take your app marketing programs to the next level?
As part of Skai’s intelligent marketing platform, our App Marketing solution helps your app stand out among millions in the top stores with Apple Search Ads, Google Universal App Campaigns, and more. Skai™ leverages an advanced algorithm based on AI and machine learning to ensure your ads reach your target users. Increase installs and user acquisition with streamlined automation, optimization, and reporting.