Mobile attribution fundamentals in 5 min

Where do your users come from? What happens if a user clicks on two ads? Learn the basics of mobile attribution in this article.

Posted on
May 1, 2023
Mobile attribution fundamentals in 5 min

Understand the Basics

For modern marketers, growth is the most important thing. It comes hand in hand with optimization, and how can this happen? Well, mobile app attribution is the keypoint.

Growth comes exactly from knowing when advertising campaigns work and mobile attribution is the perfect piece that connects marketers with customers via mobile and app developers. To explain it in an easier way, app attribution or we can say “mobile app tracking” connects an effect with a cause.

When we talk about “effect” we refer to an app install, like the ideal opportunity to reach the consumer, and the “cause” can be a digital ad or a series of marketing campaigns. This helps you to create more effects translated into more app installs.

The key to success is the understanding of the “why” and the “how” because when you learn about users’ motivations and their journeys, you can grow faster. Why? Because you can optimize your apps to attract more customers based on what you learned.

Let’s see how mobile attribution works. It gives you the opportunity to discover where your users come from, for example: A video ad. Also when a conversion takes place. You can then know how customers move through your app and at the same time you can compare their journey to other users who arrived via a different source.

The most important idea here is that it allows you to determine which are the best- performing campaigns taking into account the results obtained. With these results you are able to practice smart retargeting, optimize your creative assets and use hard data to get rid of failing ads. Remember this: Knowing the how, who, when and why of their journey to your app is the key to success.

How is the information collected? Well, by clicking the call to action (CTA) which appears on a video ad, as to download the app, the link will redirect the user to the “Store” and when this happens the following information can be received:

  • Advertising ID
  • IP address
  • User agent
  • Timestamp (clinking on the link for the first time)
  • First install

These items are useful to understand if users are new and if this is correct, then it is much easier to generate engagement with the use of a particular ad.

Attribution models will help advertisers to determine the value of different marketing efforts. Let’s see each of the 5 attribution models that will guide you to follow the “Customer journey”.

  1. First-Touch attribution: Assigns credit to the very first time a user engages with an ad. It is useful to measure top-of-the-funnel efforts and has its limits in terms of optimization but at the same time it is easy to implement and simple to interpret.
  2. Last- touch attribution: Unlike the previous, the credit is given to after a single touch point, that is the last before the user installs the app.
  3. Last non-direct attribution: It is a non-direct click attribution. It attributes all of the conversion value to the last marketing activity, meaning what the customer clicked through before converting. It filters out users who already were impacted by a previous marketing effort leading to optimization.
  4. Custom attribution: An intimate understanding of your users, your customers’ journeys in relation to your monetization strategy.
  5. Multi-touch attribution: Is often referred to as “assisted installs” because each touchpoint pushes the user closer to conversion, whether that’s an install, purchase, or other in-app event. There are multiple varieties of multi-touch attribution, including the next two:

    - Linear attribution:
    Marketers assign equal value to every touch a brand has with a consumer or user.
    - Time-decay attribution:
    Here, increasing value is assigned to recent touches and decreasing value to earlier touches.

When it comes to choosing which of the attribution models is perfect for you, take into account that it depends upon the habits of your users and your monetization strategy.

What is more, it is important to understand the difference between view-through attribution and click-through attribution. In the case of the first term, it is attribution that is driven by people viewing an ad without actually clicking on it. On the other hand, click-through attribution, much as the term suggests, is the opposite. People click on the ad driving attribution as a result.

Why should marketers master this?

To start with, let’s be clear about the value that attribution provides to advertisers and marketers. It generates efficiency, providing a better user experience, and improving consumers’ privacy. So, the first question we are going to ask ourselves is: “Why is attribution important for consumers?”. One key point can be that it is the perfect tool to get to know if ads are adding real value to consumers.

Also by providing the possibility to take a good ROI measurement, developers can justify their ad  spend properly. Moreover, attribution gives the perfect opportunity to leverage deferred deep linking because it improves users’ experience as it sends consumers to exactly where they want to be within the app.

Furthermore, we can talk about attributions value as a “chain”, because without it marketers will not be able to justify their ad spend, which will directly impact app developers that are reliant on ad monetization to innovate and continue to create incredible products that consumers will like.

Returning to the beginning of the article, do not forget that mobile attribution is key for the marketing puzzle. For modern marketers, it’s one of the most important components in the growth stack for mobile and app marketing, because it allows them to connect with consumers.

In terms of privacy, did you know that a proper attribution is key to improving consumers’ privacy? Okay, let’s talk about attribution in the age of privacy. In the last few years, some privacy regulations towards users have been established by big brands like Apple and Google. Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework, which requires iOS users to opt-in to measurement and the updates to SKAdNetwork, made some changes for mobile attribution.

The types of measurement that are available to app marketers when ATT is enforced, consist on:

  • Collecting customer identifiers to identify and measure their actions.
  • Using SKAdNetwork (Apple’s deterministic attribution mechanism that aggregates attribution data for iOS apps) that measures app installs and campaign performance in aggregate without user level data. The problem of the last point is that it reduces data available to app marketers.

But there are some measurements that can be a perfect solution to these obstacles.

  • Incrementality: It helps to identify which amount of users would not have converted without marketing efforts. Also, it can be useful to fill the gap in SKAdNetwork, where data is limited.
  • First party data: If it is collected transparently and with full user consent, marketers therefore have an opportunity to maximize the value gained from that data.
  • Machine learning and predictive analytics: By leveraging algorithms, trends and user behavior can be understood as to predict the success of a campaign early on.
  • Web-to-app flows: Connect the user journey without the use of the IDFA as they include ad networks.

Final Conclusions

To sum up, as a marketer or advertiser mobile attribution is a must in our marketing stack. Why? Because you can optimize your apps, your messaging, and your marketing to attract more users and more customers based on what you learned.

Mobile attribution, as we said before, connects effects with causes, and that helps you create more effects which can be translated into more app installs.

Which are the best practices? Well, make sure to use mobile attribution to:

  • Track and measure your KPIs across acquisition and re-engagement.
  • Create deep links and deferred deep links that provide perfect user experiences and accurate tracking.
  • Combine attribution data with marketing campaign data to discover accurate and actionable information that drives growth.
  • Make an analysis of which ad networks, campaigns, strategies, and creatives drive the best or worst return on investment (ROI).
  • Fight mobile ad fraud.

In the last few years, marketing transparency has gotten better but in spite of that, modern marketers are still struggling to measure the success of their efforts. Why?

Because customers interact with a brand or product multiple times in multiple places. He or she encounters the brand on various devices and converts. But marketers won’t know in advance when, where, or why.

Mobile marketing has proven to be very efficient, driving the highest conversion rates and it will continue growing and developing.

To accompany this growth, and willing to rescue marketers as to give an answer to the “when, where and why”, mobile attribution will continue  filling many of the data gaps, tying together user actions to help build and optimize strategies and spending.