When it comes to mobile app tracking, is “good enough”…enough?

01/12/16

When it comes to mobile app tracking, is good enough…enough for you?

There are a number of mobile attribution solutions available to you and other app marketers today. Finding the right solution requires an understanding of what you will need today, and what your future needs will look like, all balanced with available resources. This post outlines eight key considerations in mobile app attribution for smartphones, and outlines a series of considerations that can help you determine their relative importance in your search.

As you have already guessed, the title of this document is intended to be a bit provocative. The core idea behind it is to understand the totality of your mobile app tracking needs, and then to find the solution that can meet all of them in as cost-effective a way as possible. Marketing on iPhones and Android phones is challenging enough without having the mobile app analytics and insights necessary to make the most of every dollar invested.

Mobile App Tracking Table Stakes

mobile app tracking table stakes

A mobile app attribution solution is designed to provide critical measurement of vendor performance for marketing efforts to drive app installs and engagement. Using such a tracking a platform, you will be able to compare the relative scale and efficiency of vendors at driving both app installs and remarketing events.

Attribution platforms track clicks, installs, and in-app events, and attribute them to your marketing platforms and programs. All of this data helps app marketers better understand their businesses, evaluate vendors and optimize allocation, and gain customer insights that can be leveraged in future marketing efforts.

But the ways that different solution providers address these tasks varies significantly. Some solutions are focused on providing minimalist data and service levels, and have minimalist price tags to match. Rock-bottom prices also usually mean rock-bottom service levels. Perhaps appropriate for companies that are just getting started, or for which apps are a tertiary consideration.

But for marketers that need more, there are other solutions that provide a higher level of data, analysis, flexibility and service. The costs of such services are also VERY modest relative to the return possible from using the data to improve marketing return, but they are a bit higher than the free or bargain solutions. To decide which level of solution you need, you need to understand the extent of your needs in the following areas.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 1: Market Coverage

mobile app tracking market coverage

The solution you select needs to have data sharing relationships with all of your media vendors – from leading social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to the major mobile app ad networks. Not some. All. Without compete coverage, you can’t fully deduplicate user acquisitions, so you may well end up paying multiple times for the same user. If you only use Facebook, Facebook offers a free tool that you can engage with and get the core data you need. Other publishers and networks also offer tracking, but cannot deduplicate against other partners.

If you use Facebook and other channels, as do most major app companies, you are best served by a mobile analytics solution that is a Facebook Mobile Measurement Partner (Facebook MMP) and works with ALL your other social, publisher and network partners. Ask questions here, because not all solutions for tracking mobile devices have access to that data.

In short, a starter or incomplete solution may be appropriate for you now, and you can trade up later, and the savings from a decision to do that should be weighed against the need to do a second integration later.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 2: Long-Term Analysis

mobile app tracking long-term analysis

In order to understand user behavior post-install, you need to be able to track their activity over their entire lifecycle. From app download/install onwards. Some platforms don’t enable you to analyze your business data for very long at all. After a couple months, user data are no longer available. This is a real problem if you want to do analysis like lifetime value, or purchase cycle, or trends in orders and order value.

If your app has a very short purchase customer lifecycle, then a solution with a maximum of 90 days data availability could be fine. But if you want and expect long-term customer relationships, then make sure your mobile app tracking analytics tool provider provides the long-term insight necessary for you to please that individual for a long period.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 3: Level of Insight

mobile app tracking insight

All mobile app measurement tools for measuring activity on smartphones offer some level of user behavior analysis. They vary in the depth of items you can examine across and within mobile platforms, in the level of customizability in the analysis, and in the time periods you can examine. Free or very low costs solutions usually offer a standard set of user events you can examine. App downloads/Installs and completed transactions are among the most common.

By contrast, Apsalar enables you to analyze based upon mobile ads and any user action taken in the app. You define the actions to examine and the time periods to use. Further, because we don’t charge for every user action taken in an event, we encourage you to examine as many event types as possible. That can prove invaluable when it comes to optimizing user experience.

For example, if your Android or iOS app objective is sales, you can identify product searches item views, feature selections like color or travel destination, add to cart, begin transaction, each step in a transaction process, and the completed transaction. With that depth of analysis you can fully understand user flow and formulate strategies on iOS, Windows and Android devices and tactics to improve it.

For those marketers who don’t have time or inclination to manage that level of detail, simpler solutions can work just fine. For example, if you are 100% focused on installs, then post-install user actions are of little importance to your mobile devices KPIs. The need for depth and customizability is directly related to the level of sophistication and analysis.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 4: Remarketing Analytics

mobile app tracking remarketing

Some companies are focused solely on driving high install counts. All the solutions can provide solid analysis and deduplication for installs, though it’s important to ensure that the provider you choose works with all your partners. A platform without Facebook coverage could be problematic for you if you use Facebook. Facebook garners something like 4 in 10 UA dollars these days, so be careful.

If you want to be able to understand and influence post-app download and install user behavior, you’ll probably be using remarketing tactics in the future. That means you need a platform that can deliver true remarketing analytics. It needs to be able to track re-engagements for all vendors, not just a few.

And you should be able to view mobile app remarketing insights easily, not just through CSV download workarounds. Some platforms are better at this than others, so choose wisely. Ask to SEE how re-engagement reporting works, rather than accepting a “box-checking” answer.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 5: Cohort Analysis

mobile app tracking cohort analysis

If apps are a secondary part of your role, you likely won’t have a lot of time or resources to do extensive user analysis. At least for now. If all you want are some basic facts about the totality of your users, any mobile app measurement solution, including free or low cost options, may have everything you need. You don’t need to buy more than you are able to actually use.

But if mobile apps are a core part of your role, you’ll probably want to have a rich understanding of who your users are, and what makes a highly profitable user different from others. That’s why the best solutions offer cohort analysis. So you can dissect your iPhone, iPad and Android audiences and understand the events and user characteristics that are driving extraordinary results for your business.

Apsalar has the most advanced cohort analysis available for iOS and Android mobile apps , so you can segment your audience based upon any action or event and understand the relationship between particular events and your KPIs. You can profile your best iPhone, Android and Windows phone users and what makes them different. Other premium mobile app analytics solutions offer cohort reports as well, of varying levels of depth.

Further, Apsalar analytics tool offers real time cohort data, not daily batches. Real time can be invaluable for marketers that are doing on the fly optimization for the best possible results.

Even if you are totally focused on installs, in-depth user understanding can yield fruit – if you have the time and inclination to better understand your users. User analytics can lead to precise lookalike modeling that can help you improve UA metrics and grow your user base efficiently.

The bottom line here is that the platform you choose needs to provide the level of data necessary for you to do the job you want to do. Don’t buy more than you need. But equally, don’t settle for minimalist data sets if you are interested in in-depth user understanding and optimizability.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 6: Clicks and Pricing

mobile app tracking clicks and pricing

How many clicks do you think it takes to drive an install on the App Store or Google Play store? I bet you didn’t answer 83 in your mind, but that was the worldwide average in Q3 2015 according to an extensive study we conducted across more than 30 countries.

There are a number of reasons for this. Many people may click mistakenly, or visit the app store and decide against installing. Or some of your media partners may be paying their publishers on a CPC basis, which encourages massive click counts.

Whatever the reason, many iPhone, Android and windows phone app marketers are shocked to learn the average number of clicks per app download and install on their businesses. Click counts tend to be highest in the developing world, though the figures in the US average over 60 per install.

But most mobile app media is bought on a cost-per-install or CPI basis. So why do you care about clicks? Because some mobile app measurement companies charge for every click and action tracked, paid or organic. The charge per action may seem low, but actions really add up quickly when you are paying for every one – paid and organic.

Now, if you have analytics platform data that show you that your prospects click relatively less often than average – a lot less often – then a solution that charges for clicks may be fine. But if your app is garnering anywhere near the average number of clicks per install, then a payment scheme that charges a seemingly low rate but for every action could end up costing you a fortune.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 7: Actionability

Mobile app tracking actionability

As we evaluate the needs and interests of app marketers, we find it fairly easily to group them in three “buckets”.

Group one are “Mobile second.” They are launching an app as a secondary business driver. At this point, their interest in more fully understanding the business and users is minimal because the role of that app is minimal to the success of their company. Mobile app analytics is ultimately about reporting for them. Analytics platform needs are modest.

There’s a second group that uses services like ours to have data to help them achieve important tasks like deduplication and vendor performance assessment. For them, the data are an input that helps drive spending allocations across their existing programs. They use their platform for reporting and other key tasks.

Finally, there is a group that is proactively leveraging mobile app analytics data to drive new actions. Things like defining audience segments to thwart cart abandons, or reactivate lapsed users, or market across apps, or even drive an incremental transaction from their best customers. For them, action is a critical part of what they are doing with mobile app analytics. They need an analytics platform that can do it all.

Apsalar makes mobile app data actionable by enabling you to create and seamlessly and securely share audiences of users with your media partners. For iPhone apps, Android apps and Windows apps. Whether for better lookalike modeling or for remarketing, these use cases are designed to help users make more effective and comprehensive use of the data.

Whether those app analytics services are relevant to you ultimately relates to how you plan to shape the marketing for your app. The more you want to understand and act on information, the more likely you need a richer solution.

Mobile App Tracking Consideration 8: Price v. Value

mobile app tracking price value

Some companies must choose the least expensive mobile app analytics option regardless of whether it covers all of their needs because of very restricted cash flow. Perhaps they are new to the market and need to see if an app has appeal before they invest more deeply.

For such companies, deriving long-term value from data is a secondary consideration. For those companies, free and very inexpensive offerings may be the right choice. On the other hand, if you are committed to the app category, then having richer and more complete data can drive savings and ROI that dwarf the relatively minimal costs of mobile app measurement.

At Apsalar, we offer what we believe is the most comprehensive mobile app analytics solution – one that delivers outstanding ROI and savings value. But we get it that some marketers have more immediate challenges and constraints. You buy what you can afford. Sometimes that’s purely about price, and sometimes it’s about value.

Conclusion

Reality check. The costs of mobile app measurement are modest compared to your Android and iPhone app media spending, and the economic benefits of things like deduplication are gigantic. Several of our clients showed a 20% drop in CPAs when they started duplicating. Spending thousands to save millions.

But all costs deserve scrutiny. Ultimately, the decision to spend money on one thing means that you cannot spend on another. We don’t want you to spend more on something you don’t use.

Our best clients are those in which apps play a critical business role. What’s critical is that you find a solution that can meet your needs. If you don’t work with a lot of ad network partners, if you are totally cash strapped, and if apps are priority #9 for you, by all means go for something free or very low cost. It’ll do the job given the minimal level of needs you are likely to have.

In short, you need to align your mobile app tracking needs to the capabilities of the various provider options, and find the one that’s right for you.

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