Strong digital strategies are based on a deep understanding of the foundational details. The Heart of the Matter blog provides essential insight from Kepler’s Marketing Systems Strategy (MSS) team to help marketers create better strategies. The third in the series, written by AdTech Lead, Martin Bedulskij, looks at mobile advertising and how advertisers can improve their measurement approach in a complex and changing ecosystem.
Many brands still struggle to get people to use their apps, then struggle to measure what they do when they get there. In fact this challenge has grown in recent years. Mainly due to the changes in the operating system of some of the biggest tech companies. Primarily Apple’s App Tracking Transparency update.
Its impact on the mobile advertising ecosystem and the signal loss that it precipitated cannot be ignored, even by the other tech giants. Something seen recently with Google finally relenting and announcing its support for SKAdNetwork (SKAN) integration, five years after it was initially released. A definite contributing factor was the release of SKAN 4.0 at the end of last year. This increased the value of such integrations by introducing new capabilities, such as web-to-app attribution, longer conversion windows, and better reporting granularity.
But mobile reporting and measurement integrations remain complex.This has had the effect of thrusting mobile measurement partners (MMPs) into the limelight. But the question is, can they truly help brands build a seamless web-to-app user experience, boost app engagement, and uncover the marketing touchpoints which lead to in-app conversions?
How can advertisers benefit from MMPs?
Centralized app activity tracking and attribution: While there are ways to track app activity through GA4 and certain 3rd party ad networks such as Meta, these solutions can present challenges as they often overlook cross-platform attribution and require a unique SDK placed for each network, increasing app size. With an MMP, advertisers can use a single SDK to get a better understanding of what traffic drove users to the app, without needing to perform a complex setup for each ad platform.
Insight into in-app activity: Installs are just one step in a customer journey and many brands desire to have a more granular visibility into in-app events. MMPs can support advertisers by tracking a broad range of app activity, which can be customized for each advertiser, depending on their desired level of event granularity.
Campaign optimization: With a broad range of in-app events that can be tracked via an MMP, advertisers can use those events for campaign optimization purposes. Depending on marketing goals, this enables brands to launch more efficient media campaigns to reach users that are likely to convert via their app.
Integration with other marketing tools: Over the past several years, MMPs became good at integrating with a broader marketing stack. This means that generally brands need minimal to none developer work to connect MMP with other tools like analytics platforms, CRM, CDP, ad networks and more.
How are MMPs limited?
Limited access to data due to privacy regulations: While MMPs do provide better visibility for brands into how users interact with their apps, MMPs are not immune to privacy regulations. With changes such as Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, advertisers lost visibility into users that opted out of app tracking, impacting the value of MMPs. That said, MMPs can make integration with privacy-centric solutions such as SKAdNetwork 4.0 much easier as they can streamline the setup process, provide technical support, and ensure brands are complying with privacy regulations - all of which can save significant developer resources for advertisers.
Dependence on device identifiers: In order for an MMP to function and collect accurate in-app data, they need to have an SDK placed on the brand's app. This SDK collects user mobile identifiers such as device ID for attribution purposes. However, there is risk of such identifiers being deprecated from tracking in the future, given that data privacy regulations are becoming increasingly strict.
Limited tracking capabilities on certain platforms: When integrating with ad networks, advertisers will notice that certain platforms are categorized as Self-Attributed Networks (SANs). These are usually tech-giants such as Meta, Google Ads, Snapchat, and more. The issue that brands face when integrating an MMP with such platforms is that MMP has to rely on data coming from SANs in order to attribute app conversions to brand’s media campaigns. There is typically limited visibility into how SANs process this attribution and MMPs have to trust and report this data.
Technical limitations and costs: Generally, MMP integration requires substantial developer resources. Additionally, MMPs can carry a significant cost associated with their use. Both of these concerns can make MMPs hard to attain to smaller advertisers.
What is advertiser best practice when working with an MMP?
- Setting clear goals and KPIs: Understand what you want to get out of your MMP integration. MMPs allow brands to be quite flexible with how they customize user in-app experience and what events they track. To configure MMP efficiently, brands should create a plan of what events and parameters they wish to capture through an MMP as well as what user experience should look like between their web and app properties.
- Choosing the right MMP for your business: Over the past several years, many major MMP companies have emerged. To a large part, brands will receive similar benefits regardless of what partner they use. That said, there are a few components of MMP that advertisers should pay extra attention to:
- Deep-Linking: This functionality allows brands to seamlessly transition users from web engagement into their app content. Advertisers should look at how well a particular MMP can support the creation and management of deep-links at scale as this process can become a headache for brands that need to manage a large amount of links.
- Integration with other marketing tech: While major MMPs will have quite seamless integration with other marketing platforms, it is important to understand how they work with each brand’s specific marketing stack to avoid unforeseen gaps in the future.
- Data & Attribution: Similar to the above, most major MMPs will have robust data and attribution capabilities. However, one component that can make a partner stand out is how good they are at cohabitating with privacy-centric solutions. Brands might find that an MMP that takes charge with integrating solutions such as SKAdNetwork 4.0, will be better positioned to support them long-term.
- Technical support and costs: Brands should look into how well MMP can support their onboarding process as well as what continuous technical help they provide. Additionally, MMPs can vary in costs, although most of them have various commercial packages that could fit with different advertisers’ needs.
- Complete Integration: As one of the benefits of MMP is to consolidate your media performance from in-app standpoint in one centralized place, brands need to make sure that they are integrating with each of their ad networks and marketing tools. This will allow advertisers to get a more complete picture of what media touchpoints drive users towards app conversions.
- Staying up-to-date with privacy regulations: As already mentioned that MMPs are subject to privacy regulations due to the nature of their data collection and processing, it is imperative that advertisers pay close attention to how privacy-centric changes impact the mobile ecosystem. While major MMPs will be proactive at helping their customers navigate such changes, brands need to first rely on their own expertise and consider what solutions can best support their business.
Do you need a MMP?
For many advertisers a mobile measurement partner will be the right solution to boost app traffic and performance. Despite their limitations with data accuracy, relatively high costs, and impact of privacy regulations, MMPs can still allow brands to work towards a seamless web-to-app user experience and help them get insight into touchpoints that drive their app performance. Advertisers with a strong app presence and those who need to grow their in-app conversions, need to get serious about finding the right MMP to elevate their mobile marketing efficiency.