By Adrienne Rice, Media Director, M&C Saatchi Performance
Privacy, tracking, and measurement were back on the mobile news agenda recently as Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference took place. Unlike previous years, updates in privacy policies were mentioned only briefly, but they were there and should not be ignored by advertisers.
Since Apple announced the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework at WWDC back in 2020 the mobile advertising world has been adjusting to the change (read our blog about what happened at WWDC here). MMPs, ad networks, and advertisers have been reworking their strategies to accommodate changes in the granularity of tracking brought about by ATT. According to InMobi, the adoption of SKAN 4.0 has been rising but is still low, with 30% of SKAN-compatible bid requests now on SKAN 4.0 compared to 1% at the start of 2023 (watch a recording of Branch’s WWDC recap with InMobi here, a full WWDC recording here, and read Apple news release here).
The topic is complex, with multiple areas of the industry needing to be updated. “There are multiple parties involved, inventory has to be compatible and advertisers apps have to be updated so everything can work together successfully. All sides, the user device, the app, and the ad networks must be ready before a real SKAN 4.0 postback is achieved.”
However, with the latest announcements from Apple, it is time for advertisers to get on board and start adopting SKAN.
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“Now is the time to get on top of SKAN – advertisers should not be afraid of this, instead think of the fact that it ensures everyone is accountable for proper data handling. There are plenty of tools and teams to help advertisers remain in compliance with Apple’s policies. Ask for help from your agencies, MMPs, and suppliers. We are here to help you adapt and succeed.“
Since WWDC Why Has It Become Even More Important To Adopt SKAN?
Apple is putting more emphasis on the disclosure of data usage by advertisers. For example, SDKs will soon need to state how and why they are using user data explicitly, and it can’t be for fingerprinting. Fingerprinting has never been allowed but one of the major takeaways from WWDC is that Apple will be policing their policies and enforcing them. Although these updates (Privacy Manifest, Required Reasons API) won’t be enforced till Spring 2024, Apple is moving in the direction of actively blocking fingerprinting.
“The biggest pitfall is not doing anything. Enforcement is on the way, and advertisers do not want to be on the wrong side of Apple policies. With these recent announcements, Apple has not made policy changes in terms of privacy, instead, they have made compliance easier and simpler for developers.” –Adrienne Rice
What Are The Top 3 Things Advertisers Can Do To Ensure They Are Leveraging SKAN?
1. Work with your dev team to update your app to be SKAN 4.0 compatible. Make sure you are complying with all of Apple’s guidelines on user privacy. If in doubt, please ask for help from your agency.
2. Update your conversion model with your MMP to accommodate SKAN 4.0. If your model is still based on SKAN 3.0, you are missing out on valuable conversion information.
3. Test SKAN-compatible inventory ASAP. Not only will you start to become more familiar with SKAN and how the data and reporting work, but you will also be able to compare results between SKAN and probabilistic attribution models (if you are currently leveraging fingerprinting) which will reveal potential gaps in attribution and help you reevaluate performance goals for SKAN.
How Can You Avoid Pitfalls When Working On Implementation/Adoption?
Firstly, the biggest pitfall is not doing anything and falling into the trap of thinking that probabilistic attribution will be around forever. A lot of advertisers, and even ad vendors, have been ignoring SKAN but that’s going to hurt their marketing efforts later down the line, and that line is now approaching at speed.
“Bigger advertisers are making moves, for example setting up models, measurement, and testing to enable success. The leading brands have been experimenting with SKAN for over 2 years now, and they are going to be leaps ahead in terms of benchmarks, best practices, data analytics, and media strategy.” –Adrienne Rice
Remember that this is a team effort. Your MMP and ad agency partners are there to help you through this process. It is complicated but certainly not impossible and the sooner advertisers get started the better. Until now SKAN 4.0 inventory adoption has been slow at 19%, and SKAN 3 is still more widely adopted. However, if advertisers started asking for SKAN-enabled inventory that could push overall change. Remember, being SKAN 4.0 enabled will make SKAN 5.0 adoption much easier.
Which Platforms Are SKAN-Ready?
Some platforms are more SKAN-ready than others. TikTok for example, has been at the forefront of driving efficient performance with SKAN. TikTok has done a lot of experimenting with how to be successful under this framework without modeling conversions (which was the route taken by other SANs like Meta and Google) such as creating an intermediary App Profile Page to give them further signals into user intent.
“A special shoutout goes to Ironsource Network which has driven some of the best performance under SKAN I have seen to date.” –Adrienne Rice
What Pain Points Can Be Overcome By Working With SKAN 4.0?
SKAN 4.0 delivers several added benefits compared to earlier versions. The two main improvements can be categorized into two buckets:
Firstly, ad vendors will be able to better optimize campaigns as SKAN 4.0 allows for up to 10,000 unique source identifiers (up from just 100). This will provide much greater insight into what’s working and what is not, and ad vendors will be able to optimize campaigns much more effectively. SKAN 4.0 also allows for web-to-app attribution, opening up additional inventory channels.
Secondly, advertisers will have better insight into user quality thanks to multiple postbacks and both fine grain and coarse grain conversion values, advertisers will know a lot more about what users are doing in their app post-install. This will allow them to more accurately measure the value of their ad campaigns and make more informed decisions. Therefore those who are adopting SKAN are more likely to benefit in both the short and long term.
What Do We Know About SKAN 5.0?
Not much at the moment! To date it seems SKAN 5.0 will allow for re-engagement by supporting attribution for app opens (note that SKAN already reports on Reinstalls). We expect more detail to follow with the goal being to enable the understanding of app retention and usage.
Although market adoption of SKAN 4.0 is extremely slow (fewer than 1% of all iOS postbacks were for SKAN 4.0), this hasn’t stopped Apple from forging ahead with new updates. What remains to be answered is how advertisers can negatively target users who have already installed their app, which is essential for an effective re-engagement campaign.
“There is a respectable amount of inventory available for testing and advertisers should start now to best leverage SKAN 5.0 when we find out more. We’re still not at broad adoption of SKAN 4.0 end to end. However, once the major SANs upgrade to SKAN 4.0 there will be more momentum.” –Adrienne Rice
Adrienne continues; “Advertisers should start to adapt their performance marketing plans now – we are in a privacy-first world and this is the time to adapt and start testing. IDs will likely be gone by the end of 2024, so now is the time to start testing and adopting SKAN before IDs are finished for good. Rely on your partners to help you make the necessary changes so you are not left in the dark.”
What Else Should Advertisers Be Doing Right Now To Set Up For Success?
Getting Data and Analytics fit for purpose is part of being prepared for the future. As Adrienne says;
“Even though SKAN 4 is a big upgrade from 3there will still be limitations in granularity – to get a better view you must invest in other measurement solutions such as incrementality. To really understand measurement advertisers have to plan beyond SKAN attribution and invest in other data and analytics models/techniques to get a full view.”
All of this could take significant time, resources, education, and budget so it is best to prepare your business now.
“There is a timeline at work, with advertisers needing to be prepared by spring 2024. Advertisers don’t want to be unable to release updates into the App Store because they are not ready. Choose how to use data and disclose information, and be clear on what data is needed, why, and how data is being used. This is a step from Apple to prepare the industry before fingerprinting will be blocked.” –Adrienne Rice
- Get reading on Privacy Manifests, it is becoming inevitable that enforcement will happen and all advertisers should aim to avoid SKAN-related issues.
- Discuss changes with your agency, MMP, and vendors. Lean on your agency and MMP to help you so that you are not left behind. including providing privacy manifests, tracking domains, etc
- Allow enough time for dev work. To be SKAN compatible apps need to release a new update and which has to be downloaded.
- Start considering measurement methods, set up a conversion model with an MMP, and start testing SKAN-compatible inventory.
- Be aware of the timeline for change. By Fall 2023 there will be more information available, for example, notifications will be sent to advertisers who may be at risk of encountering issues. By Spring 2024 flagged issues must be addressed, Privacy Manifests complete, etc.
Contact us to speak to Adrienne about how to successfully prepare for SKAN
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