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July 22, 2022
9 min read

Mobile Attribution: How It Works

Effective attribution models will help you scale your marketing efforts by helping you understand which marketing channel is working best for your business.

Mobile Attribution: How It Works

There are thousands of apps in app stores across the globe. It’s not easy to stand out from the crowd and drive conversions from people who have never heard of your brand. The key is knowing what will draw consumers to your products and hold their attention long enough for them to become endeared to your brand. This process starts with the attribution of your app!

How does mobile attribution work?

Mobile app marketers are tasked with understanding how individual users interact with their mobile apps and how these interactions lead to conversions or other relevant app events. Those marketers are going to bust a gut trying to comprehend exactly how people use their mobile apps. In a nutshell, this is exactly what mobile attribution is tackling, it enables you to comprehend the customer journey and make the best business decisions, especially given the rise in mobile device usage.

The attribution links ad engagement to an installation and in-app events. By clicking the CTA and downloading the app, users are redirected to the store to download the app. After the app is launched the following information is collected: advertising ID (IDFA on iOS, AAID on Android), IP address, user agent, timestamp, first install, and other user information. This data can be used to determine whether users are organic or not, making it much easier to engage with them through a specific ad.

If you’re new to mobile attribution, it can seem like a bit of a daunting task. 

However, once you put in the time and effort required to understand mobile attribution and implement it successfully, you’ll realize that it's worth it.

The importance of data accuracy

Inaccurate data can easily lead to incorrect judgments and decisions, costing thousands of hard-earned dollars, while accurate data enables marketers to make more informed decisions, increase their ROI, and determine which marketing strategies succeed and which do not. 

If marketers can not understand how their campaigns are performing and which initiatives are effective, it will be tough to justify investing more money in mobile advertising.

Different types of mobile marketing attribution

Advanced app marketers are aware that there are a handful of attribution models out there. However, view-through attribution (VTA) and click-through attribution (CTA) are the two most common attribution methods in mobile advertising and it is important to distinguish between them. 

After clicking on the display ad, the CTA only credits the click once a pre-defined conversion was successful. There is almost always a "click attribution window," which is typically up to 28 days, meaning the download must take place within that time frame. This attribution approach offers a more clear way for businesses to gauge the effectiveness of their advertisements since CTA creates a direct connection between the advertiser and the action.

On the other hand, when using VTA, you track how many users saw the advertisement before converting, rather than only counting the number of clicks. As opposed to the CTA, the attribution window is often much shorter, lasting only one day or seven days at most.

VTA is thus ideal for advertisers that wish to track the effectiveness of their impression-based campaigns.

Attributing ads with SKAdNetwork

The SKAdNetwork protocol is the de facto attribution standard for iOS marketing today. With it, marketers can get deeper attribution but with the privacy-safe data aggregation, they expect from Apple.

So how does the SKAdNetwork work?

When an app is installed, it sends a conversion value to the Apple server. After that marketers and developers receive a postback within 24-48 hours. A postback is delivered to up to five ad networks in SKAdNetwork 3.0 or later, so they may understand when an ad they provided qualified for attribution but did not win. A successful postback provides credit information, such as App ID, and Redownload information, which Identifies whether the installation was a redownload, Source App ID, Campaign Id, and conversion value. Unfortunately, you can’t attribute this data to a particular customer, since SKAdNetwork is just an aggregated attribution provider.

What are MMPs and how do they work?

With an enormous amount of campaign data from many ad networks, app marketers may struggle to understand which channels, media sources, publishers, or campaigns are resulting in conversions. Mobile Measurement Partners give marketers an objective and accurate perspective of mobile attribution by determining which source should be credited with producing a conversion.

They work in a simple manner: 

You must install a software development kit (SDK) into your app to work with Mobile Measurement Partner. SDK collects measurement and attribution data. As a result, as soon as the user installs and launches the app, it begins collecting data from the device on which it is installed. In other words, SDK is used to attribute the install and in-app events to the correct marketing campaign.

Enrich your marketing data with the in-app revenue

It is not a secret, that app install attribution is not enough for making the right marketing decisions. Your marketing data should be enriched with in-app events, like the start of the free trial, purchases, etc. In the case of auto-renewable subscriptions, you might want to enrich your marketing campaigns with the correct subscription revenue data which will help you to calculate such important metrics as ARPU or LTV.

If you are looking for an effective solution that will help enrich your data and make more informed decisions for your app, start with Apphud

Apphud offers precise user-level revenue data. You can use Apphud to send subscription events such as trial activations, renewals, and cancellations straight to your favorite integrations, like AppsFlyer, Adjust, Amplitude, and more.

Additionally, Apphud offers an out-of-the-box Web-to-App Solution, using which developers can attribute web campaigns for their apps on Facebook or TikTok.

If you're looking for Apple Search Ads attribution, then Apphud is also the right tool for you!

Head of Marketing at Apphud
7+ years in product marketing. Nataly is responsible for marketing strategy development and execution. Committed adherent of the agile methodology.