What’s next (and now) for mobile attribution

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There is a prevailing misconception among mobile marketers that measuring the ROI of their activities is highly challenging. A Forrester survey revealed that 67 percent of mobile marketers either cannot or do not measure their ROI. However, the reality is exactly the opposite: Mobile is the most measurable advertising ecosystem ever created.

Let’s explore trends that are shaping mobile attribution now, as well as emerging best practices that will push mobile attribution to new levels of sophistication in the not-so-distant future.

ROI understanding evolves (but not without fraud prevention and detection)

To understand ROI, app marketers need to compare revenue coming in with money coming out of their pockets to acquire new users. The ability to do so has evolved significantly in the last couple of years. Measurement doesn’t end by tracking post-install behavior, but rather by connecting incoming revenue from multiple sources to the cost of each and every user that is acquired.

So how do apps make money? In-app purchases still drive a large portion of app revenue, but only about 5 percent of app users go on to make purchases. As such, in-app advertising is an increasingly important channel for driving revenue.

Mobile publishers made more than $52 billion from in-app advertising in 2016, and, by 2020, that figure is predicted to surpass $117 billion, according to App Annie. As a result, measuring ad revenue is a must for mobile marketers. By knowing exactly how much value a user generates over time from all revenue sources, marketers are able to pinpoint how much they can spend on user acquisition while maintaining profitability.

Unfortunately, any discussion about mobile marketing ROI isn’t complete if it does not include the topic of mobile ad fraud. When marketers began developing anti-fraud technology, bad actors were forced to up their game by plotting far more sophisticated schemes centered on gaming attribution systems.

These new types of fraud are extremely harmful as they seemingly deliver high ROI campaigns, which thrills the mobile marketer who gets incentivized based on ROI. The problem is that the “users” engaging these paid campaigns are in fact organic users or simply fake ones. And so the marketer spends more money on these “successful” campaigns, and the budget waste continues.

That’s why ongoing education and advanced anti-fraud mechanisms are essential to help marketers extinguish the threat. Fraud is a massive issue in its own right, but with increased awareness and the right multi-layered defenses in place, mobile marketers can reduce the chances of getting burned.

What’s next? Omnichannel and fractional attribution

We know that in today’s world, the customer journey is extremely fragmented. Consumers constantly switch between devices, and they are impacted by a variety of marketing messages across multiple touch points — online and offline.

Additionally, modern consumers expect a streamlined, personalized digital experience, and they want to be treated as individuals. As a result, slogans offering a “360-degree view of the consumer” are on the rise; however, they hold false promise for marketers, as technology has not caught up with this consumer demand.

Yes, the industry is making progress by connecting more and more points along the consumer journey every day, but it is by no means a complete view (in fact, it’s not even close if the offline world is also considered).

The good news is that within a mobile device, multi-touch attribution already offers advertisers insights into the path that led a user to download an app, understanding which channels, media sources or campaigns a user engaged with before an install. Although the last-touch “rule” reigns supreme in app marketing, the data that paints a complete picture is nonetheless vital for marketers who want to understand which activities helped lead users down the funnel (and which did not).

Ultimately, cross-device and omnichannel measurement is one of the most difficult challenges facing modern marketers. However, within a mobile device, advanced tech can easily make these connections across a variety of channels.

Another trend picking up steam centers around the ability to transform multi-touch technology from a platform that offers insights to a platform that is able to allocate partial credit to different touch points. In other words, fractional attribution.

However, adoption of fractional attribution is a major challenge because of the industrywide standardization that’s required to make this work within the context of such a dynamic ecosystem. As a result, widespread use of this method will take time.

Marketers dream of the day when fractional and omnichannel attribution will come together as a standard across all or at least most touch points, allowing marketers to measure and attribute their campaigns with increasing precision. But the tools to get smarter on mobile attribution are available now, and it’s up to app marketers to embrace them.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.




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