iOS 15 and the latest updates

The huge changes to attribution and tracking of post-install events on iOS came with the announcement of iOS 14 and the release of iOS 14.5 and ATT. And while it was not nearly as industry-defining as its predecessor, iOS 15 (released in September 2021) presented a few key changes and further developments in Apple’s steps toward further user privacy.

As of release, copies of “winning” SKAdNetwork postbacks (the attribution call when an app install occurs) can also now be sent to developers, not only to ad networks. This change was welcomed by the industry and understood to be providing developers with more transparency over their data, giving access from install to post-install.

Mail Privacy Protection was also rolled out, a feature that allows Apple Mail users to hide their IP address and location, and to anonymize the tracking of email opens. If these options are toggled on, access to information like email opens is no longer available to marketers. Hide My Email is another privacy-related feature that will allow users to mask their email with a generated one when completing any online form.

Aimed at helping to improve UA strategies and campaign performance, another interesting iOS 15 feature is Custom Product Pages and Product Page Optimization. Marketers and developers create custom pages on the app store that can be targeted and optimized for up to 35 individual user segments and then linked to relevant UA campaigns.

by Tiahn Wetzler


iOS 14.5+: From day one until now (Pt. 2)

In this guide, we put a lens on what iOS 14.5+ is and how it has changed and developed. We examine the ins and outs of working with SKAdNetwork and provide a holistic breakdown to ensure that marketers are up to speed with everything they need to know.

AppTracking Transparency, user consent, and the opt-in

As we covered above, it’s the lack of access to the IDFA that causes the headache when it comes to attribution and campaign measurement on iOS 14.5+. Apple’s ATT is the framework that allows ad targeting and measurement once a user has opted-in or granted consent to tracking. The more users you have consenting, the bigger your pool of efficiently measurable data will be. Moreover, these users can receive targeted advertising.

The most accurate data in a post-iOS 14 world starts with a robust opt-in strategy — prioritizing user consent is not the only pillar of success, but it is key. It not only minimizes disruption, it delivers significant competitive advantages. While the more users you have consented the better, even a relatively low opt-in rate or percentage of opted-in users can prove pivotal to success.

When working with our clients to help develop top opt-in strategies and flows and to incorporate optimizing for the opt-in as part of an overall UX strategy, there are a few top themes we identified. These are the variables that have the biggest impact on influencing a user’s response to an ATT pop-up.

  • Location: Pinpointing the precise moment to serve the opt-in request is the top factor to define. We’ve identified that it is usually best to display the prompt during the onboarding flow.
  • Messaging: Pre-permission prompts that cue the ATT framework prompt mean the Apple pop-up will feel more natural. Use 2-3 short sentences to emphasize the benefits of opting-in. Also, although the first sentence in the ATT prompt itself can’t be customized, we highly recommend adapting the second string. This is another opportunity to address any concerns about data privacy, and to highlight the benefits of opting in.
  • Size: Users typically respond to pre-permission prompts that are full screen, as opposed to modals. This is because the former offers a more seamless user experience, while the latter can feel like an interruption.

Button placement: The placement of your call-to-action (CTA) button is an easy lift. Buttons with simple text, placed next to each other horizontally, with the positive acceptance on the right hand side, yield the best results.

In addition to building a fully optimized opt-in strategy, it’s also crucial to define an overall UX strategy that the opt-in is simply part of and to continually test. Once a UX approach regarding when, where, and how you prompt users to give consent is designed and integrated, the work isn’t quite done. That’s why we advocate for continued, rigorous testing, including A/B testing and randomized controlled experiments.

iOS 14.5+ and working with SKAdNetwork

For users who don’t opt-in, Apple’s SKAdNetwork, a combination of SDK functions and API calls, is the solution that marketers can turn to for attribution of app installs and reinstalls. Free for advertisers to use, Apple’s goal with SKAdNetwork is to provide basic, privacy-focused attribution, and it doesn’t require user consent because Apple designed it within their privacy guidelines. The attribution information from SKAdNetwork is relayed from the device, to Apple, and then to ad networks, developers, and mobile measurement partners (MMPs).

SKAdNetwork provides space for 6-bits of downstream metrics, a number between 0 and 63 (or between 000000 and 111111 in binary), with an initial 24-hour timer. Otherwise known as a conversion value this can be assigned to any value that can be expressed in binary, and it’s up to apps to decide which events they want to include. Every time the conversion value is updated to a fresh six-bit code defined within the app, the timer gets extended by an additional 24 hours. Once this conversion value-window expires, a second 24-hour window is triggered for attribution. The idea behind this is to obfuscate the time of install, making it impossible to link event triggers to individual users. This data is then shared by the SKAdNetwork in the aggregate, with no granular, user-level data accessible.

Put a little more simply, conversion values are a number between 0-63, used for measuring up to six events using the bit logic. Each conversion value is linked to specific conditions, which can then be unpacked into meaningful KPIs for reporting.

To make the most of this system, advertisers and marketers need to work thoroughly within the first 24 hours, leveraging all data possible to paint a clear picture of user behavior, from which projections and segments can be identified. It’s not just about acquisition, it’s about understanding what user behaviors in that first 24-hour window can tell us about what they might do later. For many apps, this means a complete rewriting and restrategizing regarding the events they focus on, as they may, for example, have been tracking events for up to seven days, which is not possible on SKAdNetwork.

by Tiahn Wetzler


iOS 14.5+: From day one until now (Pt. 1)

It’s been almost two years since Apple first announced the release of iOS 14 at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2020, and more than a year since its release to the public on September 16, 2021. From the initial announcement until the rollout of iOS 14.5 in April 2021, the mobile marketing industry was sent into overdrive and pushed to reassess the way it handles user privacy and its approach to the mobile advertising ecosystem in general.

From understanding SKAdNetwork and AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) to best practices for getting the opt-in, building conversion value schemas, and creating marketing strategies that perform best in the post-IDFA world, there are a lot of topics and themes to cover.

In this guide, we put a lens on what iOS 14.5+ is and how it has changed and developed. We examine the ins and outs of working with SKAdNetwork and provide a holistic breakdown to ensure that marketers are up to speed with everything they need to know.

iOS 14 and the initial release: What was all the fuss about?

Up until the release of iOS 14.5, Apple had allowed each device to have a unique and resettable identifier, which was accessible to all apps downloaded on that device. The option to limit ad measurement was available in the settings of an Apple device, but most users didn’t know, or didn’t bother. This ID, the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) could be used by marketers to measure clicks and compare them to installs, which mobile measurement partners (MMPs) were then able to attribute. Iterations of this, starting with the Unique Device Identifier (UDID) had been in place since 2008 — the switch to the IDFA took place in 2012.

The mobile ecosystem has since developed and evolved, however, along with user knowledge of it. Concerns about data privacy and how data is accessed and managed was and is a  growing theme among users (and legislators). This has led to regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which brought in new rules about how data must be respected and processed in those jurisdictions.

While the app industry continued to thrive alongside these changes, Apple’s announcement at WWDC 2020 that access to the IDFA would be contingent on gaining user consent via a pop-up garnered a much more severe reaction from the mobile marketing industry. While the impact has not been as catastrophic as some early predictions indicated, and despite user privacy having already been top-of-mind in the industry, it certainly caused a seismic shift in how we’re fundamentally able to approach attribution and measurement.

This change meant that attribution as it was understood for many apps and app marketers would be significantly impacted and that the way they had been measuring user acquisition could no longer be guaranteed. Essentially, there are two attribution and ad measurement approaches that can now be leveraged on iOS: The ATT framework that manages access to the IDFA with user consent, and SKAdNetwork. If consent is acquired, those users can be measured and attributed in the same way as before the iOS 14.5 rollout, but for those who don’t, working with SKAdNetwork is crucial, and requires a completely different mindset and approach to how we gather and process information about users.

What do these privacy changes mean for marketers and the industry as a whole?

What this means for marketers, however, is a potential lack of precision and accuracy in user acquisition (UA), attribution, and campaign performance. This is simply because advertisers have less visibility into user-level data and campaign metrics. UA with the IDFA relies on precise campaign data that gives marketers visibility over performance, empowering decisions around which channels to invest their budget in, and how to optimize performance. There are usually specific KPIs like Day 0/Day 1 retention, user LTV, ROI, and ROAS. Marketers working with this model often operate within thin margins regarding where they invest budgets, And how to scale may come down to a matter of a few percentage points. SKAdNetwork prevents this level of insight simply because the aforementioned KPIs aren’t supported. This makes understanding which channels to focus on complex in an ecosystem where mobile performance marketing had previously made it relatively automated and straightforward and instead pivots attention onto how essential UA managers are post-IDFA.

Advertisers who get high opt-in rates are still able to have a good understanding of their KPIs per campaign and can optimize efficiently, as all tools and means of measurement they’re familiar with can be leveraged. Also, the better your opt-in rates, the more data you have to work with to deterministically work with non-consented data.

The rest of the inventory that is tracked via SKAdNetwork is more complicated to measure and manage. Let’s take a look at how this impacts the three most common monetization models: in-app advertising, in-app purchases, and subscriptions.

  • In-app advertising
    There are two main types of ads, contextual and targeted. Contextual, or non-targeted ads, are less specific, while targeted ads are served to specific users — based on their IDFA. They’re more expensive, but they offer higher conversion rates, making them the more popular choice generally speaking. Naturally, on iOS 14.5+, if a user hasn’t opted in, their IDFA is not available, and they can’t be served targeted ads. This is why some users have noted seeing more ads since opting out. Many publishers are serving an increased number of ads to make up for revenue lost from lack of access to contextual targeting.
  • In-app purchases & subscriptions
    Users pay for in-app goods or services in a wide variety of apps, such as when buying gold or coins in a gaming app, unlocking premium features in a health and fitness or productivity app, or signing up for a subscription to a service. Here, iOS 14.5+ doesn’t have a direct impact on revenue, but the lack of attribution for opted-out users makes it difficult for advertisers to measure the success of campaigns, or to understand where high LTV and top-performing users are coming from.

Advertising has not stopped on iOS, and it won’t stop. There will always be users to acquire. This is why we have built support for ATT and SkadNetwork, and we are happy to offer solutions that focus on campaign optimization and actionable metrics. We want to empower our clients to continue to focus on growth.

(to be continued…)

by Tiahn Wetzler


Strategies & Best Practices for iOS 15 In-App Events (Pt. 2)

After being officially announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2021, in-app events (IAEs) quickly became one of the most intriguing and highly anticipated new features to come to the App Store. IAEs became available a month after the launch of iOS 15 in October 2021, and since then, developers have been using in-app events to reach new users, re-engage current users, and promote new app content and events like never before.

In this blog, we will discuss:

  • Strategies to create iOS 15 in-app events
  • Best practices to compose effective in-app event metadata
  • Tools for measuring event performance

How to craft effective in-app event metadata

Once you have the basics of the in-app event planned and have selected the right event badge, you then can begin composing the metadata for the event, including:

  • An event name, maximum 30 characters (keywords indexed—meaning your app can rank in search results for these terms)
  • A short description, maximum 50 characters (keywords indexed)
  • A long description of a maximum 120 characters, which customers will only be able to read if they choose to expand the event card to learn more
  • An image or video no longer than 30 seconds, with a poster frame
  • Another image or video no longer than 30 seconds for when users expand the card to find out more

When creating effective metadata, many of the best practices follow the same guidelines for the main product page metadata. To ensure a smooth review process and that your events display properly on the App Store, consider these guidelines when creating your in-app event metadata:

  • Use proper capitalization and punctuation. Avoid using all capitals and don’t use excessive punctuation marks, such as multiple exclamation points.
  • Avoid claims that can’t be verified, such as “the best” or “#1,” as well as extra words, such as “game event.”
  • Don’t include specific prices in your metadata, as pricing and currencies can vary across regions and can be changed independent of your event. Including specific pricing will lead to rejection by App Store Review.
  • When possible, avoid using text or logos in your media, especially if they include your event name or app name.
  • Consider using video in order to provide users with a more dynamic preview of your event.
  • Don’t add borders or gradients to your media. Crops and gradients are automatically applied to your media in order to ensure consistency across the App Store.
  • Aim to create visual continuity across your event card and event details page by using similar colors or illustration styles.
  • Make sure your metadata only includes content that you created or have a license to use.

One example of effective in-app event metadata can be seen in Peacock TV’s recent IAE for the premiere of its new series, Bel-Air:

According to Apple, the event card will typically only appear in search results for users who have previously downloaded the app, while the default screenshots will show for those who haven’t. When users search for an event directly (using keywords found in the event title/short description), the event card will then appear along with the app.

Measuring Event Performance

After your events have been published on the App Store, you will be able to find many important metrics in the App Analytics page of App Store Connect that allow you to measure your event’s effectiveness. These include impressions, where users saw your event, new downloads and redownloads, and retention as a result of your event.

When measuring your app performance, it is important to first identify your event purpose. The event purpose field within the Event Details page in App Store Connect is where you can indicate whether your in-app event is meant to attract new users, keep your active users informed, or bring lapsed users back to your app. Your event purpose will also help you determine the most important KPIs to monitor for each individual event.

For example, if your selected event purpose is to attract new users, the KPIs you may be most interested in include:

  • Impressions
  • New downloads
  • Day 1 retention

Meanwhile, if the event purpose is to keep active users informed, you may want to look at:

  • Daily active devices
  • Longer-term retention

Finally, if your intended purpose is to bring lapsed users back to your app, the most important metrics may be:

  • Total re-downloads
  • Re-engagement

Apple has also added a new dashboard in App Analytics to help developers monitor their in-app events. There, you will be able to see a list of your events and key metrics for each, such as impressions, downloads, number of users who opted-in for notifications, the event opens, source type, and more to help you measure performance and plan for future events.

Overall, Apple’s in-app events (IAEs) are one of the most exciting new features to come with iOS 15. Following this guide will help you understand some strategies and best practices behind creating IAEs, composing effective in-app event metadata, and measuring event performance.

By Ian Pernia, Senior ASO Expert


Strategies & Best Practices for iOS 15 In-App Events (Pt. 1)

After being officially announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2021, in-app events (IAEs) quickly became one of the most intriguing and highly anticipated new features to come to the App Store. IAEs became available a month after the launch of iOS 15 in October 2021, and since then, developers have been using in-app events to reach new users, re-engage current users, and promote new app content and events like never before.

In this blog, we will discuss:

  • Strategies to create iOS 15 in-app events
  • Best practices to compose effective in-app event metadata
  • Tools for measuring event performance

Strategies to create iOS 15 in-app events on the App Store

In-app events are live events happening inside iOS apps and can be found as event cards within the App Store. These event cards contain basic information about the in-app event, such as the event name, short description, and an image or video. Users are then able to tap through to an event details page containing the long description and further information about the event, including details on whether or not an in-app purchase or subscription is required to participate.

When planning for the launch of a new event, it is important to first think about what type of content makes for a good IAE. According to Apple, good candidates for in-app events are challenges, competitions, or special content launches. Meanwhile, the following are not good candidates for in-app events:

  • Repetitive activities such as daily tasks or rewards.
  • Price promotions that don’t introduce any new content, features, or goods.
  • General promotions that raise awareness about your app or game.

Once you have identified that your app’s new content or update is deserving of an IAE, the next step is to choose the event badge that best fits the type of event you’re offering. Take, for example, the recent in-app event for Scrabble® Go:

Here, we see that Scrabble® Go has published a new IAE promoting its new multiplayer feature. Although we may likely relate IAEs to limited-time promotions or special offers, the release of a new major feature is still a good candidate for an in-app event, as it goes beyond minor enhancements like UI adjustments or bug fixes.

Furthermore, to align with the release of this new feature, Scrabble® Go has selected the “Major Update” event badge which appears just above the event name. This helps both new and existing users get a quick understanding of the event at first glance. Overall, Scrabble® Go has done an effective job at identifying that the promotion of its new feature is a good candidate for an IAE and selecting an event badge that best aligns with this new update.

The complete list of available iOS 15 in-app event badges on the App Store includes:

  • Challenge: Activities encouraging the user to achieve a goal before the event ends
  • Competition: Activities in which users compete against one another for the highest ranking or to win rewards
  • Live Event: Activities that occur in real-time that all users can experience simultaneously.
  • Major Update: Introducing significant new features, content, or experiences
  • New Season: Introducing new content, storylines, battle pass, or media libraries to build on established content.
  • Premiere: Introducing new content or media for the first time
  • Special Event: Limited-time events that are not captured by another event badge, possibly spanning multiple activities or experiences — for example, an event featuring a collaboration.

Optimizing the title & short description for iOS 15 in-app events

The event’s short description includes the generic, high-volume keyword, “streaming.” This means the event card is actually able to appear in the search results for this keyword, even for users who have never downloaded the app before. Therefore, in order to maximize your event visibility, it is recommended to target relevant, high-volume keywords in the event title and short description. This will allow your event to be more discoverable by both new and existing users.

Optimizing the long description for iOS 15 in-app events

The long description of in-app events is not used for keyword indexing but can still be seen by users who tap on the event card. As a result, the long description can be less keyword-focused and instead prioritize providing more unique details and information about the event.

Optimizing creatives (image and video) for iOS 15 in-app events

On the event card and event details page, the text on your event image or video will be white. Therefore, try to avoid using white backgrounds and bright-colored elements on the bottom left corner of the event card to ensure the text is readable. Also, when creating event media, keep in mind that videos autoplay and repeat, so aim to create a seamless loop. In-App Store Connect, you can preview what your media and metadata will look like on the event card and event details page to confirm that your image, video, and metadata will show properly.

(to be continued….)

By Ian Pernia, Senior ASO Expert