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Your Mobile Marketing Data Is Dirty – But These Mobile App Attribution Techniques Can Help

The customer journey is incredibly complex today – thanks to rapid technological advancement. Our digitally-focused culture allows businesses to connect with their customers through more channels than ever before. But, it also makes it even more challenging to optimize and determine which methods are driving in the best results.

In order to figure out which specific marketing campaigns are delivering the best results in terms of lead generation and conversions, an attribution model is often used to track links and other marketing tools to record interactions. However, when it comes to mobile marketing, the traditional attribution approach is not always perfectly accurate.

The reason why mobile attribution is a totally different ballgame than traditional marketing attribution is because of its complexity. It is far easier to track a customer’s journey on a desktop version of a website by using cookies, image tags, and customized URL parameters. However, this is far more complicated on mobile devices, particularly if a customer is switching between the mobile website and an installed app.

Unfortunately, many marketing teams struggle with proper attribution when it comes to mobile interactions because they do not understand how to track their campaigns properly. The good news is there are some specific mobile app attribution techniques which can make things much easier – and far more accurate, too.

Let’s discuss.

Use Multi-Touch Attribution over Single Touch

There has always been some disagreement over the best attribution model to use in marketing. According to a study conducted by Bizible, the numbers are fairly evenly distributed regarding the types of touch models that marketing teams use for attribution.

The most popular form is lead conversion touch, followed closely by last touch and multi-touch. It should also be alarming to note that 34% of teams do not follow any attribution model at all – meaning that they are shooting in the dark to determine which marketing channels are driving in the most customers.

However, a customer’s identification can actually be lost as customers switch between a mobile website and the app. There are several reasons for this, but one major reason is due to the fact that Apple blocked the ability of cookie tracking within apps with the iOS 11 release.

While single touch approaches may be appropriate for easily trackable marketing campaigns (such as emails, PPC ads, or external links), the path from the initial interaction to conversion becomes far more muddled on mobile app devices.

Attribution relies on creating unique customer accounts, which is used as data source information for an integrated CRM system. But, since these cannot be traced when a customer switches to an app, a multi-touch mobile attribution model must be followed for accurate metric reporting.

Use Varying Methods of Measuring Attribution

Another important difference between traditional attribution and mobile app attribution is the methods of measurement. Again, customers are normally tracked through cookies which are associated with a unique customer account when they interact with online marketing content. This works well for single touch and multi-touch approaches, but once again, mobile app attribution makes things a bit more complicated.

Studies have found that new app users convert after an average of 2.7 advertising sources. Therefore, marketers should use multiple attribution measurement methods to keep track of each individual’s interactions.

There are four main methods for this:

1. Unique Identifier Matching

This method is used for an app to app tracking, meaning that each app installer creates a unique identity that can be tracked by an attribution software system. This follows a user’s journey within app systems only – not on websites.

So, say that a customer is scrolling through their Facebook app and comes upon an add which leads to an install page to your company’s app. This interaction would be tracked through unique identifier matching.

2. Device Fingerprinting

Every mobile or tablet device will have a unique ID number that attribution software can use to track a customer’s journey. This is an automated approach that will match up a device’s unique ID number to a customer’s account, matching up the unique identifiers, such as their IP address.

This is done by redirecting a user from a tracked link and collecting available identifying data, such as HTTP headers, from the device they are using. This is the most popular cross-platform attribution model.

However, it is not always totally accurate. It can sometimes lead to false attribution if a user is using different devices or if two separate users have the same identifying factors, such as location or device used.

3. Open URL with click ID

This is probably the most simplistic and straight-forward approach for attribution. When a customer clicks on an advertisement, they are assigned a tracking ID. Each sequential click following the initial one is then attributed to the same account, with the initial advertisement receiving attribution.

4. People-based attribution

Finally, the fourth model is a combination of both app-to-app installs and mobile website to app installs. Unfortunately, this is incredibly difficult to do – since both mobile and web interactions play key roles in the modern customer journey.

People-based attribution tries to connect both a device’s web cookies and unique identifiers within an app to correlate to a single user across multiple platforms. This approach requires deep link tracking through Big Data and AI resources to match up multiple interactions to the same unique user account.

Tie in Attribution to the Customer Experience

Attribution data matters for several reasons. Many marketing teams use it to optimize their resources. For instance, if one specific campaign is not performing as highly as another, funds will be re-allocated to focus on the more successful channels.

However, this data should not just be used for lead generation purposes. At the end of the day, a company is not successful just because they have a great advertising strategy. It is because they offer their customers the best experience. Therefore, attribution data should be applied to the customer experience (CX) whenever and however possible.

One way to do this is to use attribution information to create customer journey maps that help you understand what is working best to influence conversions. By understanding the general path that customers follow from their first ad interaction to final conversion, marketers can optimize app layouts and CTA placements to ensure that customers can easily reach their intended destination across every device.


Mobile app attribution is clearly not a simple task to accomplish. It is highly complex and requires lots of careful data analysis, as well as sophisticated technology to track customer interactions for proper attribution.

However, it is important for marketers to understand the “why” and the “how” behind each approach so they can optimize their own attribution methods and apply what they find to the most important element: the customer experience.

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