It’s been more than a year since the SKAdNetwork (more colloquially known as SKAN, an abbreviation of both words) became the only game in town for deterministic and complete mobile marketing measurement solutions for campaigns that target iOS users.
Introduced by Apple in 2018, SKAN is a framework devised for preserving privacy in mobile app install attribution. It purports to measure conversion rates of app install campaigns without compromising users’ identities. It also gives marketers an aggregate view of both ATT (App Tracking Transparency) consenting and non-consenting users.
However, SKAN has several critical limitations. These include receiving delayed data (often up to 72 hours), a limited attribution timer, incompatibility with retargeting campaigns, and lack of support with ad set/ad group, as well as ad level measurement.
Even more limiting is something called privacy thresholds. They refer to a series of restraints that prevent marketers from knowing what’s actually bringing the most valuable users, making it difficult for them to optimize accordingly. SKAN deterministically provides install data at the campaign level without restrictions, except for delay and attribution windows—and that means that privacy thresholds kick in when receiving in-app events performed by the users.
This article will explain what privacy thresholds mean for in-app events in SKAN. It also provides a few workarounds for your campaigns—especially if you’re looking to get the most out of your campaigns.
What Exactly Are the Privacy Thresholds?
Apple’s privacy thresholds refer to a set of criteria attempting to block post-install actions from being attributed to advertising channels and campaigns. The company employs these restrictions to preserve the identity of any given user.
Because it prevents the identification of a unique user at any given time—you guessed it—marketers have been left in the dark. Lack of user identification also means a strain on the precision of data from in-app events. Essentially, marketers are left with install-data only.
Apple has yet to give out any details about the specific criteria of the threshold. The only thing we know thus far, though, is that the campaigns need to hit a certain amount of daily installs to trigger data for in-app events.
How Does It Affect In-App Events on SKAN?
Privacy thresholds are depicted by postbacks with null conversion values. The bigger the null conversion value rate, the more the data is deprecated. For instance, if campaign A has a 50% null conversion value rate, that indicates that we don’t know whether 50% of the installers made purchases/subscribed or not. All the in-app events that were performed by the 50% will thus be attributed as organic. Campaigns with a 0% null conversion value rate, on the other hand, are qualified to receive full in-app events data at a maximum of 72h post-install.
Because Apple hasn’t yet defined the actual caps of the daily install numbers, each social network recommends hitting a different number of installs to receive in-app events data from SKAN campaigns. Facebook recommends 88 installs per day per campaign, while Snapchat recommends 75—and TikTok goes as high as 120+. (Note that our experience is that, even though TikTok seems to have the highest demand, Facebook’s null conversion value rate is the highest— even with a higher number of daily installs).
What Can You Do To Get Around Privacy Thresholds?
All is not lost, though. There are a few things you can think about to get around the privacy thresholds. We recommend the following:
- Consolidate your campaigns–when it makes sense from a targeting perspective
As a solution to hit the required thresholds, most advertising platforms recommend consolidating the campaigns and budget into one campaign. Keep in mind, though, that this might negatively impact the granular analysis and the possibility of taking scaling decisions.
In some apps, where granular data points such as gender, age, location, and placement are not paramount for decision-making, consolidating both your campaigns and budget could be a viable option to bypass privacy thresholds. However, with strategies that aim to test and identify the “super users”, marketers need to take the risk of facing privacy thresholds. Thus, it’s recommendable to test one thing at a time to see what works. If you’re able to bypass them, then it’s time for another test.
- Review SKAN Conversion Mapping
Most MMPs offer conversion mapping for SKAN campaigns. Remember, though: you have a 63bit-capacity (which might increase with SKAN 4.0) to map your in-app events. Given that each variable (event, revenue, activity timer, and funnel) runs against mapping capacity, marketers need to find the right balance.
Depending on the needs of an app, conversion mapping can focus on in-app events with a larger post-install activity timer, events funnel, revenue, or a combination of variables. One thing to note here is that because of the nature of SKAN, LTV-based measurement is not possible.
If a user is not active at certain time intervals (a factor that depends on your settings), the counter may stop indefinitely. Considering that in apps where the user journey for the desired conversion is longer (free trial offer, recurring subscriptions, for example), marketers will always be blind to campaign performance.
What’s the Future of SKAN?
When SKAN was first introduced in 2018, marketers would have probably never guessed that it would be the only source of getting deterministic iOS data in the future. But lo and behold, it’s happened. It’s a new reality for mobile marketers—at least for those who have decided to adopt it.
A big takeaway is that SKAN is a dynamic platform that sees changes implemented on a regular basis. The limitations we have right now might improve—or, conversely, get even stricter—in the future with SKAN 4.0, which Apple has announced to roll out in late 2022. Time will tell.