SKAN makes the world go round, at least for app marketers!
The significant impact of Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN) cannot be overstated. Despite its attempts to help advertisers measure and optimize ad campaigns while maintaining user privacy, the ability to do so remains a significant challenge for many marketers.
Although the upcoming SKAN 4.0, which is expected to go live “later in 2022” according to Apple, offers significant improvements to measurement and optimization, it is becoming increasingly more complex. There are still uncertainties about the solution, while ad networks will choose their own way to adopt the new features, creating a lack of industry ‘standard’. So you can expect an adjustment period for marketers, media sources, and MMPs alike.
Effectively implementing SKAN in gaming is a unique challenge of its own. In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into user acquisition channels for gaming and how you can get the most out of them in a SKAN environment.
There are lots of options for marketers in the mobile ad ecosystem, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. In this post, we’ll focus on the following media sources for SKAN: Meta (Facebook), TikTok For Business, Snap, and Google.
AppsFlyer’s SKAN Index, which ranks the best media sources in mobile advertising, shows that Meta Ads captured the #1 ranking for in-app purchases in gaming apps, followed by TikTok. In general, both are showing better results than Google and Snap in the SKAN environment.
Apple’s privacy threshold: what do we do?
There’s one big challenge with aggregated reporting like SKAN. The fewer the postbacks, the easier it is to identify a specific user. To combat this, Apple introduced the privacy threshold.
Apple states that postbacks “may include a conversion value and the source app’s ID if Apple determines that providing values meets Apple’s privacy threshold.” In other words, Apple’s privacy threshold is designed to prevent unique users from being identified. As a result, if publishers drive installs that don’t meet the number that Apple deems to be the threshold, they will receive postbacks with a null conversion value.
So what does this mean for advertisers?
Advertisers need to find a way to structure their campaigns to high volume installs across all their channels in order to receive the most data possible. This may mean shifting from hyper-segmented campaigns to aggregation and volume-focused campaigns.
SKAN user acquisition strategies for gaming apps
Now that you’re well versed with the challenges of UA in the world of ATT, let’s dive into the nitty gritty tactics.
TikTok limits the number of UA campaigns you can run at once. An effective strategy is to group countries and consolidate lookalikes and interest group audiences with similar bids or similar ARPU (average revenue per user).
For example, if you have two separate campaigns targeting English speaking audiences in the UK and US with similar bid and optimization goals, you can consolidate those to a single campaign.
According to Matej Lancaric, who consults many gaming companies, “I usually group all Tier 1 countries together not looking at the language, but only ARPU or LTV (lifetime value), then create Tier 2 segments, and a third, ‘Rest of the World’ segment.”
Here are the geo tiers according to ATM:
- Tier 1: geo set that every CPA marketer desires to work with. The wealthiest countries and the most competitive GEOs.
- Tier 2: Less competitive locations and lower average income per person.
- Tier 3: Developing countries and consumers with low purchasing power.
In cases where you want greater flexibility in testing audiences or creatives, you can utilize the multi-ad group feature which allows 2 ad groups per dedicated campaign.
Leverage TikTok’s Automated Creative Optimization (ACO)
Lancaric recommends using Automated Creative Optimization (ACO) in order to manage your ads more efficiently and effectively, since ACO automatically identifies high-performing combinations of your creative assets.
ACO enables you to generate 150 ads based on 30 videos, 5 ad texts, and dynamic CTAs. Quick napkin math: generate 30 x 5 x Dynamic CTA = 150 ads. TikTok makes it extremely easy, but don’t get too carried away with an unmanageable number of ads.
Here are a few additional tips with ACO you should keep in mind:
- Always upload a variety of creative assets. For ACO, you’ll need at least 3 assets for it to be effective.
- Leverage ad-level SKAN reporting to understand creative-level performance, and optimize performance based on these results.
- There are 3 SKAN metrics in Ads Reporting – Conversion (SKAN), CPA (SKAN) and CVR (SKAN) for your creative performance evaluation of iOS 14 dedicated campaigns.
- Don’t make campaign adjustments in the first 72 hours after launching the iOS 14 campaign.
- Wait until you see the initial data first. When evaluating overall campaign performance, wait an additional 24 hours (ideally 72 hours) so that the campaign can fully receive all SKAN conversion post-backs.
- Super important: Expect a longer learning phase for the iOS 14 campaigns due to SKAN delays and IDFA loss.
Meta ads (Facebook)
While only Apple truly knows the magic privacy threshold number, Meta data shows that you will need to drive at least 88 app installs per day. Again, if the threshold is not met, you’ll likely see null conversions in your reporting.
Simplifying your campaign structure by combining ad sets and campaigns can help you meet that 88 app install threshold. Consider increasing budgets and moving up the funnel to a wider audience or capture more frequent events.
And with any platform, don’t forget to rigorously run and test creatives to drive down CPI. To save on costs, you can run creative tests on Android and push the winners to iOS campaigns.
Leverage Meta’s automated optimizations
If you’re short for time, consider switching campaigns to Meta Advantage+ app campaigns (formerly known as AAA or Automated App Ads) structure to help overcome the privacy threshold. Advantage+ helps test creatives, simplifies your audiences, and optimizes towards installs.
You can split your mobile app installs’ event optimization to optimize for purchases and installs: 50% of the time the campaign will optimize for installs and the other 50% will optimize for purchases. This may yield lower CPIs and target high quality players.
Be patient and go broad
To meet threshold demands, go as broad as possible when you can. Start by consolidating lookalikes and audiences with similar interests and behaviors. Run User acquisition campaigns with considerably higher budgets.
As a rule of thumb, look at your CPIs on Android, multiply them 5-8x to calculate your budget. In other words, if you run $150-200/day on Android, you will likely need to start at least $500-600/day on iOS.
Don’t forget to wait at least 72 hours to evaluate performance for iOS 14+ campaigns. This is again, very important. Don’t panic if you don’t see data in the first 24-48 hours. They will show up eventually.
It is also recommended to consolidate countries and bucketing geo tiers based on your own proprietary data.
Here’s an example of bucketing geos based on the LTV for a specific game. But don’t copy, do your own homework!
T1: US, UK, CA, DE, FR, AU, KR, JP, CH
T2: DK, FI, NO, SE, NL, ES, IT, HK, SG, NZ
T3: PL, CZ, SK, BE, AT, IE, TR, UAE, SA, TW, TH, BG
Google’s peak for iOS campaigns was when they offered value-optimized campaigns via Target ROAS (tROAS). As soon as ATT hit, tROAS was deprecated and modeled conversions were introduced.
As stated previously, modeled conversions take up to 5 days to appear, which is expected behavior. It’s important to note that reporting for recent campaign performance will continue to be affected by modelling lags, and you should continue to be prepared for performance fluctuations.
But in the modern world of user acquisition, 72 hours is already too long of a window, so five days is a huge challenge for marketers.
tROAS to return?
On the bright side, Google has plans to bring back tROAS from the dead. With it being in the beta for so long, they’ve confirmed plans to finally make it available to more developers.
According to Lancaric, “From first hand experience, so far so good. Advertisers can expect user acquisition campaign performance to fluctuate a lot, but there’s definitely lots of potential.”
While you can’t apply the tried and true Google Ads best practices, you can rely on what you use on other channels: fewer campaigns combined with the geo strategies mentioned previously to drive at least 100 installs per day to meet the privacy threshold.
Lancaric noted that Snap’s threshold was at around 75 installs per campaign per day. You should expect delays in your reporting from 24-48 hours from the actual install or subsequent in-app conversion event as a result of Apple’s delay framework.
To meet this threshold, a similar approach to Google, Meta, and TikTok is recommended. Take a patient approach to testing and optimization decisions.
This means waiting 48+ hours before adjusting your bids and budgets, and starting with high bids and budgets to meet the threshold. Then you optimize bids downwards. Or else you run the risk of prematurely pausing ad creatives that may lead to strong UA performance.
1) Don’t panic. Take your time while evaluating iOS14 campaigns. Wait 72 hours until you see the first data set come in. You should not make any adjustments at this point! Allow the first cohorts to mature and then make decisions!
2) Diversify UA. While we talked about top UA channels on SKAN, you have other sources of high quality traffic that work well. Check out the recent Performance Index to figure out what to add into your UA portfolio.
3) Consolidate and simplify campaign structures. Run fewer campaigns, allocate higher budgets to meet the privacy threshold.
4) Focus on country tiers. Do your homework, check the LTV on the country level and group them into tiers to help meet the privacy threshold.