WWDC24 and AdAttributionKit: Keep calm and SKAN on 

By Gil Bouhnick

One of the highlights of WWDC23, at least for mobile app marketers, was Apple’s announcement of SKAN 5 and its new re-engagement capabilities. Fast forward one year to WWDC24, and SKAN 5 is not even mentioned. 

What did come out during the event? Apple introduced new APIs and developer tools—including MarketplaceKit, which allows alternative app marketplaces to operate securely on iOS. 

But more importantly, Apple also introduced AdAttributionKit, signaling a significant shift in app attribution. But what exactly does it mean and how will developers and marketers be affected? Let’s dive into yet another change in the ever-evolving app ecosystem.

What is AdAttributionKit?

To put it simply, AdAttributionKit is Apple’s new attribution framework, which enables wider ad attribution capabilities. It was built to further tighten privacy measures in the Apple App Store and other marketplaces, while seeking to meet regulatory demands, particularly when it comes to Apple’s interpretation of the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

AdAttributionKit vs. SKAN: What’s the difference?

On the surface, AdAttributionKit might look like a rebrand of SKAN 5, mirroring the framework with three cryptographically signed postbacks, 64 conversion values, and similar privacy features. However, there are still some differences:

Alternative app store support

AdAttributionKit is built on SKAdNetwork‘s foundation to offer better integration and expanded capabilities across more marketplaces, making it easier for marketers familiar with Apple’s tools to adapt seamlessly.

AdAttributionKit will be available from iOS 17.4 onwards, with some features still in beta slated for release in iOS 18. Unlike SKAN, support now extends beyond the Apple App Store, embracing alternative marketplaces. This expansion enables cross app store attribution – a highly sought after feature aiming to maximize reach across diverse platforms. However, since there are practically zero marketplaces live at the moment, this feature’s immediate impact is minimal.

Re-engagement capabilities

Re-engagement capabilities previewed during WWDC23 have been incorporated into AdAttributionKit, enabling tracking conversions from ads clicked by users who have already installed the app—a significant enhancement for advertisers focusing on user retention. However, since re-engagement isn’t supported by SKAN, marketers have successfully used deep linking and other methods to measure user interactions. There is no immediate pressure to adopt AdAttributionKit for this purpose.

Apple’s focus on incorporating re-engagement into AdAttributionKit aims to consolidate all attributions in one place. By integrating re-engagement, Apple seeks to streamline reporting and encourage wider adoption. However, the lack of view-through attribution for re-engagement might limit the depth of insights marketers can gather, missing opportunities to capture more nuanced ad efficacy.

New developer mode and fraud prevention 

AdAttributionKit introduces a new developer mode that facilitates the development and testing of apps by simplifying the measurement process. The new developer mode simplifies the measurement process, making it easier to test attribution setups without complex configurations or waiting for live data. This mode enhances debugging by providing real-time data and debug information, allowing developers to quickly identify and fix attribution issues, ensuring that the attribution mechanisms are accurate and reliable.

Additionally, Apple has implemented stricter measures to combat ad fraud, such as requiring ads to be displayed in the foreground and limiting the use of timers to end impressions prematurely. 

These changes highlight Apple’s commitment to enhancing the integrity and accuracy of ad measurement. For developers, the new mode could significantly speed up the testing phase, while the anti-fraud measures can ensure that engagement metrics are not only accurate but also meaningful.

Easing into AdAttributionKit: What ad networks and advertisers need to know

For networks already integrated with SKAN, the shift to AdAttributionKit should be relatively straightforward. Both systems are designed to co-exist without causing data duplications. AppsFlyer’s customers in particular can rest assured that they can continue using the same dashboards to monitor both SKAN and AdAttributionKit activities without missing critical information.

While AdAttributionKit offers promising new features, the current landscape suggests that there’s no immediate urgency for advertisers to adopt it. With few alternative marketplaces live and re-engagement already well-supported, advertisers can continue leveraging SKAN’s robust capabilities while keeping an eye on AdAttributionKit’s future developments.

Gil Bouhnick

Gil Bouhnick is the Product Director leading privacy-preserving attribution at AppsFlyer. With over 20 years of experience as a seasoned product entrepreneur, he has led the development of successful B2B and B2C products for both large global companies and early-stage startups.

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