Top 10 Mobile Hits & Misses of 2015 | AppsFlyer
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Top 10 Mobile Hits & Misses of 2015

Avatar Florence Broder Dec 22, 2015

2015 is coming to a close and it’s the perfect time to reflect on mobile headlines that captivated our attention. Sometimes the hype was justified, and sometimes it was not. We poured over the top stories to create the ultimate list of mobile hits and misses of 2015. A hit is defined as media interest that led to actual impact on the industry. A miss was used when media attention did not generate any real effect.

1) Mobilegeddeon

It was said to the be the mobile equivalent of Y2K. Companies scrambled to ensure they had responsive mobile-friendly websites to comply with Google’s decree (aka mobile algorithm changes) that non-mobile friendly sites would be ranked lower on the mobile SERP. There were those who scoffed in disbelief, while others were in a flurry to avoid the harsh method of punishment. The day came and went and indeed, non-responsive sites lost significant traffic.

Savvy marketers realized mobile is the dominant force in the digital age, and should be leveraged to boost discovery. Recent announcements by Google such as app streaming, app indexing, and interstitial ad penalties indicate that the new algorithm was just the beginning of staking their ground in the mobile web. We look forward to seeing what else Google will do to up their game.

The Verdict: Hit
Sites that weren’t mobile-optimized lost significant search traffic, while those that were  surged; over 100 billion app pages were indexed to boost search from the mobile web.


Source: Stone Temple Consulting

2) Ad Fraud

It’s the boogie man haunting the mobile marketing industry–ad fraud. Yes, everyone knows ad fraud is a major challenge for mobile advertisers, with some studies saying one third of mobile traffic is at risk. Until a comprehensive solution is found, there are many things advertisers can still do to minimize and even prevent fraud. The key lies in adoption of performance-driven business models (CPM is most vulnerable and CPA is least vulnerable), in addition to constant monitoring to detect any abnormalities.

The Verdict: Miss
Ad fraud is a known issue, but the cataclysm some were predicting has failed to surface. As fraud issues evolve, vendors and networks continue to innovate, offering ever-stronger solutions.

3) Wrapping Yourself Around the Numbers

So many numbers, but so little time: CPI, CPA, LTV, ARPU, ROI, retention… It’s just not easy being a marketer these days reviewing and consolidating data from all the different channels. Indeed, a recent article by eMarketer cited that half of marketers are not measuring mobile engagement and ROI at all, while only 40% measure app revenue.

Another recent article in Marketing Week highlights the growing gap between junior and seasoned professionals, as well as a lack of ROI-based measurement. With all the data available, many marketers may be missing their KPIs because they either aren’t collecting the right data or don’t know how to leverage their data.

The Verdict: Hit and Miss
Some marketers continue to struggle with mobile measurement and reporting. Others, however, understand that cookie-less measurement works, while adopting innovations like automated ROI reporting to improve their performance in real-time.

AppsFlyer Cohort report

AppsFlyer Cohort report: Click to enlarge

4) Deeplinking

The user experience is always in the spotlight and even more so in mobile with all its inherent fragmentation. Marketers are realizing that to do it right, particularly if they want to run personalized retargeting campaigns and specific user acquisition campaigns with specific landing pages, they need to deeplink. This will ensure a seamless user experience and a proper connection between mobile environments.

However, according to URX, only a third of apps use deeplinking.  Despite its slow adoption, this technology has been in the limelight all year as industry giants like Google and Apple made big moves in this arena. Recently, Snapchat announced that its own ad platform provides deeplinking support in a push to increase ad revenue. At AppsFlyer, we regularly update our OneLink technology to take advantage of these new opportunities.

The Verdict: Miss
While many marketers are seeing amazing performance improvements by using universal deeplinks, the mass market has not yet embraced this solution.

Deeplinking in action:


5) Ad Blocking

Long before iOS 9 was launched there was much speculation about Apple’s announcement regarding ad-blocking apps. Major tech outlets dramatized headlines about its impact on the mobile advertising industry (click here, here and here for a sample).

So did they all jump the gun? First, realize that the ad-blocking only impacts the mobile web and only on Safari. It is not supported in-app. The litmus test came in the form of the new iOS release putting it into effect. Despite all the hype, AppsFlyer data showed definitively that ad blocking didn’t make a significant dent in advertisers’ pockets. The number of Safari clicks did drop by 19%, but when looking at total mobile clicks, the effect was marginal.

The Verdict: Miss
Ad blocking required some adaptation by advertisers such as a focus on more in-app activity and better mobile ads, but it was not the dramatic game-changer many predicted.

6) iOS 9

Another year, another iOS release. But this year was different than other years. The latest update knocked everyone’s socks off with its announcement of Universal Links, Live Photos and Siri optimization (plus all the press about ad blocking as mentioned above). While the new features are great for end-users, demonstrated by a current 80% penetration rate, there was also plenty of great news for marketers, especially 3D touch which provides advertisers with more opportunities to interact with users.

The Verdict: Hit
iOS 9 has been widely adopted, and innovations like 3D touch have been well received by the public.

Source: Mixpanel

Source: Mixpanel

7) Instagram Ads

With over 400 million active users, advertisers were keen on having access to Instagram’s engaged audience. One of the most welcome industry announcements of the year was Instagram’s decision to open up their platform with its robust targeting capabilities to all businesses regardless of their size.

Exciting news then followed as AppsFlyer announced that it would be one of Instagram’s official measurement partners (as an extension of its existing Facebook integration). It’s a home run for all with only one challenge to be tackled: how to customize ads for the Instagram environment. Retailers like Michael Kors are already plunging into them and seeing great ROI. Since its launch, the data has shown higher ad recall rate by users.

The Verdict: Hit
From the standpoint of quantity and quality of users, Instagram is the place to be. Advertisers just need to understand how to adapt their creatives for this ad format.


8) Omni-Channel

We’ve talked about the importance of the user journey when it comes to deeplinking. However, omni-channel encompasses the many dimensions of the customer journey with the retailer/brand. Many major retailers, like Nordstrom and Macy’s, have realized that a multi-channel approach to marketing — when customer activity data from stores, online and mobile is siloed — isn’t cutting it. Omni-channel is the solution that aims to house as much activity as possible in one place so that brands can better understand how consumers want to interact with them. It’s the holy grail of marketing.  

However, if single channel mobile measurement is a challenge for many marketers (see above), omni-channel measurement is even harder (unlike single channel measurement, this challenge is real). In fact, eMarketer recently reported that only 11% of CMOs have an omni-channel strategy in place. The good news is that the industry is slowly but surely coming up with solutions to connect the dots, one by one (AppsFlyer included).

The Verdict: A Hit and Miss
Omni-channel truly is the solution to ensuring not only a seamless customer journey but a way to understand the way consumers are interacting with you. However, the major consolidation of databases and infrastructure changes is challenging marketers and hindering widespread implementation.

9) mCommerce

Mobile commerce was all the rage this year as as publishers from Google, through Pinterest to Instagram were giving advertisers the opportunity to include a “Buy” button. Facebook will let you buy products directly from retailers’ pages. In addition, Apple and Google announced improved engagement on their mobile wallet platforms. Even Walmart introduced WalMart Pay.

Another key mCommerce development involves the use of beacons and location targeting as tactics to improve marketers’ ability to reach users at the right place with the right content. By the second quarter of 2015, the increase in purchases on mobile was more than a trend. The clincher was the holiday season as Adobe reported that mobile devices accounted for $1.5 billion of the overall $4.45 billion in US online purchases during Black Friday and Thanksgiving.

The Verdict: Hit
The numbers say it all. Mobile commerce is a major source of revenue, mobile payments is picking up steam, and publishers are providing more and more unique ad formats.


10) Messaging Apps

Not too long ago, Facebook made Messenger its own app and for good reason. According to eMarketer, these types of communication apps are being used by over 1.4 billion users worldwide. It’s no wonder that recently Yahoo jumped on the bandwagon by announcing updates to its own service. Platforms understand that messaging apps are an opportunity for users to shop and engage with brands. One salient example is China’s WeChat, which is propelling mCommerce forward. There is no doubt that it’s one of the reasons that Facebook announced its new M assistant service to bolster it as well.

The Verdict: Hit
With the massive growth of messaging apps from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, they are poised to be the next advertising frontier.

flury messaging

Didn’t make the cut but worth a mention:

TV Attribution

Watching the Super Bowl for the commercials is nothing new. However, many in the mobile industry were caught off guard seeing small screen apps like the Clash of the Clans (#1 viewed video on YouTube this year), take over their big screen during this colossal viewing event. These ads generated a lot of buzz as marketers were asking themselves about the viability of TV ads for apps.

Cynics were skeptical about this “new” marketing method and were shocked further when AppsFlyer was the first to release TV attribution. These events, caused many to re-evaluate their initial impulse and consider the possibility. After all, TV has 285 million viewers in the US alone —  plus audiences are using multiple screens at once. To ignore TV as a medium for mobile marketing is to be a bit of a Luddite. This year was recently topped off with a report from Fetch showing how TV ads actually boost installs. That’s definitely food for thought!

The Verdict: Hit
App marketers are only beginning to discover the power of the small screen. We’re sure to see more TV campaigns for mobile installs in 2016.

Closing Thoughts

As is usually the case in the dynamic mobile world, it’s been a busy year filled with innovations and interesting trends. While some issues made the grade, others were a fizzle. Looking forward to the 2016 headlines that will command our attention next year…

Any hits or misses that we, uh, missed? Tweet us your thoughts on this list!