The AppsFlyer Performance Index: Edition VIII 2019

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Introduction

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The industry-standard AppsFlyer Performance Index is back with Edition VIII. The Index offers app marketers the most comprehensive report card on the performance of mobile media sources during the second half of 2018 — including ROI, retargeting and growth rankings.

Edition VIII is the most comprehensive to date, covering 20 billion installs and 39 billion app opens of over 11,500 apps. The data is sliced by vertical across 11 regions globally, including first timers Africa & the Middle East!

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Methodology

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Period

H2(July-December 2018)

# of media networks evaluated

370

(with a minimum of 50,000 attributed installs)

# of installs

20

Billion

# of apps

11,500

(with a minimum of 2,000 non-organic installs)

# of app opens

39

Billion

More about our methodologyBlack Arrow Pointing Right

Rankings

We only included media sources that met our strict conditions on two fronts:

1) Volume: Based on client adoption and the number of attributed installs, both on a per region and category level (where applicable).

2) Fraud: Based on a fraud rate threshold that was calculated per region and per category (a detailed explanation appears in the fraud section). AppsFlyer’s scale in the market enables us to provide the most accurate impact of fraud on the performance of media sources.

THE PERFORMANCE INDEX
Volume Ranking: A ranking of media sources based mostly on the total number of non-fraudulent installs each was attributed for, in addition to the number of apps running with a specific source in a given region/category.

Power Ranking: Volume & Retention Combined: We normalized and combined the number of non-fraudulent installs and the weighted retention score (see detailed explanation below) of each media source. We then factored an additional fraud penalty based on the network’s overall fraud rate for the region in question.

THE GROWTH INDEX
We compared the performance of the top 350 media sources in H2 2018 vs. H1 2018. The comparison was calculated by combining a number of factors: install growth, number of apps growth, and average installs per app growth.

THE GLOBAL ROI INDEX
We compared the non-organic and organic Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of each app and then calculated each media source’s clean revenue figure (based on its regional poaching fraud rate). An additional fraud penalty was applied based on this rate.

We then divided the revenue figure by the network’s eCPI based on our massive volume of cost data from over 170 sources. It is important to stress that the ROI Index only factored apps that reported both cost and revenue.

THE GLOBAL RETARGETING INDEX
We factored and normalized the number of attributed retargeting conversions (a conversion occurs when an existing user that has the app installed engages with the retargeting campaign, excluding re-attributions), and the revenue generated from these conversions (based on all events reported after the retargeting attribution occurs and within its attribution window).

Retention Score

STEP 1: We calculated the non-organic retention rate of each app per media source and per region. We did this separately for each day of a 30-day period, dividing the number of users who were active on the day in question by the total number of users who first launched the app in the selected timeframe. We added two longer term signals — week 8 and week 12 post install — dividing the number of users who were active on the week in question by the total number of users who first launched the app in the selected weekly timeframe.

STEP 2: We calculated the organic retention rate of each app on a regional level, separately for each day over 30 days, and for week 8 and week 12.

STEP 3: We then compared the non-organic and organic retention rates for each time frame. Using organic retention as a benchmark significantly reduces the impact of a given app’s quality, and therefore offers a far stronger indication of a media source’s performance.

STEP 4: We calculated a weighted average using a retention-based logic; the longer a user is retained, the higher the assigned weight. As such, the day 1 non-organic to organic ratio had the least weight, and week 12 the most weight. This weighted average serves as our retention score.

STEP 5: We calculated a network’s overall weighted retention score per region and category group in question by taking the retention score of each app separately and factoring the number of installs it delivered.

Fraud

Install fraud rate: We divided the number of a network’s fraudulent installs coming from Device Farms and Bots by its total number of attributed installs.

Poaching fraud rate: We divided the number of a network’s fraudulent installs coming from click flooding, install hijacking by its total number of attributed installs.

Overall fraud rate: We divided a network’s poaching and install fraud by its total number of attributed installs.

Clean installs calculation: We reduced the number of fraudulent installs from each network’s overall install count according to its install and poaching fraud rates (the latter is based on stealing organic or non-organic users of other networks and therefore impacts the install count).

Clean retention score calculation: We reduced a network’s retention score according to its poaching fraud rate (most of this fraud is based on stealing organic users, thereby elevating a network’s retention and engagement level).

Clean ROI calculation: We reduced a network’s average revenue per user (ARPU) figure according to its poaching fraud rate (similar to the clean retention score calculation since ARPU is a quality KPI).

Fraud per region and category: Because the level of fraud differs by region and category for different media sources, we used the specific fraud rate for each in the region and category in question.

Exclusion: Networks that did not meet our overall fraud rate threshold by region were excluded from the index in question.

General Notes

1) Category groupings were based on the following store categories:

Utility: Utilities, Tools, Maps & Navigation, Weather, Personalization, Photography, Productivity, Video Players

Life & Culture: Entertainment, Lifestyle, Travel, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, Music, Social, News, Education, Parenting, Books, Dating, House & Home, Beauty, Art & Design, Medical, Communication, Comics, Reference.

Gaming Casual: Casual, Puzzle, Card, Board, Word, Educational, Trivia, Family

Gaming Midcore & Strategy: Adventure, Simulation, Action, Role Playing, Strategy, Arcade, Racing.

Gaming Social Casino: Casino (not real money)

2) The universal rankings only include media sources with significant activity in at least two of the following regions: North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

3) The traffic analyzed in the index includes both incentivized and non-incentivized ad formats.

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The Performance Index

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The Growth Index

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* We compared the performance of the top 350 media sources in H2 2018 vs. H1 2018. The comparison was calculated by combining a number of factors: install growth, number of apps growth, and average installs per app growth.

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The Global ROI Index

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* The ROI Index is based on 280 million installs with cost data, and over $2.2 Billion in revenue from over 3,300 apps that measure both cost and revenue. See ‘General Notes’ in Methodology for a list of store categories included in the different category groups

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The Global Retargeting Index

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* The Retargeting Index is based on 600 million retargeting conversions, and over $2.9 billion in revenue from nearly 1,400 apps that measure revenue. See ‘General Notes’ in Methodology for a list of store categories included in the different category groups

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Key Findings — Universal Rankings

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Duopoly domination is undisputed, but its growth has stalled

The superiority of Facebook and Google — aka the duopoly — in the digital ad space is a well known fact. It is also widely perceived that their domination is only growing with time. However, in app install advertising, it is worth noting that although their combined market share is significant, it’s not growing: they had the same share in this edition (covering H2 2018) as the previous one, both among gaming and non-gaming apps.

Interestingly, we found that their share in the non-gaming space was 45% higher than in gaming. The reason for this is that several premium SDK networks — namely AppLovin, ironSource, Unity Ads, Vungle, and Tapjoy — have been focusing their efforts to meet the demands of gaming apps, leading to an increasingly larger piece of the pie.

Despite impressive strides made by Google in the past year following the launch of UAC, Facebook remains the #1 network for mobile apps. This is especially true for gaming apps, as the social giant is experiencing higher growth in its share of the gaming space than Google. Facebook excels at driving demand for games (through enhanced targeting and optimization); game discovery mode is also more suited to the nature of social browsing and the low barrier required to drive action with an ‘I’ll just download and try it’ state of mind.

Google’s higher growth in non-gaming compared to Facebook is driven by its search intent model; in addition, utility apps are far more popular on Google’s home turf — Android. Having said that, both platforms are extremely popular among all types of apps.

Fraud continues to have massive impact with little change in sight

The overall app install fraud rate in the second half of 2018 was nearly 30% worldwide. Clearly, protection against fraud continues to be an absolute must in today’s space.
Why does the level of attempted fraud remain so high? Beyond the obvious financial incentive for fraudsters, there are many marketers who are still unaware of the threat. Add to that the fact that there was no change for the better in this index, as the vast majority of networks that were excluded in the previous edition were also removed this time around.

AppLovin is a clear #3 in gaming, but ironSource is quickly gaining ground

With three consecutive #3 positions in the gaming power rankings, AppLovin has established itself as the best network for gaming apps beyond Facebook and Google. The San-Francisco based network has made significant strides in the last two years with impressive growth in its share of the gaming app install pie.

However, it is facing increased competition from ironSource, which has almost doubled its market share, surpassing Unity Ads with the 4th largest piece of the pie. Having said that, Unity Ads held its #4 position in the universal power ranking, compared to ironSource’s 5th spot.

In non-gaming, Facebook and Google dominate, followed by Apple Search Ads and Snapchat that trail far behind despite demonstrating continued growth, and AppLovin which lost market share. In the universal power ranking, however, Apple, Snapchat, and AppLovin lost ground, while Vungle and Twitter, whose market share remained unchanged, moved up the rankings to #3 and #4, respectively.

Down with affiliation

The affiliate model in the app marketing space is rapidly losing ground, mainly because it is far more vulnerable to fraud. In fact, we found that there was a 12% absolute drop in the number of non-organic installs attributed to networks for whom 3rd party non-SDK traffic is the core offering. This was in complete contrast to the 32% overall jump in the size of the app install pie.

Significant fluctuations in ROI

When comparing the current ROI Index with the previous one, we can clearly see that there were significant changes across different rankings and among multiple networks. For example, Facebook and Google improved from 4th and 7th to 1st and 2nd respectively in the universal gaming ranking.

Other networks that experienced substantial change were Snapchat, which improved from 9th to 4th in non-gaming, but plummeted from #1 to #12 in the casual games ranking; Vungle, which jumped from 12th to 5th in the universal gaming ranking; and CrossInstall, which dropped from 1st to 6th place in the universal gaming ranking.

Factoring in metrics that experience a relatively high level of fluctuation like LTV and CPI leads to significant variance in the results. Constant monitoring of these metrics is therefore extremely important.

Google’s share in the app retargeting pie jumps

Unlike the ROI Index, the Retargeting Index has seen relatively little change. Facebook continues to dominate this activity with unrivaled volume and the #1 spot in all power rankings. Google is ramping up on re-engagement efforts, increasing its share in the app retargeting pie by no less than 190%. Web retargeting powerhouse Criteo remains a highly popular choice, taking the #2 spot in the non-gaming power ranking, but its market share is dropping.

Another noteworthy retargeting media source is RTB House, which has seen substantial growth in both retargeting conversions and client adoption (the latter metric experiencing a 50% increase in the pie).

It’s a volatile market for emerging players

When we introduced the Growth Index in edition VII, our goal was to showcase up-and-coming media sources and encourage a diversified ecosystem. This time around, however, we can see that is it difficult to maintain growth in a highly competitive media landscape.

We have found that 40% of networks that appeared in the previous Growth Index experienced absolute negative growth in the current index, while only 10% remained in both versions. It should be noted that none of these networks were established players, only emerging media sources.

There are many new players in this index and we, as always, encourage both exploring their offering and potentially allocating a small testing budget to examine their performance.

Africa & Middle East the next big thing?

Thanks to a growing volume of non-organic installs, Africa and the Middle East are making their first appearance in the index. It should come as no surprise, considering the fact that these emerging markets will experience the highest growth in the number of smartphone users worldwide: almost 213 million by 2022, a 40% jump, according to eMarketer.

Most of the install growth is driven by gaming apps with a nearly 30% increase in the average number of non-organic installs per app.