Performance Index, Edition IX [H1 - 2019] | AppsFlyer
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Introduction

 
The industry-standard AppsFlyer Performance Index is back with Edition IX. The Index offers app marketers the most comprehensive report card on the performance of mobile media sources during the first half of 2019.

Edition IX is the most segmented to date, covering 23 billion installs and 45 billion app opens of over 15,000 apps.

Highlights:

 

For the first time, Google generated the highest number of installs in the app marketing space, globally. Facebook, however, retained the #1 power ranking position in the Index thanks to its high quality and greater client adoption.

AppLovin has established itself as the #3 player in Gaming, but ironSource is growing faster, increasing its share in the Gaming app install pie by 32%, compared to AppLovin’s 10%.

TikTok Ads is experiencing massive growth worldwide and takes the #1 spot in the Growth Index. The Chinese giant is poised to become a significant global player.

Fraud continues to impact the rankings, but the good news is that the install share of fraudulent networks dropped by 60%, while clean sources grew by 25%.

Apple Search Ads is rapidly growing, increasing its share in the global app install pie by 82%. It has plenty of untapped growth potential, as fewer than 20% of iOS apps run ads in the store.

Methodology

 
Period H1 (January – June 2019)
# of Media Networks Evaluated 520 (with a minimum of 50,000 attributed installs)
# of Installs 23B
# of Apps 15K (with a minimum of 2,000 non-organic installs)
# of App Opens 45B

More About Our Methodology

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 on the total number of non-fraudulent installs each was attributed for.

Power Ranking: We normalized and combined the number of non-fraudulent installs, the number of apps running with each media source, and the weighted retention score (see detailed explanation below). 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 2019. The comparison was calculated by combining a number of factors: install growth, number of apps growth, average installs per app growth, and growth in share of the app install pie.

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 timeframe. 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 and 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 levels).

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, 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, Sports

    Gaming Hardcore: Strategy, Role Playing

    Gaming Midcore: Adventure, Simulation, Action, Arcade, Racing

    Gaming Social Casino: Casino (not real money)

  2. The global 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 global and regional rankings also use different thresholds – whereas in the former, a minimum number of installs per app per media source is determined on a country level, in the latter is based on a global level, and therefore much higher. The single ‘All Categories’ slicer is the only ranking that includes all app categories (rather than a combination of the existing groupings).

Performance

 

Growth

 

Retargeting

 

Key Findings

 
Note: Unless stated otherwise, all growth metrics compare change in the app install pie between the current H1 2019 Index and the previous H2 2018 Index.

Google Drives Most Installs for the 1st Time, Facebook Remains #1 Player with High Quality and Greater Adoption

Edition IX of the AppsFlyer Performance Index marks the first time that Google has surpassed Facebook in the total number of attributed installs globally. The substantial rise of Google’s App Campaigns (AC, formerly known as UAC) has led to increased reach, especially in video and display placements. 

Google’s success can be attributed to its domination on Android, and specifically across Midcore Gaming, Utility, and Life & Culture apps (Shopping, Travel, Lifestyle, Health & Fitness, etc. —  see Methodology for the complete list of category groupings). From a regional perspective, Google’s growth in the pie was fastest in Latin America ( 18%), the Middle East ( 14%), and Southeast Asia ( 8%). 

However, Facebook remains the #1 media source in the Index’s universal power ranking thanks to its top quality in most regions and categories. Facebook also dominates iOS with more non-organic installs in the Shopping vertical in addition to all Gaming genres, excluding Midcore. Furthermore, it is the undisputed leader in the retargeting index (see more below).

Apple Search Ads Going Strong, Still Has Plenty of Untapped Growth Potential

The hyper competitive App Store and subsequent challenging organic app discovery has led app marketers to invest heavily in moving up the rankings. As a result, ASO is becoming increasingly more important, while Apple Search Ads (ASA) is also rapidly growing, giving marketers the ability to showcase their app using a paid channel. 

ASA enjoyed an 82% jump in their share of the global app install pie. Most of this increase occurred in Q2 when the product was launched in 46 additional countries and regions, and from the Non-Gaming side of the business. 

Leveraging powerful user intent signals, ASA also improved its quality rankings across all categories. In H2 2018, Apple was a top 6 quality player in half the categories in the Index. This time around, they made the top 6 across the board, including a top 3 placement in 60% of rankings, in both Gaming and Non-Gaming genres.

Despite its strides, ASA still has some way to go before reaching the industry’s top players. But the good news for Apple is that it has significant untapped growth potential, as fewer than 20% of apps running on iOS are actually using this channel in their UA mix. Another potential source of growth on the gaming side is the launch of game subscription service Apple Arcade later this year.

Game On: AppLovin and ironSource Battle for Gaming Domination

AppLovin has already established itself as the clear #3 in the Gaming app space. But they shouldn’t rest on their laurels, as ironSource continues its upward trajectory, gaining ground on AppLovin. In Edition IX, ironSource grew faster than AppLovin, increasing its share in the Gaming app install pie by 32%, compared to AppLovin’s 10%. 

Strategic decisions in H2 2018 helped AppLovin boost scale and quality with the launch of their own publishing house (Lion Studios, which quickly rose to the top charts), and the acquisition of MAX mediation. 

ironSource is also leveraging their strong mediation platform, building a large portfolio of partners with stable daily spend. Clearly, having your own mediation platform is an important part of a top gaming network’s arsenal, as it seeks to capitalize on the rapid growth of in-app advertising.

Unity Ads and Vungle are also enjoying a larger piece in the gaming app install pie, holding strong in the 5th and 6th places (respectively) across most regions. Unity increased its share by 30%, while Vungle set the tone with a 36% jump. 

Mobile gaming is rapidly growing and it’s clear that Facebook and Google are still in a league of their own. In the meantime, however, AppLovin, ironSource, Unity, and Vungle are pushing their offerings to advertisers, increasing their share of the gaming install pie at the expense of the duopoly ( 25% vs -10%).

Social Network Success Not Limited to Facebook

Snap: Echoing its recent positive earnings report, Snap generated 62% more installs in H1 2019, leading to a 10% rise in the app install pie. Most of its growth was driven by Non-Gaming apps, particularly Shopping, which jumped 45%, and mostly in iOS, with double the number of installs compared to Android. A regional deep dive showed growth in Snap’s traditional North American user base ( 14%), but also an aggressive push in new regions, especially the Middle East where it leaped 255%.

Pinterest: The social network has more than doubled its reach in H1 2019. Due to the nature of its 300 million strong monthly user base (up 30% year over year), Pinterest’s growth is largely seen in the Shopping and Life & Culture groups, and almost exclusively in North America.

Although trailing behind Twitter and Snap in North American adoption, Pinterest experienced a 190% jump in the number of apps running ads on the platform in H1 2019. It is also becoming increasingly popular for lifestyle-related iOS apps (with only 17% of the client base running on Android). Pinterest is poised to continue its growth in the mobile app space with a recently launched mobile ad tool and increased diversity of its client base.

Twitter: The micro-messaging network is driving increased revenue and reach, according to its recent earnings report that beat estimates. On the app install stage, Twitter’s share in the pie has increased by 15%, gaining the most ground in North America ( 60%) and Southeast Asia ( 107%). Despite increased scale, its high quality rank remains intact. 

Only a small percentage of Twitter’s installs come from Gaming apps, which is surprising considering the fact that it owns top mediation platform MoPub. However, this could change by connecting mediation to UA to drive substantial growth. It certainly paid off for ironSource and is likely to bear fruit for AppLovin as well (following the acquisition of MAX mediation).

TikTok Ads Poised to Become Major Global Player with #1 Spot in Growth Index

Video creation app sensation TikTok is aggressively monetizing users via TikTok Ads (known as Ocean Engine in China), making waves in the global install market. The Chinese giant’s share in the pie skyrocketed 10 times, growing across APAC, North America, and Europe. 

TikTok Ads has already broken into the top 10, and thanks to the explosive growth of TikTok and TopBuzz, along with rumors about their own audience network, we believe we will be hearing more about them in future Indexes. 

Looking back, we can see a persistent trend in the Growth Index. For most media sources, making the ranking is a one-time thing. That means that maintaining growth in this hyper competitive space is very difficult, so companies must stay alert, recognize potential, and move fast to stay relevant. On a positive note, the fact that we see new faces with different types of products and qualities demonstrates that this industry has plenty of opportunities for those who can survive.   

Facebook Dominates Retargeting Index as Use of Activity is on the Rise

Retargeting is becoming increasingly more important for mobile marketers, with a staggering 57% year-over-year increase in the number of apps running this activity. Facebook is clearly capitalizing on this key trend, dominating the Index with the majority of app retargeting conversions.

Google is also making strides in retargeting, climbing 5 places in the Gaming ranking and surpassing retargeting powerhouse Criteo in the Non-Gaming Index. 

When you look at the actual scale of retargeting conversions versus its potential, it is evident that retargeting is set for explosive growth, especially among Gaming apps, which claim only 2% of total retargeting conversions. This translates to a mere 15% of these apps even running retargeting campaigns in the first place, despite a significant performance uplift for those who do. It will be interesting to see which Gaming-centered, UA-driven ad networks will offer a retargeting solution as their next big growth opportunity. 

Budgets Shifting from Fraudulent to Clean Networks

Fraud has a strong influence on the rankings, but the good news is that the overall direction in H1 2019 was positive, as advertisers shifted budgets from fraudulent to non-fraudulent networks. In fact, the install share coming from fraudulent networks dropped by 60%, while the number of installs coming from clean sources — a much larger share — grew by 25%. 

Clearly, fraudulent networks are continuing down the wrong path. The only exception worth a callout is Appnext which has made a bold decision to go clean despite the financial implications. This led to an impressive achievement — a dramatic reduction in their fraud rate.

Liftoff Elevating to New Heights

Liftoff’s share in the app install pie has increased an impressive 115%, mostly driven by Gaming and significant growth in Eastern Europe, in addition to its main base in North America.

The network performed particularly well in the massive universal Casual Gaming Index, climbing seven places to reach the #5 position in the volume ranking. With that said, in terms of quality, Liftoff held its position from the last Index, closing the top 10.

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