App Marketing

A data-driven look at the mobile attribution landscape

Simon Kendall
Head of Communications

Picking core technology partners is complicated, isn’t it?

You want to make the right decision out of the gate, and there’s a variety of product aspects and features to consider. Frequently, you’re not even quite sure what features you’ll need, let alone what you’ll need a year from now. At the same time, a lot of marketers want to find a solution that will work for them in the long term – to avoid having to switch later, so they’re able to focus on other challenges.

But how can you know if a vendor is right for your business when you’re not sure about your needs in the future? Equally, even if a partner fits your needs today, will the partner continue developing the software in the direction you’ll need?

What you want to know is that the partners you choose to work with are credibly committed to remaining the long-term partner that you want them to be – and one that you can grow with. It’s important that they don’t pivot away from the problem you’re trying to solve, change their operative focus to your disadvantage, or worse, go bankrupt. Beyond financial stability and product credibility, this also means looking at a partner’s priorities. They should certainly have you and your challenges in mind when developing their software, so they have the outspoken aim to work with businesses like yours in the future. If your business is just a stepping-stone to something else for them, when will they stop developing for your use case?

So in fact, what’s relevant for your buying decision is the positioning of your prospective partner. You want to be a priority client for your vendors, and you want your vendors to focus on serving you.

How are mobile measurement platforms like Adjust and its alternatives positioned?

Here’s our take: we’re focusing on building a premium, long-term solution without cutting corners. This means solving the most complex use cases and being ready to operate wherever our customers go. This also means that in order to be a long-term partner focused on our customers, we need to run a profitable company without the distraction of chasing funding or proving traction.

But since our business is analytics, we wanted to quantify this philosophy by pulling a huge dataset from Datanyze. In the chart below, we’ve mapped out the relative positioning of each of the leading measurement platforms, given the typical positioning trade-offs: customer size (large or small teams) versus geographical range (specific markets or a global range).

On the horizontal (X) axis, we’ve sorted the platforms based whether they are focused on a particular part of the world or not. In this case, we looked at the percentage of apps using each platform that are developed in EMEA, APAC or the Americas, and if any of those regions were much bigger than the others. Specifically, we calculated the variance, which is greater if a single market dominates and smaller if it is evenly distributed. Vendors that are further to the right in the chart below have a lower variance and are thus less concentrated in any particular market.

For the vertical Y axis, we’ve looked at how many apps had more than 500,000 installs as a percentage of all the apps that have integrated each vendor. Rule of thumb: the larger the install base, the greater the marketing budget. It follows that larger apps have more sophisticated (and expensive!) requirements on the measurement of their marketing budget, on the APIs, on heavy details like lookback periods and so on.

In our case, 47 percent of the apps that integrated Adjust this year have more than 500,000 installs. This reflects what we internally summarize as our premium positioning – we build things for the world’s biggest and most sophisticated mobile marketing teams.

It also means focusing on fewer companies but a larger slice of traffic.

Make no mistake: these are trade-offs, not obvious choices. A vendor can’t realistically support the heavy technical requirements of big, sophisticated mobile teams at the price point amenable to startups. You can’t focus on operating offices around the world, reading up on foreign privacy regulation, and cultivating relationships with partners from San Francisco to Stuttgart to Shanghai… and focus exclusively on the Bay Area at the same time.

Priorities are made – and your task as a buyer is to make sure that you and your vendors are a good match, and will continue to be in the long term.

Does positioning change over time?

The chart above uses data for all of the years available. But positioning isn’t some inherent, immutable quality of a company that vendors set and forget. Vendors have to maintain and develop where they stand in the market, and priorities can change as the market does. So let’s run the same numbers across only the SDKs that were integrated this year – effectively, mapping out the latest positioning standpoint of each of the vendors. 

It’s quite a different picture!

The growth and priorities of vendors can change from year to year. We’ve held firm on our philosophies, but it’s really interesting to see how the customer segments that various vendors are successful in changes over time. Keep in mind that positioning is always relative to other firms.

Note that we’ve consistently and exclusively sourced this data from Datanyze. They offer the most complete and detailed dataset, and mixing datasets from different sources is generally difficult without closely analyzing how they have been gathered. Due to limitations in Datanyze’s approach, these numbers currently only reflect Android apps. Furthermore, it’s not entirely complete. Comparing to our internal numbers, it seems the sample for each metric is about a third of the “true” population.

So while these charts are indicative and mirror our understanding of the market, it’s not a hard result.

So what’s the takeaway?

If you’re in the process of buying or evaluating a measurement platform, consider where your business is today and where you’re looking to go in the future. Does your app work outside your ‘home market’, or is it unrealistic to expand outside of that in the future? Will you need sophisticated, unrated APIs – now or in the future?

Here at Adjust, we’re more than happy to work with startups and smaller companies – we were a startup once, and some of our best partners today started out with a lone Head of Marketing before building a team. This segment is not underserved or deprioritized. Rather, these startups know that they will take advantage of the enterprise-level functionality and support, and are able to make that investment with us. They have multiple markets and are leveraging the power of our APIs even if their team is small. To us, they’re first-class citizens alongside the multinational brands.

For the startups that aren’t ready, we try to make it as easy as possible for marketers to escape the lock-in of an earlier solution. In fact, app marketers who migrate to us from other platforms are often easier to ‘bring up to speed’, as they already have some experience with measurement by then.

Our Buyer's Guide can help you make a much more informed decision about choosing the right attribution vendor for you. Download it here, and find out what an attribution platform fundamentally needs to incorporate in order to be considered as a complete solution.

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