What makes up the mobile tech stack?

James Haslam

Mar 4, 2020

The concept of a tech stack suggests all the parts fit together in an orderly fashion, like Legos, with no overlaps and no incongruencies. But nothing could be further from the truth. Marketers want to idealize the perfect setup, but the reality is much messier. What you get out of your tech stack depends on how well you understand your expectations and limitations — and this means having a firm grasp of your needs, resources, and (most importantly) time.

There are several “stacks” out there. The Mobile Growth Stack, for example, refers to the mix of engagement activities mobile marketers take to reach users. But this is a stack that details the tools and tech across all the stages and phases of marketing, from acquisition to advocacy, a complex customer journey that is beyond the scope of this guide. You’re here to become a better mobile marketer, so let’s focus on what you need to get there.

Data makes the world go round

It makes sense to begin with what you need to unlock the power and value of your greatest asset: data. Data is the lifeblood of all businesses — including yours. Ironically, data is not a case of “bigger is better.” On the contrary, it’s not enough to have a lot. You have to be able to put it to good use.

Make data a team effort, putting everyone in your team in charge of keeping it fresh and organized. Keep a watch on where your data makes sense, and where it falls short — throwing out models and tables that fail to deliver insights along the way. After all, data will change and you have to bake flexibility into your approach.

Now that you have the right mindset to make data the cornerstone of your marketing strategy and the foundation of your tech stack, let’s start building.

Back to the stack

What does this involve? A first must-have is a place to store the data you are collecting. This is known as a Customer Data Platform, or CDP. A CDP is a great solution for centralizing and analyzing your business’s data. It increases the availability of data, boosts efficiency in analytics, and improves the quality of information needed for campaign reporting.

This takes us to the next must-have: a method to track and measure paid performance. It’s not enough to pick your events (such as level up, or add to cart) and start tracking. You need to be sure the data collected is accurate and appropriate.

Finally, you need a way to visualize data. In practice, this demands you have the ability to centralize data in one location, but also a powerful visualization component. Data is only valuable when it’s shared, so make sure it is accessible to all stakeholders. This can do more than boost performance on a given campaign. It can create a company culture that embraces data for what it is: a growth engine.

Your database

All your data around all the activities going on in and around your app has to be stored in one central place where everyone can access it to do their job better. This is our already-mentioned CDP, colloquially known as a data warehouse. CDPs connect to other critical tools and services to centralize and organize the data you receive from different places.

To get a clear picture of your data, you have to do more upfront. Invest the effort to conduct an audit of your data, inventorying your app's events and data points. Once you have an overview of your app, make it actionable by implementing a categorization and defined naming system all your teams can understand. This is crucial to getting a headstart on success (we talk about naming conventions in a recent post with Adjust’s GM Israel, Moshi Blum).

Tips to nailing naming conventions

Naming conventions bring consistency and clarity across your marketing data. Get them right, and they don’t just help you cope with the volume of data you collect, but also speed up your data analysis process.

The rule of thumb is to focus on only the most important variables, such as demographics, audience, geo, date and type of media. Creating consistent formatting enables your analytics or visualization tool to display your data effectively. Discrepancies become identifiable, and discussions more actionable.

Measuring mobile paid ad performance

Ensuring your team has the structure, tools and rules in place to deal with data paves the way for you to act. Working with an attribution provider gives marketers visibility into every aspect of your app. From the channels that brought in your most valuable users to the actions they took (or avoided) in your game, shop or tool, you get a comprehensive view of everything you need to know to determine which marketing campaigns and activities are hitting targets, and which are missing by a mile.

More importantly, you can judge the success or failure of your initiatives at a glance. Sure, you could be working with dozens of ad networks and partners to market or monetize your app, but you won’t have to wade through an equal number of dashboards. An attribution provider allows you to centralize your campaigns into one view.

Working with an attribution provider isn’t just a way to cope with the complexity of data. Independent attribution providers (those that do not have a media buying arm) are in a position to assume the role of ecosystem regulators. Their impartiality, neutrality and transparency make them trusted players able to measure and report on campaign performance. Put simply, attribution providers are “a single point of truth” that acts as a middleman between you and the networks you work with, ensuring that the sources of install are credited and fair.

Finally, the best attribution providers also offer extra features, such as fraud prevention to retargeting improvements or automation, allowing you to augment your mobile marketing. Both are a bonus and help you advance your efficiency or workflow processes.

Beyond the install: Customer Relationship Management

Speaking of automation, there are several tools that equip marketers to engage users. Harnessing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms are a sure-fire way to ensure users return, not churn. In practice, such tools equip you to manage and master the ways you interact with users after they’ve downloaded your app to drive frequent use and lasting loyalty. At one level, CRM helps marketers to reach and activate audiences on multiple mediums while automating redundant tasks, or workflows that needn't be changed beyond setup.

CRM tools handle the ongoing interactions you have with customers who have already downloaded your app, in the form of push notifications, in-app messages, email and even SMS. Through these channels you can customize your creatives, and the timing of emails. CRM moves into automation when you set up the rules that the tools can run themselves.

Mobile-first CRM platforms give you critical visibility into how your user base retains, and respond to their user experience post-install, as well as the ability to reach and influence customer action down the line. As serving the customer post-install comes to the fore, marketers need to increasingly prioritize using these tools to get an edge on their competition.

Visualize your data

It’s not enough to have your data, you also need to view it. A data visualization tool turns your spreadsheets into readable charts that you can then use to gain insights.

Setting up with the right tool depends on the needs of the people who generate the reports, and the people who feed in the data. For example, marketers without a background in SQL won’t necessarily want to learn a new skill to query data. Equally, data engineers want efficiency in their tasks, and an elaborate setup will cause problems in the long run.

Tools often run separately from your BI or CDP, but increasingly they’re part of the package — so audit your data warehouses carefully to understand if their capabilities match your expectations

Building your stack

Creating your stack doesn’t need to be complicated, but making the right investment at the right time can be crucial to your marketing performance. Making the wrong choice can also be costly, as it takes more time to switch to a more feature-rich or reliable partner. The best tip? Do more of the leg work up front and set up an in-depth audit with internal stakeholders to help decide on the tool for you. Our Buyer’s Guide has several examples of attribution criteria that we think are essential to mobile marketers.

The stack is what you make it. App marketers starting out won’t need all these tools to begin with. Instead, gradually building the toolset for their specific requirements is a better plan. Tools don’t make user acquisition come alive, but insights, data and the right decision making do. Hone your skills before trying to let the vendors do the work, and you’ll be a master of mobile in no time.

The Back to Basics guide is the first step in your journey to becoming an expert marketer. Download your copy now and learn the fundamentals of mobile marketing today.

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