Why user acquisition managers are more essential than ever post-IDFA
As recently as last year, the need for the user acquisition (UA) manager was questioned in the face of increasing advertising automation. With ad buying and performance evaluation becoming so streamlined, how would UA managers continue to provide value?
Then came iOS 14—and the upheavals the mobile ad space has been grappling with ever since. In light of these changes, UA managers have re-claimed their position as an essential resource for marketing teams to navigate a newly complex and ambiguous mobile advertising ecosystem on iOS.
Data ambiguity reintroduces guesswork to UA
Apple’s privacy changes beginning with iOS 14 have changed the nature of attribution and UA. UA marketers are faced with a loss of user-level data for iOS users who have not shared their IDFA via an AppTracking Transparency (ATT) Framework prompt. They have less visibility into how those users behave relative to their campaigns, cannot see accurate ROI or ROAS for each channel, and they face major disruptions to the previously increasingly automated UA workflow.
Keep in mind that for users who have opted-in using the ATT, UA marketing will look the same as it has because you will still be able to use the IDFA. This is why maximizing user opt-in is critical to gaining a competitive advantage on iOS. Also, for Android users, which are the majority in many markets, UA will look the same (for now).
Return of the UA manager
The mobile industry as a whole is moving toward increasing user privacy and controls around data access. This return of complexity and ambiguity has made the skills, creativity, and knowledge of individual UA managers (or full UA teams) more important than ever. Here are some of the new challenges and opportunities for UA teams to navigate in a mobile space increasingly focused on user privacy.
Working with SKAdNetwork and aggregated data
For iOS users who have not consented to share their IDFA, SKAdNetwork is the only Apple-approved way to get deterministic attribution data for installs, and it introduces complexity to UA teams in a number of ways.
First, UA managers need to understand how the aggregated, time-delayed SKADNetwork data points they receive can connect with the rest of their data and BI stack, manually work out discrepancies in data between sources, and rework all processes that utilized the IDFA. Core tasks such as user segmentation and behavioral modeling have become much more difficult, if not impossible in many cases. The implications of this change can vary so greatly on the organizational level that understanding them becomes an important skill in its own right.
Secondly, maximizing the use of SKAdNetwork and keeping up with its changes will be key for UA performance. UA teams need a granular understanding of SKAdNetwork in order to optimize the conversion value schema for their post-install attribution payload. This will allow them to capture as much insight they can into in-app usage within the first 24 hours, providing a flow of data from which they can learn and extrapolate on usage patterns.
UA teams will also need to keep up with Apple’s changes to SKAdNetwork, such as its update in iOS 15 to how postbacks with SKAdNetwork work. Understanding the implications of SKAdNetwork, optimizing the use of its features, and keeping up with its changes is an emergent field of its own that will require a knowledgeable UA professional who can keep up and think critically.
Utilizing a variety of strategies
Another outcome of an IDFA-less world is a renewed attention to other marketing channels. While ad buying and measurement will remain the core of successful UA, more than ever, marketing teams need to leverage every channel available to draw in new users and retain existing ones. This will require close collaboration between UA managers, creatives, and other marketers to develop and optimize strategies that have historically been less data-driven, for example:
- Using App Clips as a way to encourage organic app discovery, then encouraging users who interact with an App Clip to create an account. (An App Clip is a small part of an app that lets you do a task quickly, such as rent a bike, pay for parking, or order food. App Clips can be accessed in Safari, Maps, and Messages, or in the real world through NFC tags, QR codes, and App Clip Codes, which are unique markers that take you to specific App Clips.)
- Sending push notifications with personalized, targeted messages, and utilizing in-app messages to reach and retain active users.
- Integrating email marketing to communicate with and retarget users that have installed the app and/or created an account.
- Employing affiliate/invite programs and free trials/demos to attract new users.
- Exploring the potential of cross-promotion for developers with more than one app in their portfolio.
Creative testing and optimization
Some have seen the future of UA managers as applying their quantitative rigor from media buying to testing and optimizing creatives. Certainly, UA and creative have begun to come together, and the changes with iOS have only made this more important. iOS 15 introduces two new important features for UA marketers: product page optimization (PPO) and custom product pages, allowing marketers to test variations of App Store product page creatives and make unique product pages linked to specific target audiences for paid campaigns.
Understanding the target audience
Many marketers are rethinking their media mix and seeking new channels to find and attract users, such as contextual advertising with relevant publishers and appeals to social/UGC platform audiences with influencer marketing. This type of channel management is a historical core marketing function, but which requires some of the guesswork that performance marketing on mobile had begun to do away with.
To run high-performing campaigns in these channels, marketers need to know which platforms and communities their target audiences spend time on, as well as other apps they like to use, and produce creatives that will resonate with those audiences in their respective contexts.
Those UA marketers who have a deep understanding of the habits and values of their prospects will thrive. This connection with the audience is also a critical factor in inspiring customer loyalty post-install and gathering zero-party data that can help personalize user experiences for high user retention rates.
As the mobile ad ecosystem continues to rapidly evolve, UA managers who can expand and adapt to changing realities will continue to be an important contributor to user growth. While their jobs may get harder in some ways, measurement and optimization remain key to app marketing success.
To learn more about iOS 14.5+ and stay up to date on the latest trends, announcements and analyses, you can visit our resource center here.