The Marketer's Guide to Mobile Attribution

May 16, 2024
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Mobile attribution is a crucial tool in the mobile marketer’s tool belt. Discover why in our guide.

Track how your ads lead to app installs and down-funnel actions

Information is everything for performance marketing. Without it, advertising is a black box where money goes in, results come out, and you won’t be able to optimize decisions that lead to successful conversion metrics and other crucial KPIs. For mobile app marketers, helpful data comes from mobile attribution.

It’s how marketers can tell if their ad campaigns are leading to app downloads. But why is it important? And which attribution models work best? Our guide explores answers to these questions and provides best practices to help you optimize ROAS for your campaign.

Ready to explore more angles of attribution? Check out The Modern Marketer's Guide to Attribution.

What Is Mobile Attribution?

Mobile attribution is the process marketers use to connect their advertising campaigns to resulting app installs. It also measures the actions that users take once they’ve installed the app.

Why Is Mobile Attribution Important?

Without mobile attribution, marketers won’t know whether their ad campaigns successfully convert users according to their targeted goals.

For example, if you’re running a burst campaign to acquire new users for a mobile game, you’re likely going to run ads across a variety of sources, like social media, websites, and maybe even linear or connected television (CTV) advertising. Many of these channels allow you to track user engagement and follow them throughout the customer journey, from seeing the ad for the first time to when they finally engage with the ad and download your game. 

With mobile attribution, you can connect the dots between which channels they interacted with and which they converted with. By understanding which channels lead to installs, you can then incrementally tweak elements of your campaign — such as channel spend or ad content — to optimize your KPIs. 

Mobile attribution isn’t just helpful in tracking app installs. You can also use it to tie marketing efforts to down-funnel engagement, such as in-app purchases, event engagement, or retention rates. It can even measure reattribution as lapsed users re-install or open your app after engaging with an ad.

However, the quality of your attribution app data is only as good as the platforms you’re advertising on. CTV is one of the most effective ways to broadcast your app to the public, combining traditional television's broad reach and attention-grabbing creative with the performance marketing capabilities of mobile channels. Download our free ebook today and discover how to leverage CTV advertising to reach nearly three-quarters of US households while enhancing your mobile attribution capabilities. 

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Common Mobile Attribution Models

There are several different ways to measure mobile attribution. While some offer a more comprehensive look into your data, they each have their purpose, and no single method provides a definitive answer. Instead, view each method as a piece of a larger puzzle that you can fit together as your data allows.

Typically, mobile app attribution models fall into two categories: single-touch attribution and multi-touch attribution.

Single-touch Attribution

Single-touch app attribution captures and measures a single point in the customer journey. There are two types of single-touch attribution models:

  • First-touch attribution gives conversion weight to the first interaction in the customer journey.
  • Last-touch attribution gives conversion weight to the last interaction in the customer journey.

While these methods are generally fast and easy to calculate, they don’t give you a complete picture of how all of your channels affect customer conversion. If you rely on these models too heavily, you may reduce spend on helpful channels that lead to conversions, even if they aren’t the direct lead into that conversion.

Multi-touch Attribution

Multi-touch app attribution captures and measures touchpoints throughout the customer journey. It is more complex and time-consuming to calculate, and privacy changes from Apple and Google make this data more challenging to capture. However, multi-touch attribution models are generally worth the effort, as they provide a more holistic view of how your channels contribute to your marketing goals.

There are four types of multi-touch attribution models:

  • Linear attribution evenly distributes credit across the entire customer journey.
  • Time decay attribution increases the weight of customer touchpoints the closer they are to the conversion.
  • U-shaped attribution prioritizes the first and last interactions in the customer journey.
  • W-shaped attribution distributes credit across the first, last, and conversion interactions.

Mobile Attribution Best Practices

To get the most accurate and actionable data possible, keep the following best practices in mind when you’re choosing and implementing a mobile attribution method:

  • Choose a helpful performance marketing partner: Mobile privacy initiatives have fundamentally changed how marketers gather and analyze customer data. That’s why it’s essential to choose a marketing partner that will increase your access to quality first-party data and enhance your analytics capabilities. For example, tvScientific offers powerful mobile attribution capabilities for CTV campaigns alongside access to over 15,000 unique audience segments.
  • Increase attribution accuracy with deep linking: If you’re trying to boost conversions of a specific action within your app, incorporate deep linking techniques to connect users directly to that action. This tactic applies unique tags to the link in your advertising that takes users right to the page or action within your app rather than its home or landing page. Doing so reduces the potential for user friction, decreasing the number of steps customers need to take to complete your call to action. You’ll also have a much better idea of how successful your ad is if there are fewer obstacles in the way, increasing the quality of your attribution data.
  • Utilize incrementality testing to optimize performance: Once you’ve gathered enough attribution data, you can decide how to modify your campaign to better take advantage of this new information. Rather than making sweeping decisions all at once, you can test the waters with incrementality testing. This process uses a form of A/B testing that displays your updated ad and an unaltered version of your ad in front of small audiences to determine whether the changes are more effective. If you see a positive incremental lift in the engagement metrics of the new ad, you can funnel more resources into it.

Get More Actionable Insights

Ultimately, mobile attribution aims to give you the information you need to make better marketing decisions. And if you’re looking for a marketing partner that provides high-quality, actionable data, tvScientific is here to help.

tvScientific’s CTV marketing platform leverages the reach and attention-commanding advertising canvas of the television screen along with robust performance marketing tools to boost campaign effectiveness. Segment and target hyper-specific audiences, test and optimize ad creative, and attribute conversion metrics across the entire customer journey. 

Want to learn more? Request a free demo today.