Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy went into effect in April 2021, spawning a slew of think pieces about the imminent demise of mobile app marketing.Â
Without the ability to track users across apps, the thinking went, advertisers would be unable to leverage granular campaigns, publishers would fail to monetize their inventory, and measurement providers would go out of business entirely.
As we head into 2022, it is clear those concerns were not entirely unfounded â€” mobile app marketing measurement did at least temporarily struggle, user acquisition got more costly, and initial opt-in rates to tracking on iOS were grim.Â
But the data collected over the past year suggests ample cause for optimism. Advertisers, publishers, and measurement providers are quickly adjusting, and Apple’s privacy crackdown is cultivating innovation that might ultimately put the entire ecosystem on more ethically and commercially sound footing.
As mobile app marketers continue to assess the impact of privacy changes and the innovations that will allow the ecosystem to thrive in response, here are five mobile app marketing trends to look out for in 2022:
Innovation Will Allow Mobile Measurement To Recover
Mobile measurement did suffer in the early months following the implementation of the ATT. Traditional attribution dropped 25% by late June and another 5% by September, while marketers were slow to adopt SKAdNetwork, or SKANOpens a new window , Apple’s privacy-safe mobile marketing measurement framework.
But things turned around during the year. Traditional attribution rose 17% toward the end of 2021, and SKAN adoption accelerated.Â
What’s more, with traditional measurement methods weakening, marketers turned to more sophisticated models, such as utilizing predictive analytics more intensely and acquiring expertise in SKAN (particularly optimizing conversion values).
This year, those innovative efforts will blossom further as marketers increasingly come to accept the post-privacy state of play and develop long-term solutions to allow for measurement to the best degree possible.Â
In addition, increased adoption of SKAN and user tracking opt-ins will help marketers make the most of the tools readily available to them.
User Acquisition Costs Will Rise to New Heights
Mobile user acquisition budgets reached about $80 billion in 2021, a 40% YoY increase. This is no surprise. Privacy changes are decreasing available data and tracking, making it more expensive to attribute mobile marketing results to campaigns.
Unfortunately for mobile app advertisers, this trend is not going away. To top it off, we’ll see more non-organic installs as app marketers rely more heavily on advertising to meet their objectives.Â
A potential silver lining, however, is that the rate of change in costs is expected to decrease as advertisers and publishers settle into the new normal.
Marketers Will Invest More in Owned Media
ATT predictably made remarketing a lot tougher. Conversions plunged by almost 35% as marketers, deprived of the ability to track visitors across properties, lost the core capabilities required for remarketing.Â
To be sure, Google’s introduction of GBRAID, an aggregate and privacy-compliant identifier designed to optimize re-engagement campaigns, partially reversed this trend. That being said, post-ATT remarketing challenges remain.
Facing those difficulties, app marketers doubled down on owned media just like desktop publishers navigating the loss of third-party cookies. The use of owned media to re-engage existing users through push notifications, email, and in-app messages jumped almost 45% since April in iOS (compared to only a 17% lift in Android), according to AppsFlyerOpens a new window .Â
This year, we’ll see marketers continue to invest in owned media-driven marketing strategies while also exploring marketing automation tools and integrated audience segmentation to fill the gaps in remarketing.
Gaming Faces an Uphill Battle
Gaming apps depend heavily on user-level data signals. So, it’s not surprising that anti-tracking changes hit them hard, leading gaming in-app purchase revenue to decline 38% on iOS and 13% on Android (April â€“ September), according to an AppsFlyer reportOpens a new window .
It’s already safe to say that these challenges are not going anywhere. Granular data will continue to be hard to come by, and gaming companies will have to amass more first-party data and invest in strong predictive tools to fill the gaps ATT created.Â
Fortunately for them, gaming apps have always been the fastest learners and are certainly the best in the business at data-driven optimization. They are likely to determine inventive ways to retrieve effective insights and drive installs in the age of limited first-party data.
Tracking Opt-in Rates Will Climb
The core premise of the privacy era is that advertisers and publishers can no longer assume that users are amenable to giving up their personal data in exchange for free services. Instead, data collectors need to clarify the stakes of the value exchange and get consumers to understand what’s in it for them.Â
When ATT went into effect, many in the digital advertising community were caught off guard, failing to convince users that handing over some data is a fair price for mostly free content, entertainment, and tools.Â
But advertisers and publishers are now beginning to learn how to capitalize on the privacy era’s premise, and with their edification, users are getting more comfortable sharing information.
As a result, ATT opt-in rates consistently reached 46% during the final months of 2021, according to AppsFlyerOpens a new window . In 2022, opt-in rates will keep climbing as data collectors get better at explaining the added value for their users while implementing prompt best practices around timing, messaging, and layouts.Â
A Bright Future for Mobile App Marketing
Mobile app marketing is still adjusting to the privacy paradigm, which is already a boon to increasingly empowered end-users. Grim predictions about the future of mobile marketing will ultimately give way to an increasingly bright and more sustainable future.Â
Mobile apps remain the place to meet consumers as they go about their digital journeys. The ecosystem will emerge from the current period of adjustment better suited to serve end-users with marketing campaigns driven by consensual data led by companies with whom they are happy to engage.Â