Why Tracking & Attribution Technologies Are Transforming Mobile Marketing Forever

Mobile track­ing and attri­bu­tion have become increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult. How do you begin to track and attribute sophis­ti­cat­ed user jour­neys?

Elizabeth D Arcy-Potts By Elizabeth D Arcy-Potts from CAKE. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Track­ing and attri­bu­tion have undoubt­ed­ly become increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult in recent years, with the typ­i­cal user jour­ney becom­ing far more com­plex and frag­ment­ed. For exam­ple, a con­sumer sees a piece of PR for your com­pa­ny in a mag­a­zine and is prompt­ed to vis­it your web­site from their desk­top com­put­er at work. Lat­er, while com­mut­ing, they click a mobile dis­play ad for your com­pa­ny on their tablet and then make a pur­chase from their lap­top at home. How do you begin to track and attribute such a sophis­ti­cat­ed jour­ney?

In the past decade or so, adop­tion of online ana­lyt­ics tools has moved into the main­stream of com­mer­cial think­ing. Busi­ness­es have been uti­liz­ing these tools to cap­ture valu­able insights into con­sumer behav­ior to shape future mar­ket­ing activ­i­ty and opti­mize the return on invest­ment (ROI) of future mar­ket­ing spend.

In the world of dig­i­tal, change is relent­less. Just as mar­keters were final­ly get­ting to grips with track­ing the online behav­ior of desk­top and lap­top users, the phe­nom­e­nal growth in pop­u­lar­i­ty of mobile devices, such as smart­phones and tablets, has cre­at­ed a whole new set of chal­lenges for those seek­ing to track con­sumer behav­ior (espe­cial­ly those try­ing to accu­rate­ly attribute online con­ver­sions to indi­vid­ual chan­nels and adver­tis­ing affil­i­ates).

Senior mar­keters from a broad range of indus­tries and sec­tors told me at the recent Mobile World Con­gress in Barcelona that track­ing and attri­bu­tion are a top pri­or­i­ty in the com­ing 12 months. Many orga­ni­za­tions are look­ing to address these chal­lenges right now.

Mobile Marketing Tracking & Attribution

For those accus­tomed to track­ing con­ver­sions on tra­di­tion­al desk­top devices, know­ing when to use cook­ies, device IDs, or device fin­ger­print­ing on mobile cam­paigns remains some­thing of a mys­tery. How­ev­er, the accel­er­at­ing momen­tum of mobile as an ad plat­form demands that mar­keters’ track­ing activ­i­ty must evolve just as rapid­ly. Until recent­ly, mobile track­ing referred most­ly to the track­ing of mobile dis­play ads, user activ­i­ty on mobile web­sites and app down­loads:

  • Dis­play track­ing reports on the amount of impres­sions a mobile dis­play ad has achieved, its click-through rate (CTR) and, in some cas­es, con­ver­sions from those dis­plays, pro­vid­ing adver­tis­ers with an indi­ca­tion of which pub­lish­ers and affil­i­ates are per­form­ing well and how well the cre­ative of that ad dri­ves a con­ver­sion. Dis­play ads are typ­i­cal­ly tracked using an SDK (Soft­ware Devel­op­ment Kit) or sim­i­lar track­ing code imple­ment­ed on an affiliate/publisher appli­ca­tion. This requires the affiliate/publisher to place track­ing code, pro­vid­ed by the adver­tis­er, on the land­ing page the dis­play ad will be served. Alter­na­tive­ly, the pub­lish­er may place their own code and pro­vide report­ing direct­ly to the adver­tis­er. Both par­ties can track what is being dis­played, how often, and if a user clicks.
  • Mobile web­site track­ing is, in some ways, sim­i­lar to desk­top track­ing with cook­ies but not with­out its chal­lenges. For exam­ple, if you decide to track app installs by drop­ping cook­ies, you will need to redi­rect your con­sumer to a land­ing page after the ini­tial click and then again after the app install, in order for that cook­ie to be dropped and tracked.
  • App down­load track­ing allows mar­keters to gauge the effec­tive­ness of their mar­ket­ing efforts in dri­ving con­sumers to down­load apps and attribute the cor­rect sources of traf­fic. That said, track­ing installs alone doesn’t tell you much about how the app is per­form­ing. Prob­lem­at­i­cal­ly, attribut­ing mobile app installs (and track­ing user actions beyond the install) depends on a cook­ie-less mech­a­nism. This is where many sea­soned per­for­mance mar­keters get lost.

Developing A Successful Mobile Engagement Strategy

How­ev­er, as an exam­ple of how the track­ing require­ments of most orga­ni­za­tions have become more com­plex, the mas­sive pop­u­lar­i­ty of mobile apps demands that mar­keters now move beyond the track­ing of app down­loads to cap­ture the deep­er insights offered by track­ing the in-app engage­ment of users.

Devel­op­ing a suc­cess­ful mobile engage­ment strat­e­gy depends on, first, clear­ly defin­ing the actions that cre­ate val­ue for your brand and under­stand­ing each event lead­ing up to these actions.

The mak­ers of a game app or mobile web­site, for exam­ple, would be inter­est­ed in mea­sur­ing how often users log-in, how long they play and how much they spend on the pur­chase of “add-ons” like lives, coins, or weapons. A per­son­al bud­get­ing app, on the oth­er hand, may offer no in-app pur­chase func­tion­al­i­ty at all and, there­fore, define suc­cess­ful engage­ment quite dif­fer­ent­ly.

If your head is already spin­ning at the thought of tack­ling even the mobile ele­ments of your mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, let alone your entire cross-chan­nel cam­paign, don’t wor­ry. The lat­est gen­er­a­tion of in-app track­ing tech offers a cen­tral­ized infor­ma­tion hub, where dif­fer­ent sorts of data (e.g., affil­i­ate web track­ing, affil­i­ate track­ing, mobile track­ing, in-app track­ing, etc.) can be col­lat­ed and ana­lyzed side by side in absolute real-time.

As recent­ly as 25 years ago, it was impos­si­ble to pre­dict that the rise of the Inter­net, togeth­er with the remark­able growth in the pop­u­lar­i­ty and com­put­ing pow­er of mobile devices, would trans­form the com­mer­cial world beyond recog­ni­tion. The world of mar­ket­ing has, at times, strug­gled to keep pace.

While cre­ativ­i­ty and dri­ve remain cru­cial com­po­nents of any mar­ket­ing cam­paign, mar­keters who fail to also pro­vide com­plete trans­paren­cy and deep insight into the effec­tive­ness of their activ­i­ty will come under increas­ing pres­sure.

Smart mar­keters will embrace and har­ness the new gen­er­a­tion of track­ing and attri­bu­tion tech­nolo­gies to val­i­date and shape their mobile strate­gies and cam­paigns in real-time, thus max­i­miz­ing the ROI of future spend­ing.

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Elizabeth D Arcy-Potts

Written by Elizabeth D Arcy-Potts

Sales Director, Europe, CAKE

Elizabeth has been selling software for 9 years, beginning her career at American blue chip consultancy The Corporate Executive Board. Immediately before moving to CAKE as Sales Director, Europe, Elizabeth was working as a BDM at Performance Horizon Group where she worked with global accounts like etsy, SWISS Air, Etihad Airlines, McAfee and major UK and Germany based agencies.

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