What is Mobile App Attribution?

Understanding mobile app attribution is crucial for understanding your download traffic. Continue reading to understand what it is, and how to measure it effectively.
Published July 19, 2022

About the author
Bart Stemkens is a growth advisor for tech startups. He loves building online businesses and bringing them to live through bold ideas.

Statistics show that 88% of the time people spend on mobile devices goes to apps. We cannot blame them. From social media, hotel and transportation bookings, and even food orders, there is an app for that.

From the perspective of mobile advertising, this means utilizing every tool you can find to have a whole functional marketing funnel. To achieve this, we need help from a specific tool— a mobile app attribution platform.

What is mobile app attribution?

From the dictionary, attribution means the action of regarding something as being caused by a person or thing. On the other hand, mobile app attribution attributes app installs and interactions to a marketing source such as ads or marketing campaigns.  

Mobile attribution gathers information about everything that happens when a user interacts with a mobile ad. Moreover, it can also identify necessary cohorts that respond to these campaigns. Information such as IP address, advertising ID, timestamp, etc., are gathered collectively in the hopes of understanding user behavior.

Different types of mobile app attribution

Most of the time, user behavior depends on how the campaigns influence their actions. Hence, single-channel attribution rarely produces relevant data for mobile marketers and product professionals. This is where we have to account for real-world mobile app attribution applications for more reliability. 

  • Cross-Channel or Cross-Platform Attribution- This type of attribution tracks user conversions from their original digital source. When we get conversions, it is essential that we can identify the exact origin of the user.

For example, you were lurking on Instagram when an ad about keyboard caps interested you. You opened the ad and browsed for products when you realized you do not have the budget for them yet. On the day of your payment, you then remembered the keyboard caps you’ve been wanting, went to google search, looked for the app, and downloaded it before purchasing it.

In that case, an attribution provider may inform that the install was an organic app store download. But, a cross-channel attributor would argue the relevance of the Instagram advertisement.

  • Cross-Device Attribution-. This type of attribution enables tracking user conversions with a mobile to-app history. This allowed a more comprehensive range of analysis of how users saw your marketing campaign to users downloading your app by including the usage of different devices.

For instance, you are looking for new clothes for the upcoming wedding of your best friend. While browsing on Facebook, you see a clothes shop advertisement and then click to view it before exiting the website.

A few days before the wedding, you suddenly remembered the clothes shop you saw on the web and immediately looked for an app on the app store. Luckily, you saw it and then purchased a beautiful dress.

Cross-device attribution acknowledges the information about how you saw the advertisement by web browsing on Facebook before downloading the app in the app store. 

Why do we need mobile app attribution?

An excellent mobile attribution maximizes studying users and strategic planning based on the observed behavior. Its goal is to deliver insights based on the data collected to make more optimized marketing decisions.

Mobile attribution does its job by looking into user details and behavior. We then use the gathered information to answer these questions:

  1. Which of the campaign has gathered the most conversions?
  2. Which ads do we have to stop because it’s not delivering our target ROAS?
  3. What changes do we need to make the ad campaigns more effective?

We spend much of our time, effort, and money on advertising campaigns. We need to gather important information about how the campaigns are doing, or we might waste everything. 

How does mobile attribution work?

Mobile app attribution works more straightforwardly than you think. To produce user data, it must trace what marketing activities are the origin of the app installs. One vital factor in this process is to identify each of the users.

But how does the identification of the individual users work? Web attribution uses cookies on websites to provide information about visiting users. It has free tools such as Google Analytics that give information about different factors such as the page view numbers, top referrers, top visited pages, and the time spent by the user on the website.

However, in the mobile world, tools like that are pretty limited. Android and iOS do not have Google Analytics or cookies that allow developers to track what their users are or where their users come from. So how does mobile app attribution work?

To solve this problem, people create mobile app attribution platforms. The platforms offer software development kits or SDKs to help the developers reach their goals. SDKs allow the development and integration of tools that will provide useful information. The application code alerts the attribution SDKs when different events take place in your app, and then SDKs send events back to the mobile app attribution platform.

The attribution platforms collect the events based on extra information like IP address, location, operating system, installation time, and much more. The tracking is made possible through AAID on android and IDFA on iOS. Mobile operating systems provide these to create mobile app attribution work.

What are the most mobile app attribution platforms?

There have been several attribution platforms, and most of these providers have been able to commit to their promised services. According to AppFigures, these are the most downloaded app attribution providers:

  • AppMetrica – AppMetrica is at the top of the most used by Android developers and fourth by iOS. It is a part of Yandexone of the largest internet companies in Europe based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and headquartered in Moscow, Russia.

    Yandex first created AppMetrica as an internal tool before becoming a universal tool for developers needing data analytics for their apps. It is free and unlimited, which makes it more interesting.

    Though there are some concerns regarding its security, Yandex makes sure that it abides with Europe Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and local legislation. This does not seem to bother other developers as it continues to become one of the most used attribution platforms.

  • Appsflyer– Appsflyer is the top most used mobile app attribution by iOS developers and the second by Android. The website claimed that the leading marketing and product team uses it to provide desirable results for app growth, deliver excellent mobile services, and, most importantly, protect customer privacy.

    Appsflyer promises to protect your app, and your customers should never be compromised. Moreover, it promises rapid innovation as the digital world evolves from time to time.

  • Adjust–  Adjust is another popular platform ranked third most used by both Apple and Android users. The platform lays out how they have all the necessary features to scale.

    It also assures that it will guide developers towards smarter decisions and grow lifetime values. In addition to that, Adjust asserts that they are easy to use and provide rigorous customer protection.

  • Branch Metrics– Branch is also one of the most trusted app attributions, ranking second by iOS developers and fourth by Android. It assures to usher you toward business growth with its “enterprise-grade solutions designed to increase end-to-end user engagement and provide a holistic measurement of marketing effectiveness across all devices, channels, and platforms.”

Moreover, Branch Metrics highlights the accuracy of their provisions through high-quality data obtained from strong deep links. 

There are more attribution platforms you need to check out, like Singular, Kochava, and MAX by Applovin. Despite the number of suitable platforms picking the right one depends on your style and what weighs the most for you.

Does budget concern you? Then pick the free ones like AppMetrica. Does security concern you the most? Then select the ones that assure you. As long as your chosen platform delivers the result you need for in-depth analysis and helps your business grow. It is still the right choice.

Do you still need more help understanding the meaning of mobile app attribution? Or do you need help setting up app attribution? Worry no more. We got all the services that you need today. Contact us now, and together we will help you get started.