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App Growth Talks: Niels Beenen on Mobile Attribution Challenges

This is the latest episode of App Growth Talks, interviews with experts on mobile marketing and growth. This time we have Niels Beenen, Strategic Partnerships Lead at Singular, as our special guest. Niels has over a decade experience working with fast-paced start-ups and technology companies in sales, online and mobile advertising technology.

Singular is the next-gen attribution and marketing analytics platform. The company empowers marketers to drive growth with unified marketing data, intelligent insights, and automation.

In this interview, Niels shares his personal experience of working in the mobile ad domain, breaks down key mobile trends in 2022, gives actionable tips on how to build an effective mobile marketing strategy and overcome mobile attribution challenges.

Niels, could you please share your personal experience: how did you start working in the mobile ad domain? 

I think my trajectory into mobile, and more specifically into mobile gaming, is similar to most people — it was a coincidence. 

I previously worked in the media industry in London, predominantly selling ad-tech solutions to media agencies. I was then approached by a company in Berlin that worked with many online F2P publishers — this was before mobile games were a thing.

From there I started working on my first UA campaigns with mobile developers and everyday I learned something new. I think we sometimes underestimate how quickly we got used to the terms that we now use on a daily basis; CPI, ARPDAU, MMP — these things didn’t exist 10 years ago.

I have a feeling that with Web3 we are at a similar point as when f2p mobile gaming took off and I think it’s very exciting and we should enjoy the ride.

What noticeable trends in the mobile app industry would you specify for 2022?

In 2022 we will see an increased focus on what effects user privacy measures, I think ATT and Google Privacy Sandbox, will have on the effectiveness of performance marketing. This is in a way a continuation from 2021, but I do expect a crackdown by Apple on fingerprinting in some form which will push developers to work smarter with the data they get.

We will see tons of investment in Web3 businesses — developers but also platforms catering to the needs of these developers. But I don’t think 2022 will be ‘the year of Web3’ — I would think that a game that appeals to a critical mass will probably be around next year or the year after.

Are there any cases of your clients when they were able to scale with Apple Search Ads?

I think this is the challenge for most clients and this is where the SplitMetrics value proposition comes in. I do see that when customers invest in Apple Search Ads as a channel by working with a specialized agency, they do tend to maximize the results they can get out of the channel.

Please share challenges in mobile attribution you see the industry has been facing recently.

The biggest challenge of course has been on iOS with the whole industry needing to adapt to Apple’s ATT Framework.

Now what’s interesting is that the apocalyptic messaging we saw at the end of 2020 and at the start of 2021 has been replaced with more nuanced views on what the exact impact is of an opt-in based mobile landscape on iOS.

One of the biggest winners of ATT is in fact Apple itself, and we can see this in the growth of Apple Search Ads as a channel in 2021.

What we are seeing in 2022 is that to a large degree companies are still defaulting on fingerprinting and neglecting solid testing how to make their SKAN campaigns successful although yesterday would have been a good time to test mixed conversion modeling or modeled conversion values.

I do think that 2022 will have some additional surprises in store that will force performance marketers to look at their iOS activities again and figure out how they can work with SKAN.

On Android, we will see the gradual rollout of Google Privacy Sandbox in the next two years and this shows that one of the key themes of our industry will remain user privacy.

How does Singular help to face this challenge?  Have you fully adjusted to the new, iOS14 reality?

At Singular, we worked with our Customers and Apple directly from day one to provide them with the most advanced SKAdNetwork solutions in the market and we keep innovating. Some large mobile brands have recently joined the Singular family because we provided them with the best tools to maximize the opportunities on iOS and navigate this new reality.

Brands that have been early adopters have a great competitive advantage over brands that are still ‘on the fence’. Even when the ‘opt-out’ group on iOS may represent a comparatively small audience (and this varies per GEO), it is still a massive audience.

Bear in mind the vast majority of marketing activity on iOS is through SKAN and if you want to be successful with the largest platforms in the market, having a proven SKAN strategy is imperative.

What would you advise to do to build an effective mobile marketing (or paid UA) strategy?

Maybe let’s focus on the gaming vertical here for the sake of the arguments presented. What I would advise is to really have a sound testing approach.

By this I mean that marketers should consider testing a variety of countries during a soft launch and carefully consider which market mechanics these GEOs are supposed to mimic. Also consider the match with your specific genre.

Then, ASO during soft launch can help you improve conversion rates significantly and make a huge difference further down the line.

On Google specificallyб it’s worth to pre-register games to get reviews and chart rankings faster, test and optimize store listings, and use Google’s managed publishing and staged rollout features.

Then finally you must test multiple networks at an early stage to understand how these can perform further down the line & gather initial learnings. You don’t want to postpone this to when you are in full blast UA.

Where, do you think, the whole industry is moving?

I definitely think that we are moving towards a mass adoption of Web3-based entertainment and gaming is simply a part of this. On a macro level, we can of course see Facebook already rebranding to Meta and thereby telling us that the company expects a mass adoption. This week I saw OneFootball receiving a 300MM investment and to me this shows the potential of finding how NFTs, for example, have the potential for mass adoption which in itself will lead to a broader audience familiarizing itself with blockchain technology.

What this leads to in our industry is that we will see new data sources & types pop up that will offer challenges in the field of marketing analytics and measurement, but at the same time a tremendous opportunity for innovation. Personally, I am very excited to be part of this journey because we are back at a stage where you simply learn by doing and going with the flow, which means there will not be a boring day for the foreseeable future.