January 30, 2014, 4:56 PM

Why it’s critical to track conversions for your mobile app

A retailer needs to understand what’s prompting consumers to download its mobile app if it’s to effectively encourage more downloads, says a TapSense executive.

When it comes to managing resources and making a marketing strategy more effective, one piece of data matters more than almost anything else: knowing which channel is responsible for driving the downloads of your app. This is called conversion tracking.

What is conversion tracking?

When you log into your app store account, you can find out how many downloads there were in a given period of time, but it won’t show where they came from. Why not? All app stores are a black box. Cookies, JavaScript and other PC web technologies do not work with apps. In order to measure app downloads by channel, marketers need to install a conversion-tracking technology platform. Once you see where your downloads are coming from (or not coming from), you can adapt your strategy to your business goals, channel by channel.

How does it work?

Conversion tracking starts with the user clicking on a link from a channel such as an e-mail or mobile ad. The user is then taken to the app store, where they download the app onto their device. Once the app is downloaded, the mobile app conversion tracking technology matches that user to the marketing source.

The basis of this technology is a small piece of code inserted into the app that is called the SDK (Software Development Kit). The SDK communicates with the server and sends data from the app, matching downloads to the links that users clicked from a marketing channel. (In the PC web world, the job of the SDK is done by a JavaScript tag.

How does it provide more ROI?

Once conversion tracking is in place, you can go beyond the download numbers and see deep into your conversion funnel. This allows you to optimize campaigns to get the greatest return on your marketing investment. For retailers, this would mean measuring registrations, purchase data, repeat purchases, and even total revenue per purchase. For travel marketers, it means measuring hotel bookings, airline reservations and car rentals. For other verticals, marketers should measure data that is most relevant to their business. With conversion tracking in place, you can move beyond measuring just cost per download and start fine-tuning your marketing to the goals that matter most to your business.

How does it make marketing more effective?

With a steady stream of real-time data coming from your app, it is possible to do even more sophisticated analysis and conduct impressive data visualizations. For example, cohort analysis, which monitors a group of users over time, provides a more accurate picture of how different initiatives are performing. This allows you to plan for seasonality, identify the best day of the week for campaigns and also optimize creative. In addition, this kind of analysis provides better insight into lifetime value, improves your marketing funnel, and allows you to adjust marketing campaigns directly to revenue generated.

Are there any technical limitations?

Most conversion-tracking platforms can only measure downloads that originate from an app, generally through in-app ads. The download matching is done by taking the ID of the device where the click was registered, and matching that to the ID of the device where the download was registered. But in order to measure a click that originated elsewhere—for example, from an e-mail or from an app that has limited ID sharing due to privacy concerns—a form of digital fingerprinting must be available to do the matching.

Digital fingerprinting technology matches the download-based algorithms that are proprietary to each vendor. These systems increase the marketer’s ability to do source attribution across e-mail, paid, search, social and even the PC web. But accuracy with digital fingerprinting can vary greatly from vendor to vendor, because there is no agreed-upon technical standard to follow.

What’s the right solution for me?

There are a number of different vendors who solve all the technical challenges related to mobile app conversion tracking, without requiring you to become a technologist yourself. There are differences between vendors; some provide a full stack solution with lots of bells and whistles. Those are great for medium to large organization that has multiple stakeholders with different reporting requirements. On the other end of the spectrum are the simple and cheap solutions that are great for small companies, or people who are just getting stated.

Once you have a system in place, your marketing team will now get the flexibility they need to test new channels as they emerge and optimize what is working. With mobile app conversion tracking, there is no more guesswork when planning, budgeting and optimizing your mobile app marketing.

 TapSense specializes in mobile marketing.

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