American Marketer


Measuring mobile in-app engagement

September 12, 2012

Jim Piper is mobile brand strategist for agency at Neverblue


By Jim Piper

How do you improve the mobile brand experience from the moment a customer opens your application until she inevitably decides to leave?

What constitutes a positive in-app experience? And, more importantly, how do you monetize future mobile engagement opportunities?

The success of any campaign requires a balanced approach that embraces the ingenuity and creativity of interface design while adhering to the hard-headed pragmatism of analytics.

The mobile market is highly measurable, making it easy to track how quickly you are converting campaigns. However, with Apple's recent decision to deprecate Unique Device ID tracking on the iOS platform, the mobile advertising community is forced to look for other options.

Life after UDID
The ability to accurately track and attribute mobile app downloads is essential to the performance marketing business. To date, current tracking alternatives include:

• OpenUDID: Does not require an in-app SDK, but is limited by traffic sources and industry adoption.

• In-app SDK tracking: Outstanding user engagement analytics, but often mistrusted by advertisers because of third-party integration requirements.

• HTML5 cookie tracking: First-rate ad attribution performance, but requires a redirect on the first app launch which limits potential user acceptance.

• Digital fingerprinting: Device tracking is based on open APIs including operating systems, browser platforms and language. The downside to fingerprinting is that it often performs poorly in reporting post-install app engagement.

Client first, technology second
Based on my own digital agency experience, I believe that you must first clearly design a mobile product roadmap that improves the efficiency and impact of your ad campaign.

Once this is achieved, you can begin the process of choosing an ad attribution policy that enhances your mobile goals of monetization, online targeting and brand differentiation.

There must be a willingness in the mobile agency culture to work with all tracking solutions when engaging mobile publishers, retailers and advertisers. This strategic decision to be as open and agnostic as possible in terms of support for various competing solutions is the key to long-term industry viability.

Monetizing the mobile audience

Consumers are skipping traditional ads and taking personal control of purchasing decisions through their mobile device. These behavioral changes will strengthen as market segmentation and customer engagement programs continue to intensify in the mobile world.

I encourage clients to explore mobile as their primary marketing vertical. Unfortunately, ad traffic in the mobile space is highly fragmented. In fact, I personally believe that no single mobile ad spend covers more than 30 percent of the entire digital landscape.

Mobile differentiation
Brand differentiation is ultimately about exploring innovative avenues to market messaging through socially directed mobile communities. Engaged organizations understand this model and are exploiting mobile to reinforce brand and consumer loyalty.

However, the mobile ad vertical is currently experiencing significant technological fragmentation at the device, operating system and browser levels. This confusion is further compounded by the challenges in a post-UDID tracking landscape.

To address this situation, the industry has moved to an auction-style environment where mobile agencies execute their ad campaigns using dozens of real-time bidding traffic sources. This real-time distribution of ad traffic optimizes the media buying strategy and effectively saturates specific mobile properties.

Creating authentic mobile campaigns
By challenging conventional ad segmentation, mobile campaigns engage consumers from awareness right through to transaction for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising programs.

Ultimately, the mobile ad experience strengthens the emotional interaction, intimacy and influence of a brand over the entire campaign life-cycle.

In short, we are witnessing a true global paradigm shift in how we communicate.

Jim Piper is mobile brand strategist for agency at Neverblue Media, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Reach him at