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Why Advertiser SKAdNetwork (SKAN) Adoption is Growing

Simon Whittick
Simon Whittick
6 min read
Posted on March 20, 2023
Why Advertiser SKAdNetwork (SKAN) Adoption is Growing

When Apple launched its AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework, Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN) became a familiar term and attribution framework for app performance advertisers. However, there was early hesitancy to this change as advertisers lost the ID-level deterministic targeting and measurement they had been so used to. 

So how is adoption looking as we approach the second anniversary of ATT and SKAN? What is impacting adoption? What are the future milestones that might drive adoption further? These are all questions we’ll look at in this post.

The state of SKAN adoption

Let’s start by looking at some indicators of how advertiser adoption of SKAN has been going. If we look at SKAN-enabled spend on InMobi’s DSP globally, we see it becoming a steadily increasing percentage of iOS spend.

After SKAN 4.0 – a far more complete attribution solution – was released in October, advertisers clearly saw a need to start using SKAN more widely. SKAN's share then broke through 75% for the first time in February of this year.

What SKAN hesitancy existed previously?

While SKAN advertiser adoption is now on a charge, the data does show some initial hesitancy from advertisers. So what were the reasons behind this? In-market, we have seen three major themes in advertiser conversations:

Android spend increases: On Android, advertisers still have access to the GAID, unlike on iOS where Apple’s IDFA became opt-in with ATT. This meant that many advertisers shifted more of their attention and investment to Android after ATT was launched in Spring 2021, as they still had the user-level deterministic measurement and targeting they were used to. This aggregate data from InMobi’s cross-channel optimization platform Appsumer shows that initial decline in iOS budget share post-ATT to a low of 35% in July 2021.

What we see here is that the initial switch to Android has begun to reverse from a low of 35% back to, and above, a 50% share of wallet over the last four months since SKAN 4.0 was released.

Fingerprinting / probabilistic attribution: While Apple very clearly banned fingerprinting / probabilistic attribution in its developer terms of service, at a technological level, they have not clamped down heavily, yet. So some advertisers have taken the “make hay while the sun shines approach,” using fingerprinting as an alternative for user-level identity to the IDFA on iOS.

Early SKAN shortcomings: Early versions of SKAN undoubtedly left a lot to be desired for advertisers. To name a few:

  1. The privacy threshold returned large volumes of null data to advertisers, leaving them blind to campaign performance.
  2. For many apps 24 hours of post-install data is not enough to understand the value of an install driven by an ad. The 24-hour rolling timer meant that this was the best window many apps could get data on.
  3. For apps that relied on web-to-app user journeys they were unattributable.

However, market changes mean advertisers can no longer hesitate in many of these areas. For many advertisers this is motivating them to invest resources into the increased adoption of the SKAN measurement methodology.

What drivers are now accelerating SKAN adoption?

If we look at each of these areas of hesitancy, there are key milestones incoming that create urgency for advertisers around SKAN:

  1. Android Privacy Sandbox: Google’s move to launch the Android Privacy Sandbox will take away the option of the GAID on that OS. While Google’s approach will be a lot more advertiser friendly, mobile advertising IDs (MAIDs) are nearing the end of their lives. By adopting SKAN now, it will not only help advertisers make similar adjustments when Privacy Sandbox arrives, it will also prevent a situation where advertisers are simultaneously adapting to two different frameworks when Google rolls out Android Privacy Sandbox.
  2. Apple enforcing fingerprinting policies: Rumors are swirling of Apple implementing some form of technology to close the fingerprinting loopholes, much like it did after the ITP rollout on its Safari browser. Eric Seufert speculated a year ago on some potential technological solutions, including a version of the SDK Runtime functionality that Google shared in its Android Privacy Sandbox. There’s also the risk that apps could be banned from the App Store if they are clearly violating Apple’s policy on fingerprinting. All of this is to say that the walls are closing in on fingerprinting and an over-reliance on it from advertisers is an untenable long-term position.
  3. SKAN 4.0: How SKAN 4.0 eliminates many of the major flaws in earlier versions of SKAN for advertisers:
    • The privacy threshold is likely to be reduced with the introduction of coarse-grain as well as fine-grain conversion values. Meaning that the volume of null install data should be reduced.
    • Three fixed conversion windows now make it easy for advertisers to get an understanding of post-install behavior out to day 35 with the removal of the 24-hour rolling timer that many advertisers had previously been working with.
    • Web-to-app attribution is also now possible for advertisers who use this type of user journey.

How to get started with SKAN 4.0

What we really see is that advertisers are beginning to adopt SKAN in earnest, and there are drivers that are likely to push this trend even further in the coming year. So the time has really come for advertisers to come to grips with SKAN 4.0 and start implementing an effective targeting and measurement strategy for this new privacy-first world. 

That’s why our team has been compiling some of the most complete resources for advertisers who are looking to accelerate their SKAN 4.0 adoption, including:

  • Essential SKAN 4.0 Playbook: A starting point for advertisers who are just beginning to plan SKAN 4.0 adoption.
  • SKAN 4.0 Checklist: A quick checklist to make sure you have a complete SKAN 4.0 setup ready to go.
  • SKAN 4 Conversion Value Guide: InMobi’s own cross-channel optimization platform, Appsumer, also shared tips for getting richer insights from SKAN 4 Conversion Values.
  • InMobi DSP’s SKAN bidder: You can also read more about how InMobi’s DSP is pioneering privacy safe automated bidding.

For help with your SKAN adoption journey, reach out to our team of SKAN experts at performance@inmobi.com. We’d love to hear from you – and remember, no question is too basic when it comes to learning how to navigate Apple’s SKAN 4.0.


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