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How can marketers assess their efforts after iOS 14.5?

This content was originally produced by Tech in Asia Studios, which connects brands with Asia’s tech community.

In the world of app marketing, understanding the journey a consumer takes to make a purchase can be as important as closing the sale itself. A customer might purchase a product after clicking on an in-app ad, but the route that led them to this decision may not be as straightforward.

The science of attribution helps advertisers determine how customers land on their final choices, such as which ads led them to make the purchase, for example. By tracking events along the user experience journey and analyzing behaviors that lead to paid activity, advertisers are able to fine-tune marketing campaigns by improving user experience on apps, making creatives more engaging, or increasing ad spend.

The impact of attribution goes well beyond campaign optimization and echoes throughout the mobile ad ecosystem. The data harnessed can determine how well a marketing campaign performs, or even how much an organization earns from a successful conversion.

In a region like Southeast Asia, which has one of the largest smartphone adoption growth rates in the world, cell phones provide marketers with massive opportunities to capture audiences. Attribution allows marketers to fully grasp their audience’s motivations and ensures that their marketing efforts run at full steam across the diverse region.

With the arrival of iOS14.5, however, the usefulness of traditional methods of attribution is no longer as clear-cut as before.

How iOS14.5 changed attribution

When iOS14.5 was rolled out, users were able to reclaim privacy over their data and could choose whether they wanted to opt in or opt out of app tracking. Advertisers, on the other hand, have had to reinvent the way they target users to stay within the bounds of new regulations and consumer data privacy lawswhile wrestling with the pressure to maintain their return on advertising spend.

For opt-in users, advertisers could continue leaning on existing mobile attribution providers’ platforms for campaign performance metrics, although that would require users to opt in across all the apps they use in order for such data to be effective. However, even before iOS14.5, a common model used by these platforms – the last-click attribution model – sprang up issues of its own. The last-click attribution model only takes into account the last ad that a user clicked on, disregarding other interactions customers may have had on their journey to that click.

“Without taking brand equity, organic behavior, email marketing, push notifications, or any other external factors into account, the last-click method fails to provide a clear understanding of the actual value of ad campaigns,” says Pan Katsukis, CEO and co-founder of Remerge, a demand-side platform based in Berlin.

« The last-click method fails to provide a clear understanding of the actual value of ad campaigns. »

Pan Katsukis

When it comes to opt-out users, advertisers have had no choice but to change gears and leverage Apple’s SKAdNetwork to keep track of app install campaign attribution in order to understand which channels led customers to their platforms.

The ad network application programming interface was first introduced to allow advertisers to continue gauging the success of their campaigns, while maintaining user privacy. Conversion rates of app install campaigns, for example, could still be analyzed through SKAdNetwork without compromising the user on the other side of the screen. It is not, however, the perfect solution for advertisers as it gives them a more limited view of their campaign performance than what they had been used to in the past.

“With SKAdNetwork, advertisers could no longer use user-level data to target opt-out users or attribute for campaign performance measurement with the same granularity they could do prior to the iOS 14.5 update,” Katsukis explains.

He also pointed out that data aggregated on SKAdNetwork is only available to marketers after 24 to 72 hours, making timely campaign optimization a greater challenge. Marketers are served less transparent and fewer granular data insights, making it difficult to fully understand and improve their campaign performances.

In a future without identifying information around users, Katsukis says, “advertisers will very likely have limited understanding about their ad campaigns in the iOS space with no clue of what to measure, or where the issue stands when they fail to achieve key performance indicators.”

Marketers shift to incrementality

Relying solely on SKAdNetwork won’t suffice for marketers in a no-ID world. To succeed in the space, Katsukis advises marketers to take a full-funnel marketing approach and try out new ways to measure the success of their ad campaigns that can function without ID, all while providing insights beyond installs. Reengagement insights, for example, have always been a given metric for marketers.

Incrementality measurement is a great example of an alternative mode of assessment that aids decision-making around optimization. Compared to the last-click attribution model, incrementality focuses on marking out how various marketing efforts can shape user behavior. This allows advertisers to avoid the attribution method’s shortcomings and helps marketers understand the full impact of their marketing campaigns by providing additional insights based on scientific and unbiased measurement.

“Advertisers can validate the actual value of their ad campaigns through positive incrementality results. On the other hand, lessons can be learned from negative ones, such as how to boost performance with better budget allocation or creative designs,” says Katsukis.

« Advertisers can validate the actual value of their ad campaigns through positive incrementality results. »

Pan Katsukis

Remerge was one of the first companies in the market to launch a product to measure incrementality for user acquisition on no-ID traffic, prior to the new privacy measures, with the goal of helping marketers learn the actual value of their campaigns.

Through its incrementality product, marketers can separate the impact of their paid ads from their organic revenue growth, and chalk up campaign results to the right causes. Marketers get access to key metrics, including the incremental cost per install and incremental cost per action, both of which are essential for advertisers earmarking budgets for ad spend.

Remerge worked with food delivery platform Delivery Hero and its brand in Saudi Arabia, Hungerstation. The goal was to find the optimal setup to attract new users and gather insights for running campaigns on no-ID traffic in a market filled to the brim. Remerge used its incrementality product to help identify and refine key marketing campaign elements to achieve competitive cost-per-install metrics, ensuring that Hungerstation could develop effective and targeted advertising campaigns in the future.

The method underlying Remerge’s incrementality solution is specifically designed for a privacy-first world, working independently of user IDs. Rooted in econometrics, the method gives advertisers the resources to study campaign installs and re-engagement uplifts alike, which complement metrics collected from SKAdNetwork.

Marketing in an ID-less world

Apple’s not the only one gravitating towards a privacy-first approach. Google has also tightened its “limit ad tracking” policies for Android, and may not be the last major tech firm to do so in the coming months. On the back of these changes in online privacy, mobile marketing practices are bound to transform.

To thrive in privacy-centric marketplaces, Katsukis believes advertisers will have to fully embrace a privacy-safe future by adopting new practices and technologies. His advice for businesses is to create a comfortable user journey experience by investing in scientific methods and resources and seeking out the right advertising partners to help drive meaningful non-organic growth.

“Aside from this, leveraging data science will give advertisers a better understanding of incrementality methods and how incrementality can bring value to their ad campaigns in the long term,” says Katsukis.


Remerge is the leading programmatic platform for high-performing, privacy-compliant app marketing campaigns. It focuses on scientific methodologies and transparent communication to deliver credible results and increase app growth.

Find out more about Remerge by reaching out here.