Actionable data is the lifeblood of performance marketing — tracking the path that led to a consumer action is critical for marketers, networks and affiliates charged with measuring results and increasing returns on digital marketing spend. This is challenging enough online, but the (mostly) cookie-less world of mobile marketing adds new levels of complexity to campaign analysis. 

The constantly shifting nature of the mobile data landscape is not making things any easier either. For example, recent actions by both Apple and Facebook are having a big impact on how mobile marketers can keep tabs on and attribute ROI to their campaign spend.

Earlier this year, Apple moved to restrict the ways that device IDFAs (Identifiers for Advertisers) could be used to track mobile behaviors, and in the past has taken similar actions related to UDID (Unique Device Identifier) and MAC address tracking. Facebook also made headlines for removing several well-known mobile vendors from its MMP (Mobile Measurement Partner) program, citing concerns about violations of its data collection policies.  

With so much information to analyse and so many changing guidelines and restrictions on what methods can and cannot be used to track actions like app installs and mobile user behaviors, what is the best approach to capturing the insight most vital to understanding user engagement and the overall performance of mobile marketing campaigns?

Here are three key issues to consider: 

In the mobile world, flexibility is necessary

 There is no question that measuring the performance of desktop campaigns is a whole lot more straightforward for marketers. Advertisers, publishers and networks have all coalesced around the cookie as a primary mechanism for tracking online behavior, and unique URLs make it pretty simple to attribute actions and/or conversions to their source.

Mobile’s rapid growth combined with its relative immaturity has resulted in a much more technically complex environment. Cookies are only useful when mobile users engage with a browser—otherwise there are numerous instances where the activities that are triggered by a mobile offer are hidden within potential “black holes,” such as actions taken with an app store. And, as mentioned above, leading mobile publishers and device players frequently revise, reset and redefine their data usage and privacy guidelines, often without much notice.

Even new releases of device operating systems can inadvertently upend tracking efforts. The bottom line is that flexible techniques and multiple approaches to performance measurement are a must, as the only constant in mobile is change.  

Do not go it alone

Whether you are an app developer, advertiser or affiliate network, the last thing you want is to spend time tracking down information about how to track performance.

Rather than attempting to go it alone, it is helpful to work with a measurement partner with a focus on keeping up with all the intricacies of mobile data guidelines, user privacy mandates and understanding multi-touch attribution.

By outsourcing measurement, app developers, advertisers and affiliates can direct the bulk of their resources to building better apps, increasing engagement and building relationships that drive maximum ROI. 

Measure intelligently

What you measure is just as important as how you measure. And if maximising marketing spend is your primary goal (hint: it should be), capturing actionable insight should be the focus. Case in point: tracking installs used to be the standard for measuring campaign success.  But with the shift in App Store ranking algorithms and app developers now focusing on monetisation, the predominant key performance indicator is engagement.

Tracking engagement can be as simple as following user events such as logins, game play, user invites or in-app purchases. Once this data is collected, side-by-side comparisons by campaign or channel should be done, through the tool of your choice, so you can understand what’s working and make adjustments accordingly.

The ability to modify your budget in real-time around your top performing campaigns or channels could mean the difference between making pennies per install to hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of a user.  

Tracking performance marketing campaigns on mobile devices can be trickier than traditional desktop environments, especially as this dynamic channel continues to evolve. As a result, advertisers, networks and publishers need to remain flexible about how they approach mobile measurement, seek trusted attribution partners and have a clear understanding of the most important metrics to track.

A little planning can go a long way towards more effectively monetising mobile spend.