SKAdNetwork 4.0 Is Coming: Explaining All the Big Updates

With ATT opt-in rates below 50% , most iOS advertisers need to use SKAdNetwork (SKAN) to attribute app installs. SKAdNetwork is Apple’s attribution tool that anonymizes and aggregates user data, making it privacy-compliant.

If you’re using it, you’re probably not too happy with how it currently works.

Let’s just say it hasn’t been very generous…

Because of this, Apple has announced some big updates for the new SKAdNetwork 4.0 version. The updates were announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June 2022, and they should arrive later this year. The exact launch date is still not familiar.

This new version is a big deal for advertisers.

The word on the street is – SKAdNetwork 4.0 will be much more advertiser-friendly than its previous versions.

Without further ado, let’s see what SKAN 4.0 is all about!

Main Changes in SKAdNetwork 4.0

The new version of SKAN will consist of four major updates :

  1. Web-to-app attribution
  2. Hierarchical source IDs
  3. Hierarchical conversion values
  4. Multiple postbacks

All these updates are based on direct feedback from advertisers and developers. Therefore, they should be a step in the right direction.

Yet, just by the looks of it, it’s hard to tell what all of this means. For this reason, we’ve carefully analyzed each one of them.

Let’s dive right in!

Update # 1: Web-To-App Attribution

For this one, most advertisers have the same thing to say – finally!

Advertisers have been asking for this feature from the very beginning, so it feels way overdue.

The SKAdNetwork 4.0 version will support attribution for web-based ads on mobile that lead to the app’s product page in the App Store.

However, we still don’t know exactly how web-to-app attribution will work.

According to Apple, SKAN 4.0 will support clicks, but there is no mention of views. Another unclear thing is which browsers it will support. Will it only be Safari or will it also apply to other browsers such as Chrome? We’re curious to find this out.

What Does This Mean for You?

In all the previous SKAN versions, advertisers were able to track app-to-app and app-to-web campaigns.

But when it comes to campaigns on the mobile web – zero data.

This has left a lot of marketers banging their heads against the wall. Thanks to this update, iOS advertisers will be able to broaden their advertising and measurement strategies.

Update # 2: Hierarchical Source IDs

As of SKAdNetwork 4.0, the campaign ID is getting a new name – source ID.

However, naming is only a minor change here.

While the campaign ID consists of two digits, the source ID will have four digits. Essentially, this means that advertisers will be able to attribute more installs to their campaigns. They will be able to customize these four digits according to their campaign goals. For example:

  • Digit 4 = Ad placement
  • Digit 3 = Ad creative type
  • Digits 1,2 = Campaign IDs

The “Catch”

Hierarchical source IDs are certainly good news, but there is something that needs to be pointed out about it.

The source ID field will always contain at least two digits, but it will not always include the other two.

Hierarchical source IDs SKAdNetwork 4.0

The number of available digits will depend on the campaign’s install volume, and the level of “crowd anonymity” it meets. Crowd anonymity is a new term that refers to three privacy thresholds a campaign can reach (low, medium, or high). We’ll explain this in more detail below.

Basically, all these rules come down to the following.

More installs = more digits = more data.

This also means that the higher your budget is, the more likely a campaign is to meet the privacy threshold and grant you access to all four digits.

What Does This Mean for You?

The “old”, two-digit campaign ID is limited to 100 IDs per ad network. This slot fills up incredibly fast. For instance, a campaign with five different ad creatives across five locations would use almost all these IDs.

On the other hand, the new source ID can potentially consist of as many as 10,000 different ID combinations.

This is 100x more granularity at your disposal.

As a result, you should gain deeper insights into how well your campaigns are performing. All without endangering the users’ privacy.

Update # 3: Hierarchical Conversion Values

Conversion values ​​are the main postback provided by SKAdNetwork. They appear as six-bit values ​​with 63 possible combinations. This gives advertisers some room to customize them and extract information from them.

However, currently, only advertisers with high install volumes can access them.

With the introduction of hierarchical conversion values, smaller advertisers will also gain access to conversion values.

In the SKAdNetwork 4.0 version, there will be two types of conversion values:

  • Fine-grained value (the existing one)
  • Coarse-grained value (the new one)

Note this: An advertiser can only receive one of the two types of conversion values ​​per campaign, not both.

What the Heck Is a Coarse-Grained Value?

The coarse-grained value will provide marketers with a limited amount of information on campaigns with lower install rates.

if your campaign doesn’t have high-enough crowd anonymity to return fine-grained values, you might receive a coarse-grained value instead.

This value is separated into three buckets: low, medium, and high.

You can think of it like this.

Each one of these values ​​can represent the probability a user will make a purchase. Or three different LTV buckets they can fall into. Basically, you can apply this to any category with three potential values.

Coarse-Grained Value and Crowd Anonymity

As you can see, the info you’ll receive on your campaign is very dependent on its crowd anonymity. As we mentioned before, this number highly depends on how many installs your campaign gets. In this case, it works something like this:

  • Less installs – the campaign didn’t reach the needed privacy threshold, and you’ll get no conversion value data
  • More installs – the install count is high enough to return limited information, so you’ll receive one of three coarse-grained conversion values ​​(low, medium, or high)
  • A high number of installs – the campaign has reached the threshold needed for the fine-grained-conversion value

What Does This Mean for You?

Until now, conversion values ​​basically worked on an “all or nothing” principle.

On the other hand, the new principle could be described as:

“Something”, “more”, or “all”.

With this update, SKAdNetwork is becoming much less limiting for smaller advertisers. Even though limited performance information might not be ideal, it provides advertisers with at least some kind of quality signal.

Update # 4: Multiple Postbacks

One of the most frustrating things about SKAN 3.0 is that advertisers only receive one postback per app.

This single postback brings limited information about conversions. Plus, the reporting is delayed with a timer that resets each time users interact with the app.

This makes it very difficult to measure engagement.

With SKAdNetwork 4.0, advertisers will no longer receive only one postback per advertised app. Instead, they will receive up to three postbacks.

Each one of these postbacks will appear in a defined conversion window:

  • 0–2 days post-install
  • 3–7 days post-install
  • 8–35 days post-install

What Does This Mean for You?

With multiple postbacks, you’ll be able to capture multiple engagements. As time goes by, you will gain a better understanding of how users interact with the app.

For example, you should be able to find out to know if a gamer reaches a certain level in the first conversion window, and makes a purchase in the second and the third window.

Note this: Only the first postback you receive will be fine-grained. For others, you will only be able to get coarse-grained conversion values.

From SKAdNetwork 4.0 to 5.0: A Wishlist

SKAdNetwork 4.0 is not even here yet, and everyone is already talking about what the next big update should be.

Apple definitely isn’t a genie that fulfills all the advertisers’ wishes.

Yet, they do pay attention to suggestions.

Some of the things advertisers have been wishing for a long time were web-to-app attribution, more campaign IDs, and creative ID insights.

According to the announcements, all of these are coming in the SKAdNework 4.0 update.

Nevertheless, the advertisers’ wishlist is still quite long. Here are some of the main things advertisers want from future SKAN updates:

  1. Additional conversion values
  2. A longer attribution window (eg 60 days)
  3. Attribution for conversions types aside from installs
  4. Shift to user-level anonymization to more aggregated insights
  5. A reduced delay in the postback
  6. Access to more real-time data (yeah, this one probably goes without saying)

If you’re an advertiser, you might also have some other ideas on your wishlist. If this is the case, feel free to leave us a comment and we’ll add it to the list!

SKAdNetwork 4.0: Parting Thoughts

Without a doubt, SKAdNetwork 4.0 will be the biggest update to SKAN functionality since its 2.0 version.

Then again, it’s still early to tell how well all this will work for advertisers. Once SKAdNetwork 4.0 comes to life, there will be a lot of learning, sharing, and testing.

Of course, we’ll be closely watching and updating you with the latest findings. To stay tuned, you can follow us on Medium and subscribe to get our stories per e-mail!

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