Cookie-Based Tracking and User Experience

by pwirz

The cookie-based tracking methodology utilized in GET IT’s Track-Beyond-Install offering provides compelling advantages when tracking app marketing campaigns through to install on iOS. Cookies are safer privacy-wise than solutions tied to users’ physical devices (UDID-free) and marketers can track installs from pretty much anywhere (not just in-app).

There is a slight change to the typical startup flow when launching the app for the first time, and I’d like to take this opportunity to examine the impact in more detail and address some of the concerns (and misinformation) out there.

First, let’s do a quick review of the user experience from the initial touchpoint all the way through to conversion (i.e. install). After acting on a GET IT-powered call-to-action (via text message, banner ad, website link, QR code, email, etc.), the user is connected to the appropriate app store for their device and downloads the app. When the user launches the app for the first time, they are momentarily directed to the Safari browser and then immediately back to the app. This transition registers the install and attributes the conversion back to the source campaign. It happens just once - and only if a network connection is available.

A New Opportunity for Re-Engagement

Because Track-Beyond-Install registers the app install via the Safari browser, the next time the user launches the browser, they can be shown a custom page about their new app. This opens up a new, previously untapped re-engagement opportunity. The page can contain information about the publisher’s other apps, or better yet, prompt users to sign up for ongoing updates (via email or SMS), encourage them to rate the app in the App Store, share with friends, or even read helpful tips for using the app. The possibilities are endless. If the publisher chooses not to provide their own page, they can utilize the default GET IT socialization screen with sharing and opt-in capabilities built in. The publisher can also choose to have the page closed automatically, so there’s nothing left behind.

Flexible Customization

We experimented with numerous combinations for how best to integrate the browser page transition into the app: display app branding first and then transition, include app branding on the browser screen, keep the browser screen blank, etc., but ultimately we built in a number of customization options to give publishers flexibility to support their individual requirements. The browser screen can be launched at any point during app startup, can be customized with branding or left plain, and its duration can be configured. For the smoothest experience, our recommendation is to launch the browser immediately on app launch, include no colors or branding on the page, and use no delay before returning to the app. This reduces flicker from logos and colors flashing by during the transition and gets the user into the app immediately.

When we first discussed this solution internally, I’ll admit I had some reservations. But after working through the early prototypes and experimenting with the actual user experience, my concerns were quickly dispelled. The transition is quick enough that I don’t think most consumers would even notice, but more importantly the added opportunity to re-engage introduces really interesting possibilities for creating a deeper connection with an app’s audience. If you implement Track-Beyond-Install with the user in mind, you end up with an unobtrusive user experience along with the ability to measure the effectiveness of all your marketing activity while keeping users engaged.

Not All App Tracking Solutions are Created Equal When it Comes to Privacy

by steve-gleitsmann

Not a day goes by without fresh news related to consumer privacy and tracking.  Last week Apple began rejecting apps that access the device’s UDID (Unique Device Identifier) and on Monday the Federal Trade Commission issued a report that, among other things, focuses on the need for companies to clearly explain how they collect user data and for what purposes they use that information.

For most developers tracking is an essential element of any monetization strategy. After all, the consumer stands to benefit if the resulting analytics helps build a better product or if tracking supports alternative monetization so the consumer can use the product for free. So why all the fuss about tracking?

The most fundamental problem with tracking mobile app usage today is that most consumers are not aware they are being tracked — or for what purpose. Additionally, the methods by which consumers are often tracked on their mobile devices (including UDID or even MAC addresses commonly used in “fingerprinting” solutions) are directly tied to a consumer’s physical device. Even the less accurate fingerprinting techniques that do not rely on a physical device address could be troublesome as they still establish an individual device profile that can be associated with a physical device down the line (and could ultimately deemed personally identifiable information).

When we explored tracking solutions for our own mobile marketing platform, we chose to avoid tracking techniques that tie to individual, physical devices due to privacy implications. Ultimately, we decided to utilize first-party cookies.

Cookies are the standard tracking mechanism on the Internet, and consumers are already being educated about how cookies work. Further, synchronizing cookies between a browser and an app allows us to identify where an app install originated no matter the source (online, on-device and even offline) with nearly 99% accuracy. This is very powerful for any app marketer who wants to measure and compare all campaigns — not just the ones originating from in-app mobile ad networks.

From a privacy perspective, we believe that tracking via first-party cookies is a superior methodology to any of the other techniques available today:

Cookies can’t be tied to any individual device. Instead of transmitting data that is associated with a physical device address or a unique device profile, we relate to cookies as channel-specific installs (e.g. a cookie originated from a Facebook install vs. a cookie that originated from an organic install). Once the user deletes the cookie, there is no more association to the device.

Cookies are easily removable by the end-user. We utilize cookies both in the mobile browser and, once synchronized, within a mobile app. Users that clear their cookies from their browser can no longer be associated with tracking information in our database. We also provide our customers with a method that enables the “flush” of our in-app cookie when the end-user chooses to opt out. While this can reduce the amount of valuable data available to the developer, we believe that our industry will only overcome privacy concerns if we pro-actively address these issues and provide customers real choice and control. Moreover, it is preferable to lose some tracking information from customers who don’t want to be tracked than to be singled out in yet another Wall Street Journal article for not offering consumers a choice.

If you’re looking to replace your current UDID based tracking with a future-proof solution, our advice is to avoid products or services that rely on information that is directly tied to a device (e.g. MAC addresses), provide your customers with a method to opt-out of your tracking, and clearly explain your data collection practices in an easily accessible Privacy Policy.

In future blog posts we will discuss additional advantages (including improved engagement and consumer experience) to cookie-based tracking as well as provide an overview with pros and cons of the known methodologies.

Welcome to the GET IT Mobile Blog!

by chris-tanner

I thought I’d kick off our new blog with a quick introduction and background on GET IT Mobile and how we got to where we are today.

Before GET IT - and even before the mobile world was taken over by iOS and Android devices - my former company created mobile apps and licensed content for feature phones. We did well, especially when we could convince the wireless carriers to feature our content prominently in their storefronts. But the really frustrating part was that there was no way to take marketing into our own hands and promote our content ourselves. GET IT Mobile was born from that frustration.

Today GET IT continues to evolve and grow more powerful, but at its core, GET IT makes it really easy for users to get and share mobile apps from anywhere. For our partners (media companies, app publishers, agencies, and brands), our mission is to provide a marketing and engagement platform to help them convert their audience to mobile while keeping the focus on their brand. Directing users to an app store shouldn’t be like sending them into Wal-Mart with shelves piled high with competitors’ products. They should quickly and easily be delivered directly to the app with no concern about whether they’re in the right store or have the right device. And at the end of the day, our partners need solid information on how their promotional efforts are working, so we provide detailed analytics showing how users interact, how many reach the content on their device, and even how many installed and used the app.

We continue to innovate and have recently launched new features including a revolutionary method for tracking installs and usage and the ability to expand reach by using our platform to build and optimize search engine advertising. We’ll cover these and other topics in more depth in future blog posts.

We’re just getting started and as the mobile world continues to evolve, so will we. We hope you find the blog interesting and check back often as we share our thoughts on what we see, hear and experience in the marketplace.

 - Chris Tanner, CEO