Google’s tracking changes and the impact on mobile app user acquisition

Blogs > Google’s tracking changes and the impact on mobile app user acquisition

Google’s decision to remove the Android tracking ID and ban cross-app tracking on Android has left app marketers worrying about their survival and desperately searching for new approaches to data collection and ad targeting.

The outlook is bleak! Less data means user acquisition costs rise while targeting becomes less accurate, a double blow. Marketers have become used to dealing with changes that force them to apply new strategies to their efforts. Now that Google has decided to limit covert data collection, things are going to become more challenging than ever.

What changes are Google making?

Google developed an advertising ID that gives users a robust level of control in terms of their privacy settings. This ID is available on Google Play and it allows users to reject specific ads.

There has recently been a significant update to this ID enabling users to opt out of any ads that are personalized, making their ID no longer available. Whereas you used to be able to reset your ad ID, you can now delete it entirely. Google Play updated their Advertising ID policy with the following statement:

As part of the Google Play services update in late 2021, the advertising ID will be removed when a user opts out of personalisation using advertising ID in Android settings. Any attempts to access the identifier will receive a string of zeros instead of the identifier.

To help developers and ad/analytics service providers with regulatory compliance efforts, and respect user choice, they will be able to receive notifications for opt-out preferences.

How does this impact app marketing?

If you are an app developer who monetizes with in-app payments, you want to acquire as many paying users as possible from each campaign. To increase the likelihood of this, you need to display your ads to the people who are most likely to pay. There are different sources of data you can use to generate the audiences you want to target with your ads, your own first-party data and third-party data sources including social ad platforms. Google’s changes mean that the available pools from both of these data sources are shrinking.

One of the biggest concerns for app marketers is that ad platform targeting becomes less accurate. This is mainly due to how little information is now made available due to privacy upgrades. Anyone targeting ads using Google's ad platform will no longer see you as a unique individual who loves e-sports, ice cream, and Metallica! Of course, this will make the ads you see on your device less relevant while marketers will experience a decrease the campaign ROI.

Google advertisers are not the only ones seeing the effects of the so called “App-ocalypse”. Facebook and Snapchat have both reported major losses in terms of ad revenue due to the considerable privacy policy changes Apple introduced with the death of IDFA. This new privacy update forces developers to ask for permission from each user individually to track their activity.

What can app advertisers and marketers do?

It’s clear that app marketers need a new data strategy to inform their user acquisition campaign targeting. Here are two options leading the charge:

1. Contextual targeting

Previously overlooked in favor of more privacy-invasive alternatives, contextual targeting is undergoing a resurgence post-privacy changes. Contextual targeting is where you place the most relevant ads in the most suitable context e.g. an ad for running trainers on a gym’s website.

It is a good option that allows marketers to gather data on users while also providing a good level of privacy for the user. The issues with this method are that the data isn’t as useful as it could be due to much of it being anonymized and a lower performance compared to cookie-based targeting.

2. Purchase behavior targeting

This is the most straightforward strategy that gives marketers the ability to direct their campaigns straight to the highest value users. For apps that monetize via in-app payments this can mean the difference between make or break!

According to a recent survey by Bango, 61% of app developers and marketers consider Purchase Behavior Targeting to be an effective user acquisition technique.

The power of purchase behavior targeting is vastly enhanced by applying third-party purchase data from social ad platforms along with your own data. However, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently commenting that the privacy changes have diminished the accuracy of Facebook ads targeting, purchase behavior based audiences that don’t rely on cookies, and are privacy compliant, might be the savior app marketers need.

Bango Audiences are built by analyzing purchase behavior from billions of dollars of consumer app spending. App marketers focus their UA campaigns with these tailored audiences to get straight to the people most likely to buy.

To avoid being a victim of the era of the App-ocalypse, target your next UA campaign with Bango Audiences.