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Debora Paladino,

Creative Lead,

Admiral Media,

Sep 14, 2023

Tracking iOS User Acquisition ROI: To SKAN or not to SKAN?

The recent launch of iOS 17 brought some game-changing updates. One of the biggest? The new privacy manifests. But that’s not all. SKAN 4.0, (StoreKit Ad Network), has also entered the tracking landscape. What does this mean for you? Keeping tabs on your iOS marketing ROI isn’t just important now — it’s crucial. You really want to know if you’re getting your money’s worth when you spend on iOS marketing, especially with the new rules in play. So whether you’re a marketer or an app developer, staying ahead of these changes can make or break your strategy. This is one update you can’t afford to ignore.

The Crossroads of iOS User Acquisition

Tracking ROI used to be a no-brainer, but now it’s a whole different ball game. Marketers are left scratching their heads: Should we go the easy route with SKAN, deep-dive into the maze of opt-ins and data modeling, or try juggling both? Here are three potential scenarios to help marketers determine the best path forward.

1. Going All-In on SKAN

SKAN all in SKAN has a cozy relationship with iOS. That’s a win for privacy compliance. And don’t underestimate it—this framework gives you a decent snapshot of user acquisition data. When you marry SKAN with MMP-attributed data, something interesting happens. You get a fuller picture of your installs and user behavior. We’re talking about tracking that’s almost as good as the pre-ATT era. Sounds like the best of both worlds, right? Not so fast. Embracing SKAN isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Why? Overlaps. That’s right, SKAN and MMP attribution can sometimes step on each other’s toes. Without deduplication, you might end up counting conversions twice. Imagine the chaos that would unleash on your data. And it doesn’t stop there. Mix SKAN with other attribution methods like IDFA, IDFV, or Apple Search Ads, and you’re walking on a slippery slope. You might start favoring channels that aren’t actually delivering. You could even end up with biased comparisons across channels. But, hold on. Appsflyer has a trick up its sleeve—the Single Source of Truth method. It deduplicates for you, ensuring each user is counted just once. So, before you jump headlong into SKAN, weigh the pros and cons. It’s a tool, not a panacea. And like all tools, it works best when used wisely.

2. Juggling Opt-Ins and SKAN Data Modeling

Opt-Ins and SKAN Data ModelingThe second scenario is to focus on obtaining opt-ins from users while modeling the rest of the data. This strategy gives you access to detailed user-level data for those who opt-in, allowing for more precise targeting and measurement. For instance, using MMP attribution for post-install metrics & revenue and extrapolating this data with SKAN installs can provide cohort ROAS data and CPA, both at a global level and per channel. However, this approach presents challenges. It is hard to implement and there’s no guaranteed way to check if extrapolations are accurate. Moreover, under this scenario, marketers are subject to changes in opt-in rates and user behavior, which can significantly impact the amount of data available for modeling.

3. A Hybrid Approach

SKAN for campaign attribution and opt-ins and data modeling for deeper insightsThe third scenario involves a hybrid approach, using a combination of SKAN for campaign attribution and opt-ins and data modeling for deeper insights. Companies like INCRMNTAL and MetricWorks that focus on incrementality can help assess channel performance, identify the additional metrics it brings on top of the existing ones, and spot any cannibalization. Although this approach offers the best of both worlds, it also requires careful implementation and ongoing management. The models need time to be trained, and there’s no easy way to reconcile the incrementality approach with the classic MMP attribution.

iOS User Acquisition ROI Tracking

Not just a bunch of letters, but a really complex task. Let’s explore some comprehensive methods to help you navigate this terrain and track your iOS user acquisition performance. SKAN iOS User Acquisition ROI Track

1. Looking at Overall Marketing ROAS

One essential tactic to consider is to evaluate your overall marketing ROAS. This involves a simple calculation of your total app revenue divided by your total marketing spend. Comparing this figure against other operating systems or against listed companies will provide valuable insight into your positioning within the industry. Notably, this indicator is unaffected by App Tracking Transparency (ATT). Yeah, you heard that right. Your spending? It assures you it’s on point. But there’s more. It doesn’t just work in a vacuum. You can compare it across different operating systems. You can even size it up against what the industry bigwigs are doing. Sounds like a silver bullet, doesn’t it? Hold on, though. It’s not your magic wand for budget allocation. It’s more like your sanity check. In the realm of User Acquisition (UA), cohorted data is king. This KPI? Not so much. And here’s the kicker. If the quality of your installs takes a nosedive, this KPI won’t flash red lights. It’s not your early warning system. So while it has its perks, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Keep your eyes wide open.

2. Looking at Overall eCPI

Another key strategy involves examining your overall eCPI (Effective Cost Per Install). This requires analyzing your marketing spend over total installs, attributed or not, to see if your marketing efforts are driving more or less installs over time. This method has its pros and cons. On one hand, it’s unaffected by ATT and easy to observe over time. It factors in the organic impact of your marketing spend, thereby adding the organic installs. On the other hand, it does not inform you about the profitability of installs and cannot help allocate budgets between different channels.

3. Combining SKAN + MMP Data

An innovative approach is to combine SKAN and Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP)-attributed data to get the most comprehensive view of your installs. MMPs’ tools like Appsflyer Single Source of Truth allow you to add up SKAN + MMP data while removing duplicates to get an all-inclusive picture. However, there are some drawbacks. Some installs overlap between SKAN & MMP attribution. If your MMP does not deduplicate, the data can become muddled. Moreover, with combined data, you might favor non-SRN channels like Applovin or Unity that allow probabilistic matching, leading to biased channel comparisons.

4. Extrapolating Data

Using MMP attribution for post-install metrics & revenue and extrapolating this data with SKAN installs can offer a complete estimation. This method can provide cohort ROAS data (not only CPI) and CPA, both at a global level and per channel. It’s excellent for budget allocation and feels like returning to pre-ATT days. However, extrapolation is tricky, and there’s no surefire way to verify if extrapolations are correct. This method requires a trustworthy partner and a consistent eye on the sanity checks mentioned earlier. Some MMPs seem to offer similar features, but usually at an extra cost.

5. Embracing Incrementality

Lastly, an increasingly popular method among companies like INCRMNTAL and MetricWorks is looking at incrementality to assess channel performance. This approach allows you to identify the additional return a channel brings on top of the existing ones and detects cannibalization, which can lead to negative impacts. Despite its benefits, this method does require a considerable amount of time to implement and train the models. Also, reconciling the incrementality approach with the classic MMP attribution is challenging. Some tools even ask you to temporarily pause channels x geo to enrich the learnings and increase accuracy.


The era of iOS 17 and SKAN 4.0 is here. Tracking user acquisition on iOS has gotten more complex. But don’t panic. First, let’s talk ROI. Knowing your Return on Investment isn’t just a good idea anymore. It’s essential. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each marketing strategy. But it’s not just about numbers. It’s about being nimble. The landscape has shifted, and flexibility is your best ally. Be willing to experiment. Try out different approaches to see what sticks. Above all, remember who’s at the center of all this—your user. The human element shouldn’t get lost in the mix of metrics and strategies. Keep the user journey at the heart of your decision-making. And in this ever-changing environment, that might be the most stable strategy of all. As our Performance Marketing Director points out:


Pablo Perez - SKAN Expert“There is no single way of measuring iOS UA paid actions. In this fast-evolving time, we need to embrace all the data we have, understand its limitations and define our own approaches until we find something we are happy with. It doesn’t matter if it is SKAN only, data modeling, a mix of both or any other solution.”

Pablo Perez | Performance Marketing Director @ Admiral Media


The decision to go all-in on SKAN, pursue opt-ins and data modelling, or adopt a hybrid approach depends largely on the specific needs and resources of each app. While SKAN provides a simpler and more privacy-compliant solution, opt-ins and data modelling offer more detailed and earlier insights at the cost of greater complexity. The hybrid approach could potentially provide a balanced solution, but it requires careful management. The key is to understand the pros and cons of each scenario, and align the strategy with your overall business objectives and capabilities. When it comes to SKAN this is just the beginning of the road. If you are just starting this journey, we’d love to help you boost your performance marketing efforts for your app. Get in touch with us right here.

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