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Unlock Your App’s Performance: a Guide to SDKs

Published: June 6, 2016

Author: Craig Weinberg

Marketing & Analytics SDKs (software development kits) are tool kits that marketers ask the development team to integrate into a mobile app’s code; they allow marketing and product teams to run effective acquisition and retention campaigns and to build a healthy and profitable native app business. Typically, these kits take the form of embedded (short) lines of code that enable a set of programming tools, APIs, and documentation.  
These SDKs allow the marketing team to measure and optimize paid and owned media channels towards the most valuable customers, to analyze user behavior in the app, and finally to communicate with the user base via push notifications and in-app messaging.
There are many vendors in the space, and many of their services overlap with each other. We can group their solutions into these three main categories, each of which we’ll explore in detail below:

  1. Attribution
  2. Analytics
  3. Messaging

Before we dig in, it is crucial to understand that analytics and attribution are the two most important integrations any app developer can make when preparing for product market launches. At 3Q, our philosophy is that no app should launch without proper attribution and in-app analytics set and QA’d. While this may seem daunting and perhaps expensive, it isn’t, especially when brands are just launching an app and do not yet have a super high-volume user base.

Attribution: Identifying the source of the install

Chances are, you’re relying on more than one channel to promote your app. Attribution is key to understanding the value of each channel – in other words, where users are finding, installing, and engaging with your app. Looking at the full view of paid, owned, and organic app installs + customer value allows the marketing team to understand the relationship between, and performance across, all efforts to make top-level strategic marketing decisions.
Let’s break down the possible channels:

  • Paid media: Attribution tracking is needed in order to run effective paid media campaigns. We need to know where the installs are coming from in order for the marketing team to allocate budgets efficiently across channels, and for the ad networks to identify the best audiences within their distribution to optimize towards.
    • NOTE: Installs are only the first metric we look at. Post-install metrics are the most valuable to optimize against, and we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.  
  • Owned media: Attribution tracking allows the marketing team to understand the relative success of their owned media channels such as their website, email programs, social media, and partner campaigns at driving app installs and high value app customers.
  • Organic traffic: The last piece of the puzzle, outside of paid media and owned media channels, is organic. These are users who find the app directly on the app store, either via browsing inside or outside of the stores and/or as a search result. Organic traffic is also captured by attribution partners.

Remember those post-install metrics? We highly recommend that you track much more than just installs so you can gauge how the users are engaging with the app (and this will vary across channels). Our list of recommended post-install actions to track include: app launch, registration, started book creation, purchase, add to cart, and customer history (whether the customer is new or repeat).

Analytics: The health of your app

App analytics SDKs provide the tools to improve your app and understand your customer base in order to increase conversions in the app and to market more efficiently outside of the app. Think of this as the mobile equivalent of Google Analytics – how do you best understand how your customers engage inside of your app?
Some of the benefits of analytics SDKs include:

  • Business Intelligence: Important KPIs regarding the health of the app such as MAU (monthly active users), DAU (daily active users), ARPU (average revenue per user), ARPPU (Average revenue per paying user), average session length, and business-specific metrics related to book creation process, registration and checkout, amount of books started, browsing behavior, etc.  
    App analytics should also be leveraged outside of strict app performance conversations, to answer larger business questions such as: how website vs. app users differ; where an overlap exists with app and website users; how acquisition budgets should be spread across web and app; etc. 
  • A/B testing: Many analytics SDKs allow us to run A/B tests within the app with the purpose of creating the user experience most conducive to retention, engagement, and purchase conversions. A/B tests are generally built around the registration flow, onboarding/tutorial process, and storefront/checkout process. 
  • Actionable insights: Outside of the BI and product team use cases, marketing teams can use app analytics systems to segment their customers into different groups based on usage and purchase patterns and to deliver appropriate messaging to different groups.

Messaging: Push notifications and in-app messaging

Messaging SDKs allow you to communicate with your app downloaders both inside and outside of the app experience. The options for messaging include:

  • Push notifications: These allow you to send a message at any time to someone who has your app installed on their device. The push notification will be delivered to a user’s home screen. Push notifications are opt-in only.
    • Use cases: Message users about a weekend sale, communicate that there are new features in the app, re-engage latent users and entice them with a special offer, remind people of upcoming holidays for which they may wish to create a photobook as a gift, etc.
  • In-app messages: These are often delivered as a pop-up partial-screen interstitial upon app launch. There are also native approaches that can be implemented such as using a home screen carousel as a dynamic messaging placement.
    • Use cases: Similar to push notifications, marketers use in-app messages to notify users of new features, sales, or upcoming holidays. In-app messages can also be used to deliver surveys, rate-this-app prompts, and email collection.
  • App inboxes or message centers: These are popular in banking apps, where they’ll deliver important messages about your account directly to an inbox in your app. Red notifications on the app icon alert users that there is a message waiting. 
  • Taking it outside of the app: Advanced integrations can allow you to email users based on behavior or events that take place in the app.

If your head is spinning with all this SDK info, don’t worry; that’s a common side effect of diving into one of the many acronyms at the heart of mobile marketing. If you have to take away one thing, remember: don’t launch an app without having a SDK in place.

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