The imminent evolution of mobile measurement and the need for true ROI

11 March 2016

Many believe that when it comes to tools to effectively measure the effectiveness of a mobile campaign, we’re just not quite there. In truth, there are many vendors that offer data on consumers’ mobile device activity once they have viewed an ad.

So why does our industry still face a challenge when it comes to mobile measurement?

As with all areas of marketing measurement, it has become increasingly important to analyse the performance of campaigns across all channels, whilst also considering how each channel influences the others. However, in measuring metrics from ad viewability to user engagement on mobile the main challenge is that, whilst the technology required for accurate measurement is available, it is not being used by the vendors that have established themselves as the standard in the digital advertising world.

Most of the measurement tools being offered by these vendors are desktop-first solutions, and these increase the challenges in justifying returns on a mobile ad investment. The technical nature of the mobile ecosystem and, in particular, of the in-app inventory, means that desktop orientated tools focused on web are nowhere near adequate for mobile measurement.

As a consequence, if these tools don’t develop or mobile-first tools fail to be trusted by the agencies and advertisers with the big budgets, mobile investment will continue to lag behind its full potential.

In the meantime, mobile advertisers can avoid wasting mobile ad budgets and get as close as possible to an accurate measurement (by measuring conversions, engagement, viewability and so on) by compensating for some of the inherent flaws in measuring with desktop-first solutions.

Such inaccuracies stem largely from the difference between desktop and mobile devices. For example when measuring website engagement that results from a mobile advertising campaign, just a few differences can generate huge measurement inaccuracies.

The primary issue is that cookies don’t work well in the mobile ecosystem. In the mobile advertising world, customers usually click on an ad within an app, so the destination URL is not necessarily opened by a browser on the mobile device, but inside the application. Sites that open within applications this way will not be able to read or write persistent cookies. So desktop-first tools will not be able to use cookies to identify whether a user or a visit is new.

Campaigns that have served impressions and generated clicks in web-views within apps, and are tracked with systems that are based on cookies, will not measure users or corresponding visits. Even if those systems have a fallback fingerprinting method in case cookies can´t be used, they will not measure many users or visits that are served in Samsung and iOS devices via 3G connections. The situation would be similar on iOS also for mobile web of course, as third party cookies are prohibited.

So, to effectively measure a mobile ad investment and justify ROI the right technology providers are today the mobile ‘specialists’.

We have some way to go until the industry will be well positioned to use these tools in a way that allows commitment to ROI guarantees and viewability standards. To get there the various industry players must start to get aligned by creating ‘standard’ technical solutions for the in-app environment.

We also need the industry to mature to resolve the conflicts between advertiser and publisher goals around viewability measurement. Conceivably, the demand side is best positioned to lead the charge for an industry standard. The DSPs are well equipped to measure whether an ad has been viewed or not and to systematically optimise a campaign to convey more value on those offered placements that are likely to become viewable impressions.

We need a standard very soon – with the growing pace of mobile influence, accurate viewability guarantees and ROI measurement will become imperative to the very existence of the mobile advertising industry.

Technology and industry standards will arrive eventually but it remains to be seen whether the desktop first players will rise to the challenge. If they don’t there’s a long line of current and new mobile specific offerings ready to prove their worth to advertisers. With a head start in-app tracking and attribution they’ve already gained a considerable boost.

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