Scaling Without IDFA and Staying ROAS Positive: How Impulse Became the 20th Most Downloaded iOS App in the U.S.

By Dariia Opanasiuk | October 18, 2021

Dariia Opanasiuk is Chief Marketing Officer at Impulse, a leading brain training app with over eight million users. Since 2018, Dariia has managed health & fitness, education and gaming apps. With a team of experienced marketers, she currently leads the performance marketing and advertising strategy for the Impulse app and crossword game, Wordsgram. Dariia’s focus is on growing the Impulse marketing team and improving creative & media buying processes.

Learn more about Mobile Hero Dariia.
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The Conundrum

The world of mobile marketing transforms extremely fast. Apple announced ATT changes in September 2020 that marked a major shift, affecting mobile marketers who relied on the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to acquire iOS users. This left a pressing question—how do you overcome the deterioration of ad platform optimization, resolve attribution problems caused by IDFA changes, and continue to acquire users efficiently and profitably?

Prior to iOS 14.5, the challenges of performance marketing on iOS devices were addressed with testing and proactive scaling. Most advertising platforms relied exclusively on the IDFA to track conversions and to see immediate results of marketing tests. IDFA helped app marketers quickly identify the best creatives, ad sets, and campaigns for scale.

Now, we are left with SKAdNetwork campaigns that have different attribution rules. Additionally, we need to wait for SKAD campaign results for seventy-two hours before evaluating traffic performance. For companies who previously tested dozens or even hundreds of ad creatives daily and relied on decisions based on immediate traffic metrics as tests were launched, the new reality is a big challenge.

At Impulse, it became a top priority to find alternative user acquisition methods. We searched for new and efficient ad campaign approaches that would allow us to scale traffic and profit margins. This blog explores some of the new strategies that work.

The Good Stuff. Web Conversion Campaigns.

We started by retesting different types of ad campaigns outside the SKAD network by launching a series of marketing experiments with variables covering types of optimization, funnel approaches, and creative types. Our findings favored web conversion campaigns. The three benefits of web conversion campaigns for our app include:

  1. More operational control, which gives you the ability to profitably acquire users while scaling budgets
  2. Working outside of SKAN limitations
  3. Giving you the opportunity to see analytics data quickly

Since we run hundreds of ad creative tests daily, these three are crucial. Web conversion optimization introduces a fresher audience for ad platform algorithms which means lower CPAs. These campaigns had noticeably lower CPMs in comparison to similar targeting settings for App Install or App Event campaign optimizations.

User Journey for Web Conversion Campaigns

We changed the standard user’s journey from ad click to app install by adding one more step—between the ad click and app store page view. After the ad, users are taken to the web page, and then from the web page to the app store’s app page.

By adjusting the user journey, we get an opportunity to use custom websites instead of using the app store as a destination page.

One quick tip here—act quickly and carefully without overloading potential users with unnecessary actions on the web page. The user’s path becomes longer for three additional seconds (the average time spent on the website before being directed to the App Store) but we now have a priceless opportunity to encourage users to decisively install Impulse on the App Store app page. Here are my top tips for marketers who want to test this approach:

  • Use deep links to track web campaigns. This helps with ad creative analytics.
  • Use data from ad networks to analyze top-funnel metrics and mobile measurement partners (MMPs) to analyze bottom-funnel metrics. Consider developing a system to view all funnel metrics in one place.
  • Test different web events for campaign optimization. Every ad network has its own pixels and events, so think outside the box and test maximum events to find the best connection that will work for your app.
  • Adjust the frequency of test analytics to respond to loss-generating campaigns. This approach enables you to test many creatives at once, so it is important to react proactively.

Wrapping It Up with Pros and Cons

The main advantage of web conversion campaigns over SKAdNetwork campaigns is the ability to test and react to ineffective creatives quickly. Results are almost immediate, making it easier to understand what to scale when top-performing creatives appear. Once you scale five to seven creatives at a time, you will know which one starts to burn out.

The biggest disadvantage is the lack of algorithm optimizations for the final funnel event. But you still can test creatives using web conversion optimization and scale profitable creatives using SKAdNetwork campaigns.

To succeed with web conversion optimization campaigns, you need good creatives, a proactive testing approach, and quick decision-making. One or two days of hesitation can generate losses depriving you of previously earned profit margins. As such, pay attention to time spent on campaign management as it is one of the most important components of profitable scaling. Be prepared to test, learn and repeat.