Shifting from quantity to quality mobile partnerships in the face of iOS 14.5

Apple’s recent iOS 14.5 update includes new policies around tracking and identifying users across mobile apps. The most important piece of this update, as far as mobile app partnerships are concerned, is that device-level install attribution is no longer possible without user consent. This new restriction will alter the way that companies measure their mobile […]

Richa Dani, Director of Strategic Partnerships
Richa Dani
Director of Strategic Partnerships

Apple’s recent iOS 14.5 update includes new policies around tracking and identifying users across mobile apps. The most important piece of this update, as far as mobile app partnerships are concerned, is that device-level install attribution is no longer possible without user consent.

This new restriction will alter the way that companies measure their mobile partnership programs, because it’s now much harder to attribute user-acquisition campaigns and, more specifically, installs. But the moves within iOS represent an opportunity for enterprises to adjust how they approach mobile app partnerships, in terms of both payment models and in how they work with partners going forward. 

While many companies are right to have concerns about a lack of performance data, some creative thinking may pay off in improved app-install campaigns going forward.

What does the iOS 14.5 update mean?

Apple updated its developer documentation language to clarify that probabilistic matching will not be permitted under the new framework, except when a user has explicitly granted permission to be tracked. Without consistent deterministic or probabilistic matching, user acquisition campaigns likely will see a considerable drop in attributed iOS installs and in-app conversions. We recently covered the iOS 14.5 change in detail, and recommend reading our earlier post for more information on Apple’s replacement technology, SKAdNetwork.

How should partnership programs change because of iOS 14.5 updates?

The news about iOS 14.5’s updated policies is important because many mobile partnership programs are evaluated on a performance basis and often paid for on a cost-per-install model. Without the ability to match users, it’s difficult to determine which partner drove an install or which partner ought to be credited with a specific in-app action.

So how do you assess which partners are actually contributing to a program without a reliable means for measurement? Up until now, many enterprises have used performance payment models to scale their programs across a large number of potential partners, and then pay each of these partners for the conversions. These partners likely work with many enterprises to do the same thing as well, and they take on the risk of not only referring traffic, but in hoping it converts in order for them to get paid.

Now that external forces have changed this model, all in the name of consumer privacy, what are enterprises going to do? The path forward is actually a huge opportunity. The more pessimistic view of the future is a flatline for performance. But those who adopt a different strategy should view this initial feeling-out period as the beginning of a hockey stick of growth.

Why prioritizing quality will make the difference for mobile partnerships

The best place to start is to move away from performance-based pricing and towards a flat fee for your mobile partners. Rather than paying on installs or actions after installs, explore a payment system where partners are paid for promoting your brand and for the traffic that they send over. Enterprises will have a much harder time telling which partners drove installs than they did before, but they can verify that partners are indeed sending traffic to app marketplaces by measuring clicks, which verifies that a promotion is happening and driving traffic.

Of course, if an enterprise adopts this strategy with 1,000 partners, it will still be impossible to assess the value that each partner is driving, and it won’t make sense financially, either. This is why a quality over quantity approach is needed. You can achieve that in three easy steps:

  • Using  detailed reporting from prior to the iOS 14.5 update,determine which partners were the most valuable in the program. 
  • Approach those partners to discuss different payment models.,With precise measurement going away, now’s the time to build a great relationship.
  • As these partners continue to drive value, your enterprise will continue to see a return on investment from the partnership space as the installs and other metrics that matter to your campaigns continue.  

Better still, cultivating deeper relationships with a cadre of high-value partners – rather than casting a wider net – has the potential to perform even better. These partners will feel like they are a more central component of the program, and you can collaborate closely to adjust the program to drive maximum results. Rather than building scale through the long tail, deepen the relationship with those that have already demonstrated results.

This is not to say that you abandon any plans to grow a mobile acquisition campaign. Once the program has reached a healthy point, it’s possible to continue adding in new partners and then measure the incremental effect they have on the program KPIs. Are installs and activity increasing? Are the right kinds of users downloading the app and continuing to use it? 

Maintaining performance with a new pricing model

The most important thing for companies running mobile partnership campaigns to remember is that these new policies do not mean a drop in performance, nor do they even mean that performance is less important and you should invest blindly. 

Performance analytics represents the measurement system many partnerships have agreed to utilize, and that will have to change. Partnerships will not move away from delivering performance, but they will move away from paying solely on performance.

In fact, many mobile partners are already turning away from CPI programs if they can earn more by referring their traffic elsewhere. It’s the brands that haven’t quite caught up yet, so you may find that mobile partners are eager to adjust their payment structure.

A future where partners are paid on value should lead to better growth and a closer bond between the two parties in the partnership. In short, it’s going to build more trust, with both the partners and the customers themselves. 

At Impact we’re helping to broker trust between partners, and trust is defined by having a history of meeting expectations. It’s possible to balance privacy and performance, provided that partners are willing to get creative with their payment structures.

The partnership space is still working to grasp the full impact from the iOS 14.5 update, and important nuances are likely to emerge. We’ll continue to share insights, best practices, and new strategies so that enterprises can continue to make the most of their mobile partnerships and install-focused campaigns.

As always, if you have questions about keeping your partnerships strong, reach out to us at


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