How to Successfully Transition from SKAN 3 to SKAN 4

5 min read

Hate it or love it, SKAdNetwork is here to stay. With the latest SKAN 4 iteration from Apple, mobile marketers are going to get more data and better indicators of campaign success and enhanced user quality. This additional insight, however, comes at a cost – extra complexity. Apps and brands that learn to tame this beast and extract maximum signal from SKAdNetwork will have an outsized advantage.

So how do you successfully transition from SKAN 3 to SKAN 4?

First of all, you start now.

At Singular, we’re starting to see SKAN 4 postbacks in the wild. While it’s still early in the transition to SKAN 4 from SKAN 3, ad networks are testing their implementations now and, thanks to the backwards compatibility of SKAdNetwork postbacks, could soon open the floodgates. Their incentive is clear – more data to optimize campaigns. Ad networks that get there earlier will have advantages over those who are late.

The same is true for marketers. The big question, however, is what app developers and marketers need to do in order to successfully transition to SKAN 4.

That’s precisely why we’ve created the SKAN 4 transition guide.

This is a guest blog written by Singular.

What’s new in SKAN 4: Quick recap

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about SKAN 4 by now. Here’s a super-short recap of the major changes from SKAN 3:

1. Crowd anonymity and source identifier

SKAN 4 introduces crowd anonymity, which determines the amount of data you receive from SKAdNetwork based on the number of installs per campaign. It also replaces campaign IDs with Source Identifiers.

2. Multiple postbacks

Unlike SKAN 3, which had only one postback, SKAN 4 offers 3 postbacks spread over time, providing more insights and value. These are not connected to a specific user, however.

3. Postback delays and locking conversion values

SKAN 4 introduces random timers for postback deliveries to maintain user privacy, which leads to a wide range of postback arrival times. Marketers can lock conversion values when they reach an acceptable level of data, however, potentially shortening postback arrival periods.

4. Web to app support

SKAN 4 enables web to app measurement (Safari only!) through the SKAdNetwork for Web Ads API. This allows mobile marketers to use web ads and onboarding experiences for user acquisition and attribution side-by-side with mobile app campaigns.

5. Conversion value decreases

In SKAN 4, conversion values can be decreased as well as increased, providing more flexibility in evaluating the value of newly acquired users and making better decisions for ad budget allocation.

These updates make SKAN 4 significantly more complex than its predecessor (see the transition guide for more details), but also offer more data and flexibility for app marketers.

You’ll want to run larger campaigns that produce plenty of crowd anonymity to get the most SKAN 4 data. To simplify SKAN 4 and make it usable for your entire team, it is recommended to use tools like SKAN Advanced Analytics to abstract complexity, model missing data, translate conversion values to human-readable formats, analyze conversions in a user-friendly manner, and present it side-by-side with all your costs and other marketing data.

Delve into this insightful guide to Apple Search Ads campaigns to boost your app visibility

6 things to do now in preparation for SKAN 4

There are some simple steps you can take now to get ready for SKAN 4:

1. Update your measurement SDK

To prepare for SKAN 4, ensure that your product team updates the MMP SDK in your app. As of November 2022, the Singular SDK is SKAN 4 ready and remains SKAN 3 compatible. So there is no risk of damaging existing SKAdNetwork implementations or attributions for legacy campaigns.

2. Talk to partners

Communicate with your acquisition and monetization partners to learn about their SKAN 4 transition plans. Catch up if they’re already moving forward. If you haven’t set up a SKAN 4 model in your MMP dashboard, you’re going to be at risk of missing some data. Chat with your partners to ensure a smooth transition and make decisions about budget allocation or transition timing if not all partners are ready for SKAN 4.

3. Don’t forget the web

If you run or plan to run web ads for iOS user acquisition, talk to your ad partners about their timelines and any necessary steps for integration or collaboration.

4. Share your hierarchies

Start sharing your SKAN 4 source identifier hierarchies with ad partners to help them optimize campaign targeting, delivery, and volume in near real-time. That will help them gauge targeting and engagement success or failure, and help them fine-tune campaigns to deliver better results.

5. Plan your coarse conversion value strategy

Align your coarse conversion value strategy with your fine conversion value strategy, so that whatever data you get back – whether it was from fine or coarse – is coherent and actionable. A coherent strategy between the two possible conversion payloads will ensure that while coarse results will, of course, be less specific than fine results, they are at least comparable to the fine results and speak, in a sense, the same language.

6. Build a framework to evaluate users at each of the 3 postbacks

Execute SKAN 4 well, and you’ll get 3 postbacks for your installs. But since they’re not connected to each other (the first, second, and third postbacks for user 1 aren’t tied together), you don’t have a user journey or flow through your app. Instead, use them as report cards in each stage, and to enhance your virtual cohort reporting.

But wait, there’s more …

This transition from SKAN 3 to SKAN 4 is definitely not easy and is relatively new to many mobile marketers. There is more to learn, understand, and execute about the new SKAN 4.

Read this SKAN 4 transition guide for a quick summary of the changes in SKAN 4

Ultimately, SKAN 4 is a good thing for iOS-focused mobile marketers. But it will take some time to get up to speed on all its nuances … just like it did for SKAN 3.

John Koetsier
by , VP Insights at Singular
John is a journalist, analyst, author, founder, and now angel investor. He's interviewed 11 billionaires, chronicled the rise of the mobile economy, and climbed a pyramid in Cairo. He writes for Forbes, hosts video podcasts, and consults with tech companies like Singular.