Uninstall Tracking

What is uninstall tracking?

Uninstall tracking can measure the number of users who received a specific campaign and subsequently uninstalled an app within a brief timeline. This data point helps to measure longer-term campaign efficacy. It also gives marketers insight into negative user behaviors that quickly follow a conversion, which is something traditional campaign metrics may miss.

Tracking app uninstalls can provide a so-called “anti-conversion metric.” Some app owners have seen tracking uninstalls as a meaningful part of their mobile analytics tracking, although it is declining in popularity. Campaign metrics dashboards can incorporate uninstalls to get a bird’s-eye view of churn and retention rates. Combined with other technical and campaign performance metrics, uninstalls can help app marketers measure campaign performance and identify what might be leading to optimal retention or causing churn. For that reason, it can be used as part of a retention strategy.

Limitations to uninstall tracking

Uninstall tracking can provide mobile marketers with a point of contrast to more desirable outcomes (i.e. conversions) which measurement solutions generally optimize for. However, platforms like Apple and Google limit how uninstall tracking can be measured. Let’s quickly recap how and why:

  • Uninstall tracking uses background push notifications, also known as “silent push notifications,” as a tool to detect when a mobile app has been uninstalled. This is done by sending background push notifications continuously to an app on a user’s device.
  • Once pushes are no longer delivered successfully, an uninstall is registered by the app owner or the mediating platform used for sending pushes and tracking uninstalls. However, this is tricky to implement without cause for concern over privacy and policy compliance. The data quality has also always been extremely unreliable. For example, users can opt out of push notifications.
  • Most consumers are unaware of how uninstall tracking is used. For instance, they don’t know it’s used to add them to a retargeting audience for ad campaigns. With their AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) policy on iOS 14+, Apple forbids brands from carrying out uninstall tracking without explicit user consent.

While policies restricting uninstall tracking have not been widely enforced in the past, as user privacy becomes even more important, Apple and Google are taking action to make it harder to track app uninstalls.

As a general rule, uninstall tracking is a poor metric to emphasize and puts an app at risk of rejection from app stores due to policy violations. Friendly reminder: Branch does not support uninstall tracking, because it does not align with our values and creates a major liability for our customers.

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