How Branch Simplifies SKAN 4.0

Author’s note: For historical context, we highly suggest checking out our previously published blog posts on SKAN 4.0: 

Since late October 2022, the mobile industry has been abuzz with the exciting news of SKAdNetwork 4.0’s release. Not only does this present an opportunity for those in mobile marketing to revamp their strategies, but SKAN 4.0 also presents many questions about how mobile measurement partners (MMPs) like Branch plan to support the latest changes in addition to previous versions of SKAN.  

To that effect, as of November 2022, we are thrilled to announce that Branch has built the necessary components to support transitioning to SKAN 4.0. These changes – including updates to our SDKs, our dashboard SKAN configuration tools, and an enhanced SKAN Analytics view within our dashboard – allow for a deeper understanding of signals from your iOS users.

While the mobile ecosystem (including ad networks) still has work to do to support SKAN 4.0, Branch makes it easier for you by supporting seamless migration from earlier versions of SKAN to the latest version, SKAN 4.0. This way, you’ll be able to more easily visualize previous, current, and future versions of SKAN data within Branch.

Maintaining business continuity with graceful fallbacks incorporated for previous SKAN versions is of the utmost importance, and Branch customers can rest easy knowing that updating their SKAN implementation to support SKAN 4.0 will not cause any disruptions. As the rest of the ecosystem rolls out SKAN 4.0 support over time, you can continue to run your SKAN 2 and SKAN 3 campaigns and conversion reporting as usual. 

We’ll discuss these new changes within the context you’ll encounter as a Branch customer using SKAN to measure your iOS campaigns. If you’re looking for a full recap of all the changes in SKAdNetwork 4.0, we recommend our previous SKAN 4.0 recap blog post.

What’s new in Branch’s support of SKAN 4.0? 

The changes Branch has made to support SKAN 4.0 can be grouped into three major themes: 

  1. SKAN configuration: We’ve updated our SDK and our dashboard configuration tools, like our conversion value mapper. 
  2. SKAN-driven insights: Our dashboard reports now support the new data granularity available from SKAN 4.0, including coarse conversion values and additional Source ID digits.
  3. Ad serving & network integrations: We’re also updating our integrations with ad networks to support the SKAN 4.0 data that can now be sent to Branch via new Source ID digits. 
SKAN configuration

Our teams have been hard at work updating our platform to support SKAN functionality, including an SDK update and new configuration options in our dashboard.

Updated SKAN conversion value mapper 

To take advantage of the new coarse conversion value in SKAdNetwork 4.0, advertisers need to map these values to their existing in-app events.

If you use Branch to manage your SKAN conversion values (most common), you can now assign coarse values to mapped events within the updated SKAN conversion value mapper in our dashboard. This way, you can understand and optimize your campaigns more effectively across all versions of SKAN.

Better yet, functional logic has been built in that will automatically warn you when a coarse value has not been assigned.

If you don’t use Branch to manage your SKAN conversion values (either you have implemented the SKAdNetwork functions directly, or you use another tool to do so), we suggest using similar logic to configure your conversion value mapping. Feel free to reach out to your Branch customer success manager for more information.

Lockable events 

The Branch conversion mapping page also now allows you to indicate which events are “locking” events, according to the new SKAN 4.0 specifications. This means that when that event is detected, it will trigger the SKAN postback and “end” the current SKAN window. 

Doing this is helpful if a user reaches the defined threshold within the measurement window and you want the postback to fire as soon as possible, rather than waiting longer to give the user more time to do something even more beneficial.

Anchorable events

The ability to increase and/or decrease conversion values is an impressive and flexible feature introduced by SKAN 4.0. However, this new functionality could also be complicated — so we’ve included “Anchor to highest value” as an option to facilitate a smooth transition from earlier versions of SKAN.

When this setting is enabled, we’ll guarantee that the highest value event in your mapping that a user completes will be the event sent to SKAN. This is how SKAN 2 and SKAN 3 work currently, and we will uphold that functionality in SKAN 4.0 by default to help our customers in their transition to SKAN 4.0. 

Our primary goal in doing this is to allow pre-existing SKAN configurations to continue without destabilization while also incorporating SKAN 4.0’s new features.

Note: Disabling the  “Anchor to highest value” toggle means that the last event — instead of the highest value event — completed by a user in a given postback window will be the one set to SKAN. 

SKAN-driven insights

We’ve updated our dashboard reports to take advantage of SKAN 4.0’s increased data granularity, including more specific conversion values and the extra digits in Source IDs. This improved granularity allows for more effective marketing campaigns and better analysis of campaign performance.

Coarse conversion values

With coarse conversion values, you can see which users are more active and investing in your product, even if your campaign is not yet eligible for the full, fine-grained conversion value. 

Now, you can view the aggregate counts of events and postbacks by coarse-grained values within the SKAdNetwork Analytics view.

Source ID

Prior versions of SKAN had two-digit campaigns (referred to as Campaign IDs), which SKAN 4.0 has since replaced with Source IDs – featuring up to two extra digits (up to four total). Now, you can compare by Source ID within Branch’s SKAdNetwork analytics dashboard.

These added digits will empower ad networks to pass more descriptive information from your ad campaigns, powering analytics filters and breakdowns such as geo, placement, and creative. 

Branch dashboard gif showing Source ID functionality

Coming soon: Retention cohorts powered by new postbacks 

With SKAN 4.0, the number of postbacks per user has increased from one to three, with delayed windows. We’re hard at work iterating on these additional postback views! Currently, we’re building an updated analytics experience that will allow you to easily see how your users re-engage after install. 

Powered by the additional postbacks available in SKAN 4.0, Branch customers will be able to better understand user re-engagement post-app installation in this dynamic view. 

Ad serving & network integrations

Another priority for Branch is to update our integrations with ad networks to support the new SKAN 4.0 data that can now be passed through to Branch. Each ad network will now need to update their SKAN support, which unfortunately won’t happen all at once. This step is the most ambiguous, and there is little guidance yet from most networks on timelines.

For some networks, Branch pulls aggregated SKAN data from an API. If and when these ad networks expand their APIs, Branch will retrieve all available data. For other networks that forward individual SKAN postbacks to Branch, we’ll be updating our integrations to support additional data that could be sent to Branch based on Source ID digits.

This process will take some time, so we’re proactively working to activate advertisers on SKAN 4.0 and accelerate learnings. Branch has begun working closely on our end-to-end SKAN integration with Snap, in addition to creating a SKAN 4.0 badge certification process for ad networks.

What happens next? 

A complete industry rollout of SKAN 4.0 support is going to take some time. Many updates and additional support are still required from multiple angles for the mobile ecosystem to fully align with SKAN 4.0 changes.  

Don’t worry; Branch will guide you along the way. We are progressing quickly on providing further SKAN 4.0 support. Future plans include helping you handle your SKAN conversion value mapping automatically, in addition to helping you understand how your upper-funnel events are valued (based on your team’s self-defined north star KPI).

This is just the start of the updates we are investing in SKAN 4.0. We’re looking forward to working with customers and partners to make the most of SKAN 4.0’s new capabilities. We’re also hard at work developing next-generation solutions that keep user privacy front and center. Stay tuned for more news in 2023!

What can you do now? 

Now that Branch’s updated SKAdNetwork 4.0 functionality is available, we encourage you to: 

  • Update your Branch SDK when convenient over the next few months, so that you’re prepared when ad networks start releasing their support for SKAN 4.  Fair warning: it may take a few months for everyone to catch up when it comes to SKAN 4.0. Once they do, your Branch configuration will be up to date, ready and waiting!