Tracking AppStore Conversions (part 1)
As developers we tend to live in our code bases. However, in order to make a living, so we can write more code, it is important to focus at least some of our time on the dreaded marketing side of app publishing. To be honest, just using some of the terminology weirds me out a bit. But if you’re going to make a run at app development be it iPhone, Mac, or whatever you need to get wet so why not dive in feet first.
If you’re like me you like optimizing things. Tweaking the sales of your apps upward is no different and can be accomplished through effective marketing (and a little luck). The key word here is “effective”. Without data to support our efforts we’re really just shooting blindly in the dark. In this series of posts I’ll outline a way that we can get raw data on the effectiveness of our online and in-app marketing efforts for iPhone apps. The technique to be discussed was originally mentioned on MobileOrchard and if you want a good overview of the process I highly suggest you take a look at the article. I’ll be doing a deep dive into creating the necessary links, obtaining the data, and finally analyzing it. We’ll start with details on collecting data and end with some real numbers for one of my iPhone apps.
Our ultimate goal, at least for this article, is to determine how many application sales result from a particular marketing effort. On the web this is fairly easy to do with the help from our friends at Google. However, on the iPhone the sales channel is obscured by the iTunes AppStore. Once a user clicks into the AppStore their actions enter a black hole and we can no longer determine if they bought our app. Or so we thought. There is in fact a way to determine if a particular user click resulted in a sale of our application. This mechanism is found in the iTunes affiliate program available through LinkShare.
If you haven’t signed up for the iTunes affiliate program through LinkShare go do it now. Not only will it allow you to track your app marketing efforts but you’ll get an additional 5% on each and every sale that you refer as defined by their program. This not only includes your own app but any other app, song, movie, or whatever the user purchases after clicking your link. Even better you will continue to garner 5% from all purchases of that user for the next 120 days or until someone else refers them back to iTunes (these are known as ‘Return Days’ in LinkShare terminology).
So the extra 5% is great but how does that help our marketing data efforts? LinkShare provides an additional mechanism known as ‘Signatures’ that thankfully Apple supports. Signatures are the missing link that will allow us to see into the iTunes AppStore and determine whether a particular user click resulted in a purchase of our application. This linkage will then allow us to calculate a Conversion Rate from which we can begin to understand how effective our marketing effort is.
It should be noted at this point that there are a few gotchas and the system is not perfect. In fact, due to some reporting peculiarities with LinkShare signature reports the data can really only be taken in aggregate over a longer period of time (say a month or more). From the LinkShare help manual, “Most reports are based on the transaction date—the date the transaction actually occurs. The Signature Orders report, however, is based on the process date —the date that LinkShare receives and processes the transaction data sent by the advertiser“. As it works out it happens to be the Signature Orders report that we’re looking to use. So, since the data slides slightly based on the process date we can aggregate the data over a longer period of time and any temporal issues should be minimized. With that being said I have observed that the data from Apple appears to be processed within a day or so (as in all things YMMV).
Now, it’s finally time to set up a LinkShare signature so that we can start collecting some data. It’s really pretty easy. The first thing to do is create the standard LinkShare referral link. Basically, all that you need to do is grab an iTunes link for your product and then paste it into the LinkShare link builder.
The LinkShare link builder is available after logging into your account on the ‘Links’ tab. From this tab I have been using the ‘Deep Linking’ feature to just plug in my iTunes URL, fill in a signature and generate the clicksynergy URL. If you already have clicksynergy links created never fear. All you really need to do is add a ‘&u1=<your_custom_signature>’ to the end of the url. You can also modify the signature value whenever you want without ever going back into LinkShare since it will get picked up and tracked automatically. The value of the signature parameter can be whatever you want but I do suggest making it meaningful since this is all you’ll have in the report to figure out what link was clicked on.
Well, that’s it for now. Next up we’ll get into using our clicksynergy link and getting at the data the signatures give us. Then after we know how to collect and process the data we’ll look at analyzing it. At which point I’ll show real metrics as gathered from one of my iPhone apps.