Postback is the exchange of information between servers when an in-app event or app install occurs. It enables in-app activity tracking and carries data that measurement partners need for attributing installs and impressions.

What is a postback? 

In mobile marketing, a postback is an essential tool needed for measuring user activity and sharing data between ad functions and measurement partners. The information trade allows apps to properly assign attributions when an install occurs and make real-time changes based on user behavior. 

For any apps that use server-based systems to communicate information with their partnering ad network or mobile measurement partner (MMP), postbacks are crucial in the sense that it enables the real-time transmission of information between servers, allowing marketers to make data-driven solutions on the go. Postback data helps determine which ads are driving conversions, identify the most profitable traffic sources, and other updates on user activity that may provide indications on changes that need to be made. 

There are two types of postback: 

  • Install postback: This type of postback is used to inform the winning media source with the attribution of an install. 
  • In-app event postback: This type of postback notifies the media source when a user completes an in-app event after the app has been installed. 

How do postbacks work? 

Postbacks send data between platforms involved in the ad delivery process, including ad networks, advertisers, and MMPs, depending on which parties are involved. Below are the steps to activating postbacks and communicating user activity. 

  1. An ad network presents a digital ad to the user 
  2. The user views the ad
  3. If the user is interested, they will engage with the ad. Let’s say it is promoting a new gaming app. The user clicks on the ad, which redirects them to the app store install page
  4. In the app store, the user installs the app
  5. Post-installation, the user opens the app and engages in in-app events like in-app purchases
  6. User activity data is sent to the corresponding attribution provider like MMPs that will analyze the data for assigning attributions
  7. The MMP detects the ad responsible for triggering an install or in-app event. It sends an install postback or in-app event postback to the ad network that published the respective ad, notifying them of the attribution 

This procedure occurs continuously in real time, at every instance a user engages with an ad that generates attributions. Based on the MMP, marketers can set custom settings to accurately measure the areas that are important to them. For instance, Airbridge provides a range of events to be sent via postback, including installs, launch, launch deep link, in-app events, and custom events. Marketers can choose which events to track depending on the channel and ad. 

Apple’s SKAdNetwork postback

Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN) works differently from other postbacks since the introduction of the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. Any app that collects user-level data for ad purposes is required to abide by the ATT framework, which divides users into two categories, consenting iOS users and non-consenting iOS users. Apps are only allowed to track the activity of consenting ones, and Apple also makes sure that this data is anonymized before sharing it and enabling postbacks. 

In SKAN 3.0, marketers could only receive one postback with install and in-app event data combined from the first 24 hours of a user’s install. Starting with SKAN 4.0, they can receive up to three postbacks with three measurement windows, if Apple decides there is enough data to maintain crowd anonymity. 

Postback vs. callback

While postbacks and callbacks are used interchangeably today, callbacks originally refer to a ping that is requested from one server to another to communicate data on web platforms. Callback requests, also known as http or https requests, are triggered when a user engages with an ad and a subsequent event, similar to a postback. The callback can receive information like web/app data, attribution information, and raw data, and delivers this information using network servers and SDKs. Like postbacks, callback data is used to analyze campaign performances and make timely adjustments to marketing activities if necessary. 

How does Airbridge use postbacks?

As a leading MMP for measuring mobile marketing data, Airbridge partners with multiple ad networks to track and share postbacks. On the Airbridge dashboard, marketers can configure postbacks and set custom parameters to track attributions and in-app events.

Currently, Airbridge supports the postback tracking of various events, from installs, in-app purchases, subscriptions, to custom events. For each campaign, marketers can choose the events they would like to measure and map custom postback URLs for each. These URL parameters will automatically track user activity and return the relevant postbacks to ad networks when certain events are detected.

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