Tools used by early-stage startups to unicorns.
Let us start with a back story about growth teams. These are teams that look at the entire funnel to see how to improve the overall growth by influencing each part of the funnel. The growth team has evolved due to a fundamental shift in access to users on platforms like Facebook & Twitter. Additionally, with the rapid evolution of technology, data access & visualization growth teams can readily visualise the whole funnel and influence KPIs at each stage to drive growth.
Growth teams not only have marketers but also designers, product managers and engineers and data analysts.
To enable the team to build a growth machine, the tech marketing stack that the company needs to be robust and well thought out. For mobile products, Software development Kits (SDKs) are invaluable tools which help collect data, analyse it, and drive marketing automation rules personalised to each user.
Mobile apps have a number of SDKs which are used by the engineering team.
At last count, Uber had over 30 SDKs/ tools as per Stackshare. Growth teams have different requirements. They need to figure out which channel the user came from (organic, paid) how much did the user spend on the app, how often does the user transact and what are the key features that the user interacted with. Tracking all this, driving user retention and building effective growth loops can be simplified with the help of these 9 SDKs which are a part of the martech stack. Let’s dive in.
1. Attribution SDK
Online marketing and tracking are becoming increasingly complex and as we are able to track multiple touchpoints, attribution modelling has become a focus area for marketers. Measuring which touchpoints most influence conversion requires an attribution tool.
If a user first comes to your app via a Google ad, finds the chair that he wants to buy, adds it to the cart and goes away only to return after 7 days when he sees a video ad for the chair on Instagram, in this case, which channel would you attribute the sale to and how will you measure it.
These tools not only have multi-touch attribution figured out but also play a key role in fraud prevention so that delinquent publishers do not falsely claim the attribution. The help determines which campaigns, partners, and channels delivered each app install so that marketers can optimize marketing performance across user acquisition and retargeting campaigns.
Pro Tip: Do not set up the attribution SDKs to only measure installs but also configure post-install events like payment_success so that you can measure LTV for users coming in from different channels. This can also help you customise creatives for each channel if the user behaviour is different for users coming in from Google or from Instagram.
2. Deeplinking SDK
Deep links send users directly to an app instead of a website or the app store. They are used to send users straight to specific in-app locations, saving users the time and energy locating a particular page themselves thereby significantly improving the user experience.
Deep links produce a seamless user journey and can significantly increase your conversion rate and retention rate. For example, your ad shows a new video released yesterday if the user clicks the ad, he is taken to the page in the app that has the video.
Then, there is deferred deep linking. Taking the same example forward, let us say the user does not have the app installed. Upon clicking the ad the user will be taken to the app store instead. When that user installs and opens the app, he will be sent to the in-app location where the video can be watched.
Deep linking SDKs like Appsflyer, Branch and Adjust (They sound the same as attribution SDKs. What happened here?) provide marketers with fully-formed deep link URLs that work for both App Links (Android) and Universal Links (iOS). The reason why I have mentioned deeplinking as a separate SDK is that many companies often develop deeplink architecture inhouse. Other use a different SDK for attribution from what they use for deeplinking due to ease of usage and functionality.
Pro Tip: While you implement deep links for online ads, push notifications and emails ensure that the deep links work for different browser types and email clients. Also, deep links behave differently for each platform, utilise this to redirect the user to the web page or the app store as per your requirement.
3. Analytics SDK
Analytics SDKs are like the XRAY vision for your app and help in tracking key events in the app. They provide real-time insights into core goals, such as growth, retention, and engagement. Additionally, they help track the complete customer journey from viewing a page, adding an item to the cart, completing a purchase, and much more.
They help collect data, show trends, help with visualisations, building hypothesis and set goals to improve KPIs that are trending down. Analytics tools help build cohorts of users who have performed key behaviours.
There a ton of tools available for analytics and many other SDKs have built-in analytics as a core feature. Choose one that is suited to your needs, within your budget, is easy to implement and covers all the use cases.
SDKs like Mixpanel and Amplitude offer a range of features and are the ones I prefer. Firebase and Flurry are decent too. CRM SDKs like Clevertap and WebEngage offers a range of analytics functions too.
Pro Tip: Lean towards tools that visualise complete data rather than sample data. When setting up events, leverage event properties to pass additional data which can give more context to the marketer. Track almost every screen so that you can target users who have not been exposed to particular functionality in the app. Cover both client-side and server-side events to get a complete picture.
4. Marketing Automation SDK
Marketing Automation is a technology that streamlines, automates, measures marketing tasks so that marketing becomes more scalable, cost-effective & operationally efficient. It helps revenue grow faster and most importantly, leads to enhanced customer experience.
Marketing automation SDKs help marketers analyse user behaviour, create personalized experiences to engage users through the funnel using push notifications, in-app messages, SMS, web push, emails, and other channels. They also help growth teams create visual workflows to create cross-channel campaigns that adapt to user behaviour in real-time.
Marketing Automation plays a key role in making growth efforts at a company scalable. These platforms use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to personalize customer experience using real-time behavioural data. Additionally, they help orchestrate omnichannel campaigns for multiple user segments in a single workflow. More on Marketing automation here and here.
Pro Tip: Create journey campaigns to take users through onboarding efficiently. User triggered campaigns to run multiple experiments rather than a single campaign. Improve your overall cohorts by creating segmented cohorts based on user behaviour or attributes. Use the platform to target future behaviour. For example, utilise churn prediction to reduce churn. Trigger a drop cart event if the user has not made the payment in a defined period of time.
5. A/B Testing SDK
A/B Testing is a method of conducting controlled, randomized experiments with the goal of improving a website or application metric. Many companies build A/B testing tools inhouse (which is fine), however, to fast track things I prefer using Optimizely.
A great A/B testing SDK empowers the product team to control feature rollouts separately from code deployment. It delivers statistically relevant results in real-time so that the team can make faster decisions. The SDK enables multiple experiments to run in parallel and drive growth. It helps marketers test multiple headlines, CTAs, offers, email subject lines, notification messages and even screens. Most importantly all this is enabled without writing a single line of code.
Pro Tip: While A/B testing enables growth teams to test multiple variations of screen or CTA on conversions, utilise this data to note long term impact on user retention and LTV. Link the A/B data to the analytics tool to measure the impact on retention.
6. Crash Reporting SDK
App crashing is one of the key reasons for uninstalls. The crash reporting SDK runs detailed reports of the issues that can cause your app to crash. It monitors the errors and it collects the information you need to discover the problems. Only 16% of users are willing to give another chance to an app that crashes the first time. A good Crash reporting SDK also provides information on why a crash occurred and what happened leading up to it. With this insight, you can uncover the root cause of crashes more quickly.
Firebase Crashlytics is often used by companies in India to app crashes.
Instabug is another interesting SDK here. It empowers mobile teams to release with confidence through the comprehensive bug and crash reports, real-time surveys and user feedback. When somebody uses your app and he discovers a bug, it is enough to shake the phone to capture an editable image with that bug. After he reports the bug, you have the opportunity to communicate with him and solve the problem as soon as possible.
Pro Tip: Integrate the data from the SDK with your project management or ticketing system ( Jira, Slack, Trello or Zendesk) so that the issue is raised immediately.
7. Heatmapping SDK
Heatmaps are used to show user behaviour on specific pages. Heatmaps can be used to show where users have clicked on a page, how far they have scrolled down a page, or be used to display the results of eye-tracking tests. Heatmaps can give a more comprehensive overview of how users are really behaving.
Heatmaps are also a lot more visual than standard analytics reports, which can make them easier to analyse at a glance. They provide a good way to see, at a glance, how ‘popular’ the elements on a certain page are. This is particularly useful for comparing elements that are given similar prominence on the page.
Great Heatmap SDKs enable session recording besides basic heatmaps. They can also segment users to analyse how each segment is interacting with the screen. VWO is a popular tool amongst Indian startups for experience optimization.
Pro Tip: Don’t rush into analysis until there is sufficient data. Give tests enough data to increase confidence. Going against the logic of running tests for a longer period of time is the idea of ending tests which produce significant negative results for 3 consecutive days even if a winner is not yet declared.
8. Monetization SDK
Mobile advertising SDKs are a vital component of successfully monetizing mobile apps. Instead of creating complex systems to build and deploy ads in-app, SDKs include tools that allow for more seamless app integration.
With a monetization SDK integration, mobile publishers get access to the demand available for advertisements and it becomes easier and faster to scale. Moreover, Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) prefer to make deals with publishers that are SDK-based, because that is a safer way for them to check and verify publisher inventory.
Ad tech developers put a lot of effort into building SDKs that are not only light, but that won’t significantly affect app performance by increasing its size and network load. Advertising SDKs rapidly boost your revenues by giving you easy access to the top-rated ad networks worldwide to find the best partners for monetization efforts.
Adtech is a huge space and has over 100s of SDKs to choose from. Companies specialise in regions(Asia, USA, Europe), formats (video, native, display) and verticals ( Gaming, News). You will need to figure out which is the best fit for your company depending on the payout, technology, partnerships, ad formats and speciality of the monetization partner.
Find a list of solutions here.
Pro Tip: Transparency is key in choosing the right partner
9. Customer Data Platform SDK
CDPs are a data pipeline that integrates with all the tools and platforms to easily set up a data warehouse. Different SDKs integrate into a CDP with a few clicks. A CDP saves on engineering time by bringing data consistency whenever any new SDK/ tool is added to the mix.
A CDP is able to take all of these separate data points and attributes and match them to a single view of your customer, so marketers can avoid targeting customers with the wrong message or offer. CDPs collect first-party data like mobile identifiers, geographic location, emails, to form a persistent and robust customer profile. No matter which cloud platforms are used, CDPs provide the connective tissue between all these different cloud software providers to create a single customer view.
Unlike data lakes, data warehouses and most CRM systems, which are controlled by IT, growth teams are the primary stakeholders and system owners of CDPs.
This may look a bit overwhelming. However, each business has its own journey. You may not need all these SDKs on Day-0.
There are some tools that you may outgrow with time and other tools that you may want to stop using since an existing SDK has developed the same functionality. Marketing stacks evolve over time. Here’s a great post which has different company archetypes for martech adoption.
Reach out if you need any help in discussing which SDKs to use at your startup.