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AppsFlyer Performance Index 16

An economic slump, privacy-led data restrictions, and covid — all within a mere three years — have taken marketers on a wild roller coaster ride — challenging to say the least but also presenting opportunities to those who adapt.

An economic slump, privacy-led data restrictions, and covid — all within a mere three years — have taken marketers on a wild roller coaster ride — challenging to say the least but also presenting opportunities to those who adapt.

In the past year, app install ad spend (user acquisition) budgets have been slashed, dropping 20% year-over-year, as the market shifted from a growth mindset to profitability and, in some cases, survival mode. The drop that began to take shape in H2 2022 continued and even accelerated in 2023.

In fact, all top media saw declines in 2023, with only four of the top 20 players generating a budget increase.

As the economic uncertainty lingers on and a recovery is not expected before 2024, marketers cannot afford to make the wrong decisions, especially when it comes to media source budget allocation.

This is particularly true for iOS with its high quality audience but fragmented measurement reality. To overcome this challenge, AppsFlyer created our first SSOT Index for a single and accurate view of the iOS media landscape (more details in methodology and key findings).

To help marketers smoothen the rocky ride and decide which media sources to partner with on Android and iOS, the 16th edition of The AppsFlyer Performance Index covers Q2 and Q3 of 2023 to rank 75 mobile media sources based on 11.5 billion app installs of 30,000 apps.

Key findings

Even with SSOT, Apple Search Ads is in a league of its own

In a reality of multiple data sources, where there will always be more than one framework the key is to merge different frameworks into a single decision-making perspective — a single source of truth (SSOT) that would give the media sources the credit they deserve, pushing CPI down and ROAS up.

It is therefore the best way to properly depict the state of the iOS media market. That is why, instead of two rankings — SKAN and traditional attribution — we’ve created our first combined iOS SSOT Index.

The index is powered by AppsFlyer’s solution which accurately deduplicates between the two data sources (click here for more information about our methodology). Therefore, comparing the results of this Index 16 to Index 15, where AppsFlyer had separate rankings, would not be an apples-to-apples comparison.

The new rankings clearly demonstrate that Apple Search Ads (ASA), which functions independently of SKAN and deterministically attributes users regardless of ATT consent, is the #1 media source for iOS apps by a significant margin. Its volume and number of clients is unrivaled, particularly in non-gaming, and its quality is also high.

Having said that, ASA inventory has not seen its install market share change much this year after adding some new placements at the end of last year.

Although still far from its dominant iOS position before iOS 14.5, Meta ads continues to adapt well to the post iOS 14.5 era coming in at #2 in the power and volume rankings. The social network’s performance is mostly driven by non-gaming apps on SKAN, where it drives the highest number of installs, well above the competition.

Google Ads came in at #3 in the rankings thanks to its scale among non-gaming apps. It should be noted that for Google, iOS is secondary compared to Android, especially when compared to its web business.

iOS gaming: Quality traffic spurs Liftoff and Moloco to #2 and #3

Apple Search Ads (ASA) is the #1 media source for iOS gaming apps. It ranked 1st in the power and volume rankings in most categories and regions with only a few exceptions (mainly in hypercasual which is not where it is strongest), while also driving high quality traffic.

Liftoff and Moloco reached an impressive 2nd and 3rd spots thanks to their high quality. However, their scale is significantly lower than the competition. Meta ads came in at #4 in the power ranking, driven largely by success in the midcore gaming category, while Google Ads did not fare as well in this category.

When it comes to the gaming powerhouses, Applovin ranked 5th in the global power ranking, driven by success in casual and hypercasual games, followed by Unity Ads in 6th place, thanks to a #4 rank in casual games. ironSource ranked 2nd globally in social casino, and 2nd in hypercasual games in Western Europe, Indian subcontinent, Latin America, and the Middle East.

iOS non-gaming: Apple Search Ads and Meta lead the way

The dominance of ASA in non-gaming is even more pronounced than it is in gaming, coming in at #1 in all the rankings across every category and every region except for Latin America with unmatched scale and high quality.

Meta ads ranked 2nd in the global power ranking, driven by its performance in Life & Culture where it ranked 2nd, while Google reached 5th place (3rd in the volume ranking) thanks to a #2 power ranking in finance. Snapchat and Moloco ranked 3rd and 4th, respectively, thanks to top-notch quality.

TikTok For Business ranked 6th (4th in the volume rank) with the highlight of a 2nd place global power ranking in the Utility Group.

Android gaming: Google extends lead as ironSource climbs 3 spots to #3

Google ads continues to dominate Android gaming, only extending its power ranking gap from 2nd place Unity (when comparing Index 15 and 16). In fact, it holds the top power and volume ranking in every category with the exception of hypercasual and casino where it is ranked 2nd.

Unity Ads held its #2 global power ranking position, but dropped one spot in the volume ranking to #5. Its success can mostly be attributed to Match games, where it ranked 2nd, as well as to Puzzle, Shooting, and Tabletop apps where it ranked 3rd globally.

IronSource surged in the global rankings, coming in at #3 in the power and volume rankings — up an impressive 3 slots vs. Index 15. Its success was driven by hypercasual games where it came in 3rd globally and in no less than ten regions. It also performed well in Action, ranking 3rd globally with four 3rd place rankings across EMEA, North America, and APAC.

Meta ads ranked 4th in the global power ranking — up one slot compared to Index 15 — thanks to a #1 ranking in casino as well as #2 spots in midcore games (RPG, Shooting, Strategy), as well as in puzzle, and sports & racing games.

It should be noted that power ranking gaps between Unity, ironSource, and Meta are minor.

AppLovin dropped 1 slot in the global power ranking to #5 and 1 slot in the volume ranking to #6. Its performance was driven by a #3 position in casino, and a #2 rank in tabletop.

Android non-gaming: Google and Meta leave little for the competition

From a volume perspective, this index is completely dominated by Google and Meta, and also TikTok For Business to some extent.

Google continued to dominate with a #1 global power and volume ranking across all categories. Meta ads is a distant 2nd with #2 positions across every category. TikTok For Business is ranked 3rd in volume, but well below Meta, with a #4 power ranking in Utility Group apps and #6 in finance.

Chinese media sources Xiaomi, vivo, and oppo have also shown their ability to scale with almost 10% of the global index volume, combined.

Remarketing: Meta closes gap from Google, surpassing the search giant atop shopping ranking

As seen in the Android non-gaming index, the Android remarketing ranking tells a similar story: Google and Meta dominate market share.

Google Ads is the #1 player across most rankings, but it came in 2nd behind Meta ads in the most important category in remarketing — shopping. In fact, Meta ads was able to reduce the gap from Google in the global power ranking because of its success in shopping, where it surpassed Google in Index 16 to come out atop the rankings.

TikTok For Business gained an impressive three spots to hit the #3 power ranking – driven by its significant scale, particularly for shopping apps. Liftoff ranked 4th thanks to great quality, while remarketing specialists Adikteev and Remerge followed with a #5 and #6 ranking, respectively. The former’s success was largely driven by Life & Culture apps, where it ranked 3rd thanks to great quality, while the latter came in as the top player in casino games where it clinched the #1 power ranking.