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6 tips for app businesses to increase their pool of retargetable iOS users



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June 15, 2023 | 8 min read

With many iOS app users opting out of cross-app tracking, app businesses have a smaller pool of customers who can be retargeted through in-app ad placements

This article looks at different ways that app businesses can drive up their opt-in rates to ensure their retargeting campaigns can continue reaching as many of their users as possible.

The current state of retargeting on iOS

Consumers are increasingly conscious of how their data is used, so Apple responded by empowering its users to take greater control over their data privacy. They did this by introducing the App Tracking Transparency framework (ATT) in April 2021. The framework gives iOS users the chance to opt into (or out of) cross-app tracking whenever they install an app. As initially expected, the majority of iOS users opted out of cross-app tracking when given the choice, so app-based businesses were left with far fewer customers to retarget.

Of course not all users want to receive personalized ads or messages from every app they download, but opting out of tracking makes it harder for app businesses to learn about their existing users and the other apps that their users spend their time and money on. Without this information, retargeting users via in-app ad placements becomes an impossibility. From limited user tracking and reduced ad targeting capabilities, to the inability to pinpoint attribution, retargeting is no longer as easy as it used to be.

Since then, the dust has settled. Data from last year (as seen in the graph below), shows the average opt-in rate across different app verticals is 46%, with utility and finance apps receiving a 53% opt-in rate, gaming at 46% and education apps at 41%. Even with opt-in rates stabilizing and enough iOS traffic for in-app retargeting to remain viable, the ATT framework still poses a major barrier for app businesses accessing user-level data. So instead of worrying about the impact ATT can have on your app, it’s time to take proactive steps to increase your opt-in rate and maximize your user base.

Here are six top tips and best practices you should know to increase your opt-in rates:

1. Optimize and personalize your ATT prompt

The ATT prompt presents itself in the form of a pop-up. Until a user actively complies with it, iOS apps cannot track their users across the other apps that their users engage with – nor can their users be retargeted via ads within these other apps. While user consent is mandatory, the ATT prompt does allow you a small amount of space for a short, personalized sentence to concisely persuade your users to allow cross-app tracking.

How you frame that message is important because it can help to increase your opt-in rates. Apps should explain in their ATT prompts that cross-app tracking allows them to learn more about their users in order to improve their services. Another useful thing to mention is that tracking helps apps to advertise great offers to their customers, or inform them about new product features. The key is to emphasize as succinctly as possible the value that users can derive from opting into tracking.

These ATT prompts from the #DRIVE gaming app and the ASOS shopping app both serve as a good examples:

2. Prepare a pre-prompt

It’s not just a personalized ATT pop-up that can help to increase opt-in rates. A ‘pre-prompt’ as part of a new user’s onboarding journey helps introduce users to the importance of cross-app tracking. As mentioned, you have limited space in the actual ATT prompt to explain why you want users to allow tracking, so creating a more detailed pre-prompt can improve your chances of increasing user opt-in rates.

A pre-prompt helps you to build trust with users before showing them the ATT prompt – you’re essentially preparing them for what they’re going to see. Building this into your onboarding flow can help you create a more pleasant and seamless experience for your new users so that they don’t get confused or concerned by the ATT pop-up. Here are some examples of pre-prompts that appear early on in the user journeys of the Adidas app and the AARP app:

AARP keeps their pre-prompt simple and free of jargon, while focusing on the benefits of opting into tracking. Adidas on the other hand makes some technical references to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), but they do explain what the acronym stands for – and they educate their users on what cross-app tracking enables them to do. The copy is very user-focused, speaking directly to them in the second person.

3. Consider every pre-prompt element

From button placement to actionable copy and white space, take time to choose all the elements that go into your pre-prompt – but keep Apple’s guidelines in mind. You can’t create a pre-prompt that mimics the ATT prompt in any way. Basically, don’t try and trick users into allowing tracking, instead, be transparent, concise and free of jargon when explaining why they should agree to being tracked.

4. Learn from the ATT prompts of other apps

If you’re wondering what to do or what not to do, don’t worry, there are plenty of examples you can scroll through on the ATT prompts site. It’s a place where people can submit any prompts or pre-prompts they’ve come across when downloading apps. Use the site for inspiration and filter by prompts and pre-prompts to see what others do well or not so well.

5. Launch your prompt within 10 minutes

Once a user has downloaded your app, you can prompt them anytime to consider cross-app tracking - but exactly when you do it makes a big difference. Simon Bacher, CEO and co-founder of the language learning app Ling App says that by introducing an early-stage permission request, you have a better chance of encouraging users to opt-in.

“The best time to ask for an ATT prompt consent is the first time the user launches the app after the succeeding in-app notifications. This early-stage permission request can give you a 95% chance of encouraging the user to opt into an ATT prompt consent if done within 10 minutes of the app launch – and you lose a 5% chance for every 5 minutes elapsed. Displaying the ATT prompt consent an hour or two later significantly reduces the opt-in rate. I also observed that users are 95% less likely to approve it after 24 hours of app use.”

6. Foster a testing culture

Much like every element of marketing, optimizing your pre-prompts to increase opt-in rates is going to be a continuous testing process – but it’s one that’s worth the effort. Consider A/B testing your pre-prompts and change one element at a time to see what drives the best opt-in rate. Analyze button placement, use positive and actionable copy, and test design elements to ensure your pre-prompt works as effectively as possible.

Executive summary

To ensure your in-app retargeting campaigns are successful, you need user data to serve the right users with the right ads, at the right time. However, with ever-tighter privacy restrictions, marketers must convince users to opt into cross-app tracking – and assure them that their data is safely being used in their best interest. Finding what truly motivates users to part with their data requires continual testing and the implementation of best practices, such as personalizing your ATT prompt, launching it shortly after a new user is acquired, and A/B testing pre-prompts in your app’s onboarding phase.

Most importantly, expanding your pool of retargetable users gives you a larger addressable audience for your mobile ad campaigns. By retargeting these users with the help of a privacy-safe mobile advertising partner such as Remerge, app businesses can drive up their engagements, reconversions and retention rates. In doing so, apps can extend their users’ lifetime value (LTV), while still achieving a solid return on ad spend (ROAS).

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