Measurement Platforms Full Review

Branch

www.branch.io

  • Type: Cross Platform Measurement Platform
  • Platforms: Mobile, Web (Desktop)
  • Core Offering:
    • Deep-link management, mobile attribution, customer journey tracking
branch website

Branch was founded in 2014 as a software company developing deep-linking technology used to gain and retain mobile app users. The deep link technology preceded native OS support in deep links, hence, Branch was an extremely popular solution for app developers and web advertisers allowing to create some sense of identity between web and app.

The platform allows advertisers to track unique clicks from email, send users to specific “promotion” pages within the app and was extremely popular with app developers that relied on deep links.

Amongst their customers: Target, Ticketmaster, Starbucks, AirBnb, Trainline and other customers that depend on the ability to deep link into the app.

During 2018, Branch also acquired TUNE – one of the first mobile attribution solutions available and by this created a complete attribution and analytics stack for developers.

(That is – until device identifiers and passing those to 3rd party technology became impossible due to privacy regulations)

Branch has some big bucks behind it. Investors pumped Branch with almost $370,000,000 !!!!

Branch employs almost 400 people, mostly in the US

branch.io dashboard

Integration / Development Needed

Branch offers SDKs for Android, iOS, Web, MacOS, Windows C-Sharp, Windows C++, tvOS

While their documentation seems light and easy, our developers did have some challenges with it and had to get support a few times as the documentation was not detailed enough.

branch integration

The integration itself takes no more than a few hours once you get the engineering resources. The documentation not being detailed enough is a bit of a hassle – but at least Branch do provide testing apps and the SDK itself is very light.

Onboarding

Branch did a pretty solid job in making the platform relatively straightforward to use. There are plenty of guides available (Using Branch) and the platform itself has quick links and a dashboard “help” area to help you get started.

The first thing you’ll probably want to do when using branch is to create deep links – and here, Branch did an excellent job in showing you how to get started.

branch.io onboarding

Branch also offers “journey ads” – these are ads that take a user through a set path across multiple pages – excellent for ecommerce apps and websites.

branch.io onboarding

The platform also has numerous dashboards providing analytics on the spot. We liked the icons Branch added for quick understanding of what’s going on. Branch also shows by default a comparison of what happened during the time period you’re looking vs. the previous same period using red and green arrows as indications.

branch.io dashboard

Support

Branch is not great when it comes to support. There’s no other way to say it. Unless you are a fortune 500 company – don’t expect a response anytime soon. And even if you ARE A fortune 500 company – don’t expect a response in good timing.

Branch offers a relatively lean service level showing “target response time” which means not much:

branch.io support

On the other hand, the branch documentation is very comprehensive. You can find just about everything you need in the documentation – just not if you’re looking for technical documentation.

For support in using the product, you should be able to find anything you need on their knowledgebase:

  • Getting Started
  • Journey Ads
  • Universal Ads
  • Universal Email
  • Data Feeds
  • Attribution & methodology
  • Creating links
  • Tools
  • Dashboard configuration
  • Billing support
  • Account settings
  • User Management
  • Dedicated section for Agencies
  • Dedicated section for Data Partnerships

Branch also shows their online status at every point, showing that they offer very stable service.

branch.io uptime

Branch also has a StackOverflow community for tech related questions. It’s not very thorough – but it’s worth mentioning.

branch stack overflow

Useful insights

Branch doesn’t provide actionable insights, but some of the dashboards are easy to read and understand and pull insights from

branch insights dashboard

The Anti-Fraud dashboards offered by Branch do offer some actionable insights with colorful icons and arrows:

branch dashboard

Accuracy

Typical to a measurement platform, Branch has discrepancies with the ad networks and media buying platforms they handle tracking and attribution.

Reasons for discrepancies are wide:

  • Branch Attribution vs. self reporting networks (Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Twitter)
  • Issues with tracking conversions over iOS 10+ and users that have Limit Ad Tracking
  • Issues with tracking conversions in Google Android for users that have “Personalized Ads”

The discrepancies we experienced varied between 5% and 16% for Android devices, 12% and 29% for iOS devices, and 2% to 8% for web traffic.

Overall, when comparing to other mobile measurement platforms – Branch was ok.

branch discrepancies

Secure

Branch has a good looking, but weak anti-attribution fraud tool. The technology is simple and is only based on rules. The rules supported are:

  • Geo Conflict: The touch and the conversion occur in different countries
  • Device Conflict: The device information on the touch and the conversion are different
  • IP: Events coming from known TOR networks
  • Conversion Time: The time between the touch and the conversion is short
  • Persona Fraud: Browsers or devices with suspicious behavior based on Branch’s cross-platform link graph
  • Once Ever Capped: Events only occurring once per user
  • Custom: Events matching your custom selection of fraud parameters.
  • None: Do not show blocked events based on Fraud Rules. Branch automatically selects None when you filter on Key Fraud Indicators instead.

The key fraud indicators they offer are:

  • Install Hijacking / Click Injection
    • When a new app is installed, other apps on the phone can sometimes detect the install, even before the first open. Fraudulent publishers may fire off a click when they detect an organic install, just before the app is opened. This can be identified by suspiciously low click to install times.
  • Fake Devices / Click Farms
    • Emulators and click farms generate clicks from suspicious IPs, as well as show abnormal behavior after installing. Check blocked clicks and your user value metrics in Ads Analytics to identify this fraud.
  • Click Flooding
    • Publishers can generate millions of clicks with different device IDs in the hope that one of those users will install later. Generally the click and installs actions are disconnected, so you can expect to see long click to install times and a very low conversion rate.
  • Ad Stacking
    • Publishers will sometimes put dozens of ads in one ad placement, causing high numbers of impressions and clicks, with low install rates.
  • Device Reset
    • Device reset fraud is characterized by new devices from suspicious IPs. Keep an eye on your user value metrics and suspiciously high click to install rates.

Branch doesn’t have a strong bot detection, and all of the rules / patterns detected by Branch are generic rather than adaptive to your own product – leading to an infestation of fraud cases we’ve experienced through the platform.

The platform does well in showing you where you need to focus – but you’ll need to mitigate all issues with ad networks and platforms yourself.

branch anti fraud

Privacy compliant

Branch is in big trouble – as their core solution is completely based on device identification and user identification. Their deep links nor attribution technology becomes almost completely invalid when no device identifier is present and if the user opts out of tracking.

Branch has not been testing the operating platforms patience and once Apple went ahead and activated “App Tracking Transparency” – Branch stopped using device identifiers for tracking as well as fingerprinting.

branch.io privacy

Unbiased vs. Biased

Branch has two goals they are incentivized by:

  • Using their deeplinking tool
  • Using their attribution

The deep link tool started originally as a very low cost solution, charged based on clicks.

Once branch went into attribution, their pricing became more complicated.

The two parts make for strange bed fellows.

The deep link “side” of the business is very much unbiased, despite the pricing model – but the attribution part has a natural bias in it.

branch.io unbiased

Many of the investors in Branch have also invested in some of the largest ad platforms.

For example, during Branch’s Series D ($129,000,000!!!) Branch took a sizable investment from the same investors of Facebook.

Facebook is considered the largest media source for almost every mobile marketer.

Pricing Model

Branch offers two main products – Deep links and Journey Attribution.

Deep links are priced based on a Cost Per Click of just a few cents or even a tenth of a cent.

The attribution part is priced in a complicated method, based on your Monthly Activate Users – as calculated by Branch. This is a strange setup where Branch is in control of the price you’ll pay as they are the ones marking their own homework.

Moreover, there are more than enough additional features and packages you might end up paying for if you want to get everything you need out of Branch.

branch.io pricing model

Price

Branch is not the most expensive attribution provider, but also not the cheapest.

In average, we ended with just below $20,000 per month, representing 0.25% of our budget.

For what it’s worth, Branch offers a very extensive and useful deep linking platform that developers can use from web / email / text / sms and so on directly to your app.

This part of the product is relatively cheap and if you only use the deep link part of the platform – costs were less than $1,000

The attribution component is the most expensive part of the Branch platform.

Worth it ? Maybe. Unless you have a better alternative.

branch.io skadnetwork

Review Summary:

Branch is one of the largest mobile attribution platforms, starting as a deep-link technology – Branch pivoted towards attribution after the acquisition of TUNE (MobileAppTracking).

The measurement technology relies on deep-links, creating unique links for every event. Unfortunately, this approach is not compliant with privacy centric regulations (enforced by Apple, pending by Google), but – we were glad to see that Branch is not testing the patience of Apple – and have stopped all fingerprinting for OS versions above iOS14.

Branch has excellent support and the onboarding is fairly simple once integrating the branch SDK. Pricing was obviously biased, as it was based on the number of conversions tracked. Branch was not very accurate when we compared it to our own server counts. The anti-attribution fraud features are relatively limited.

Pros & Cons:

  • BEST in Deep Links – no doubt.
  • Very expensive – amongst the most expensive solutions out there (the average price we ended up with was just under $20,000)
  • Branch had pretty good customer service , but anything needing some technical support took quite some time to get resolved
  • The best feature Branch used to have to offer was customer journey tracking (using deeplinks) but this feature is no longer relevant as both cookies and device IDs (mobile) are either deprecated or getting deprecated.

Measurement Platforms Review for Branch:

Support★★★★★★★★☆Onboarding★★★★★★★★★
No Dev Needed★★★★★★★☆☆Privacy Compliant★★★★★★☆☆☆
Accuracy★★★★★☆☆☆☆Pricing Model★★★★★☆☆☆☆
Useful Insights★★★★★★☆☆☆Price★★★★★☆☆☆☆
Unbiased★★★★★☆☆☆☆Secure★★★★★☆☆☆☆