EngineeringJune 30, 2015

Which mobile SDK should I put in my app?

It’s easy to see how people can arrive at this question. However, asking which mobile SDK you should put in your app is entirely the wrong question to ask.

We hear this question quite frequently at mParticle from marketers who are about to launch a new app. Given all the use of buzzwords and seemingly endless list of features from every platform that has an SDK, it’s easy to see how people can arrive at this question. However, it is entirely the wrong question to be asking.

A software development kit (SDK) is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Stepping back and examining all of the marketing focused mobile app SDKs out in the marketplace, the majority of these SDKs have one primary purpose—they collect data from the app. Not only that, it tends to be the same data. The SDKs collect advertising identities (IDFA / Google Ad ID), track user behavior, log crashes, and tally m-commerce transactions. There isn’t too much beyond that, other than SDKs that allow for A/B testing app screens or other UI manipulation. The real power is in the platforms that receive data from the SDKs, where app owners can engage in various marketing activities.

So you get it—SDKs are about data collection. However, what does that really mean for your mobile app data? It means that usage data from your mobile app will be sent to analytics platforms and you will use those insights to help guide key business decisions. It means that behavioral data from your mobile app will be used to drive targeted advertising across marketing channels. It means that data from your mobile app will feed your business intelligence system and combine with data from your CRM and e-commerce platform to give you a complete view of your customers. Indeed, no further press needs to be given to the fact that data is such an important driver not just for marketing efforts, but for the entire enterprise.

SDKs collect mobile app data, and this data is important in driving your marketing. As most digital marketers quickly discover, there is also no single platform that can manage and execute all of your marketing initiatives. That said, you can stop there and begin implementing numerous SDKs to enable the functionality of various platforms that will be powered by your app data. You too wish to run a data-driven business and you understand you need more than one digital marketing platform to do so.

However, is that really the best way to treat one of your business’ most valuable assets – your mobile app data? To add multiple libraries of code that you didn’t create and give that code have unfettered access to this key asset? The answer should be a very emphatic “no!” Your mobile app data should be something you have complete control over at all times. You should have the ability to programmatically control where your data gets sent and under what conditions it gets sent there. You should champion the privacy of your customers’ data and not send customer identities to platforms that have no legitimate reason to be accessing that information.

It’s not just about treating your data the right way, it’s also making sure your data treats you the right way. You shouldn’t waste your marketing team’s time as they reconcile data points between different platforms. You should allow your mobile app developers to focus on improving your app, rather than burning their development cycles writing code to implement data collection SDKs. This is what well-run businesses do with strategic assets—they put the tools in place to properly manage these assets and ensure the assets provide as much value to the business as possible.

The question isn’t “Which SDK should I put in my app?” The question is, “How much do I value my app data as an asset?”

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