two people using a phone behind a window in a brick wall
Most apps have historically been walled gardens for some very legitimate reasons. PHOTO: Clem Onojeghuo

Facebook isn't the only one with a measurement problem (though it may well be the most publicized.)

The problem exists across apps everywhere — and before you jump to conclusions, remember this. Siloed measurement practices are not intentionally designed to mask the truth or hold back information for nefarious reasons.

We should follow the advice Joe Biden received as a freshman senator and relates often: "Question a man’s judgment, not his motives." 

The Trouble With Apps

Most apps have historically been, at least to some degree, walled gardens for some very legitimate reasons.

Apps tend to be built — with limited resources and under enormous time pressure — by teams with an app-only focus (often a different team, in fact, for each app platform) and run as their own profit and loss statements.

Getting data in and out of them typically requires engineering hours, which the business owner would rather (in the short run at least) devote elsewhere, say, to enhance the core product experience.

When it comes to measurement specifically, it’s historically necessitated someone making a trade-off between injecting more third-party code into an app (as most measurement is done that way) and the user experience (as third-party code can slow down said app, cause crashes, and pose other known and unknown risks).

Regardless of the motives, one thing’s for certain: app owners need to break down the walls. Walled-garden measurement is just bad judgment.

The Evolution of Apps

If you’re a multichannel retailer, you need your app data connected to your web data and everything else. If you only measure mobile performance-based on the miniscule 3 percent to 5 percent (typically) of sales generated through your app, you’re missing the point of how mobile is reshaping the journey for a majority of your customers.

Likewise, if you’re running an ad-supported business, you need robust first- and third-party measurement within your apps and across every screen. Maybe this wasn’t the case a few years ago, when the app was essentially a “gift” you gave to your most loyal fans.

Today, though, the majority of all digital time spent is in apps. Apps aren't pieces of schwag like a baseball cap with your logo on it: they're your business.

It’s even conceivable that, in a few years, major networks like Turner and NBC may generate the majority of their revenue through apps.

The Walls Are Crumbling

But every challenge creates opportunities.

Already, forward-thinking brands are taking steps to break down the data silos that once separated their app from, well, everything else. These companies are using APIs to connect their app data to their web data, to their marketing channel data, to their business intelligence systems, in simple and secure ways that don't degrade the user experience or consume needless engineering hours.

The walls are coming down. Even Facebook knows it, and is moving quickly toward more connected data.

It's only a question of time — and there's never been a better time to ask:  Are you breaking down your walls fast enough?