Mobile app analytics – do we really need them?
The short answer is: Yes, we do.
I really can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t want to spend some resources on adding them to your app. However most of the time I have to work some extra time to convince my clients that they should add some budget to analytics setup. They know what they’d like to create, they have the wireframes, they have spent all the time thinking about app features, but in the end they forget about getting feedback from the users. I don’t know why that’s the case, but maybe the number one reason why people ignore app analytics is that they’re overwhelmed by all the options. This is why I often suggest a simple approach to get started.
The benefits of using app analytics
Before we dive into the details let’s think for a moment on what you will get once you add analytics to your app.
Understand your users.
This one is pretty obvious – get real time data on how your users use the app. But try to think about it on deeper level. Do they use the app mostly during working hours or in their free time? With Google Analytics you can track individual users and see which screens they saw on each day. There’s a lot you can learn from that.
Allocate development resources better.
Now that you know which features are most valuable to your users and which are ignored, you can better allocate your resources on the next development phase. Your current budget is 5000$ and you don’t know where to put it? Well, with analytics you know.
Detect problems early
Mobile analytics allow you to track various performance related metrics as well. How long does it take the user to get through the onboarding & sign-in process? Maybe, they’re confused on what your app is really doing and drop out early.
Track app performance from business perspective
In the end you need to make money from the app – that’s the main reason why you started it. So you need to know how well the app is performing. What’s the user acquisition cost, number of new leads or average product purchase per user? This data will definitely help you make better business decisions in the future.
How to start and what to track
Implementing app analytics sounds really simple, all you need to do is to sign in to one of the analytics services, add some framework to your app and few lines of code and voila – you have analytics! But now what? What should you measure? What is important and what is not?
Since all the options are overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start I often suggest basic implementation for my clients just to get started. This includes these steps:
- Select & setup app analytics service – I recommend Google Analytics right now
- Track all screen views
- Define and track important app events (e.g. message sent, selected photo filter, social share).
With this basic data you can get a lot of feedback from the users without asking them for it. Once you get comfortable with the data and start understanding what you miss, you can fine tune the things you track and design your analytics in more thoughtful manner. There is a nice tutorial from Google on the process, which I recommend as next step – Mobile App Analytics Fundamentals.
Mobile analytics tools
The last thing we need to take care of is the tool we’d like to use and there are a lot of options to choose from. Here are the tools I used in various projects (in alphabetical order):
- Answers on Fabric (https://fabric.io)
- Facebook Analytics (https://developer.facebook.com)
- Flurry Analytics (https://flurry.com)
- Google Analytics (https://www.google.com/analytics/mobile/)
I don’t want to spend too much time describing various tools, so if you’d like to get some more info on the above tools and many others here’s a nice round-up (http://www.apptamin.com/blog/app-analytics-tools/).
Let me just share my current preferred setup for mobile app analytics. The main tool I recommend for gathering analytics is Google Analytics. Maybe it doesn’t have the best user interface out there but here are main reasons why I use them:
- A lot of my clients are familiar with their web analytics, so moving to mobile analytics is pretty straightforward.
- Google is behind it from the beginning and that’s ensures that it has a high quality and won’t disappear at some point.
- It has some very nice features like measuring time events (e.g. how long does it take for the user to finish onboarding process). You can also have insight on individual users and how they use the app – it’s like looking over your user’s shoulders.
I also install Crashlytics from Fabric, which gives reports whenever the app crashes on user device. On top of that it also gathers some basic usage data and sends them daily (daily/monthly sessions, active users, session length, etc.). These emails give you a good overview on how your app is performing – and seeing 100% crash free users is always encouraging for the clients.
I didn’t do much research on the subject recently, so if you have any other preferred tools, please share them here in comments or tweet me (@matgree). Probably in some time I’ll do some extra research on the tools, as the analytics market is growing rapidly and there are probably dozens of different tools you could use.
The last step
If you don’t use analytics yet in your app, then I think that investing some time and money in setting them up is the best thing you can do right now. I think that after solid 1 or 2 days of work you’ll get it working – and you’ll be able to start seeing the data from your users and make better business decisions.
If you’re still not convinced or need some help with setting up analytics – feel free to leave comment or contact me. I’ll be more than glad to help.
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