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App analytics – the basic “Must know” facts for marketers – Part 1


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Mobile apps… so intimate and  so effective in delivering personalized value. Well, only as long as you implement the right analytics…read this to understand  why app analytics is such a must have for any publisher, and how to make sure you deploy the optimal analytics for your needs. You’ve got to know the basics to optimize your performance. So here it is.

Before we move on, set expectations (as always) :

  1. This item provides a free basic training on planning and optimizing app analytics. After going through this item, you should easily proceed with the advanced analytic training.
  2. Practical “how to” questions that might rise during the reading are answered in other trainings. We’ve attached some links wherever relevant. Enjoy!

What is analytics (tracking / audit)?

Audit is a less common synonym for evaluation. “Audit” is usually used in the context of accounting. It means systematic evaluation of data, and keeping organized tracking records. Audit capability is the enabler of report generation capabilities.

Analytics, on the other hand, is the discovery and communication of meaningful data patterns. It’s the process of using the audited data to “get something” out of it. So Analytics must lean on existing audit (or tracking) capabilities.

If you are planning to use analytics to analyze, predict, and improve your performance, you must make sure to either develop yourself, or implement a 3rd party tracking solution.

Analytic systems will enable you to generate meaningful reports based on the data you’ve tracked. Below I describe some external solutions; they usually take care of both tracking and analyzing tracked data, but if you are using your internal resources, make sure you are covered with both the audit and the analytics. You must have them both.

Mobile app analytics should be able to constantly monitor the entire app ecosystem, and to provide usage, behavioral trends and overall system performance reports.

Meaningful Reports are the desired outcome of analytics. Once you hold a well-made report, you have reached your (temporary) destination. You can make conclusions and optimize. You are getting closer to reaching your goals.

The analytics implementation process is based on several hierarchical steps:
1. Develop (or implement existing) tracking capabilities
2. Apply some sort of analytic measurements (define parameters, test your capabilities)
3. Generate reports

Step 1, which is our focus here, needs to be completed in the product design / development phase (by the way, that’s the reason we’ve included this training under the “planning” category, it’s a crucial part of the app design and should be addressed before the launch or upgrade of the app).

How developing a tracking mechanism is related to marketing, you ask?

Simple answer: marketers shouldn’t work in vain. Efficient reports mean higher chances of identifying trends and improving, before or after the launch. Therefore marketers should make sure tracking is properly developed, implemented, tested and so forth.

It’s true, product (or development) teams are usually more familiar with the technical aspects of tracking, and marketers can sometimes get completely lost (I know I did, tracking can get sooo complicated). Still, we should be able to write down what we want to measure, and to understand the high-level process, including the meaning and implications of using 3rd party solutions (limitations, specific capabilities, etc.). We have to be in the picture when tracking and analytics are planned and implemented for the app.

Even if the design phase of the app is completed and sadly, no proper tracking was implemented, there is still hope. You can still use 3rd party’s tracking solutions. But let’s start with discussing the unique challenges of tracking apps performance and the benefits of having advanced analytics.

The unique challenges of tracking the performance of mobile-apps

  • Mobile apps live in a static environment – multiple tracking variants – Mobile apps are static. That’s the problem. On the web, you can change many features in real-time as well as deploy conversion tracking, analytics and other measurements. But with apps you are basically very limited with changes. Many of the to-be-implemented app improvements will go live online after your next update is approved by the store and launched. Forget to add tracking to measure a key button press? Bummer! Need to make a last minute change to your audit spec? Well that’s too bad! Nothing can be changed instantly. Prior planning is the name of the game here.
  • Client based – server based environment – Web environment is leaning almost entirely on the cloud, while many mobile apps are significantly leaning on client environment (on device). So while many performance events can run independently, no need for cloud support, the server should still take part, for the tracking part. Otherwise, tracking may be “forgotten, or its quality may be compromised (“…oops, that feature is client based, we don’t track its usage, it’s just not listed in our servers…”, if only I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that…). So server-client environment is challenging for analytics, but that’s the world mobile apps operate in. Don’t forget to factor this into your plans.
  • Multiple tracking variants – Mobile apps running on mobile devices created a need to track a whole world of new parameters. It also made other parameters irrelevant. Just think of location, for instance… or operating system, device type and more. You, dear mobile app developer, have now entered analytics wonderland. This means some learning is needed as well as taking a million things into consideration before you choose an analytics solution and move on to generate reports. Huge opportunity, huge headache. Welcome aboard!

Should you develop analytics internally? That’s the million dollar question. Who knows? Either way you might feel it’s not good enough… or maybe you will be super pleased with the results (don’t know how that feels, never been there ;-)) still, some considerations might point you to the right direction; the direction that will work best for your app, at the stage you are in.

Before making a decision, you should be familiar with the main benefits of advanced analytics:

  • Optimization: shortening your way to your goals (of distribution, retention and monetization). Try>measure>conclude>improve
  • Serving ads (analytics is a must-have standard in the ad industry, as payments are based on specific measurements)
  • Personalization – get to know your users by analyzing their behaviors and identify trends, so you can communicate relevant messages (to specific users, segments)
  • Real-time monitoring of major technical issues (downtime, crushes, bugs and so forth)

Imagine how much you could grow your user base, if you know exactly which ones of the tools or channels you are using presents the best ROI (for example best price for installation by a quality users).

Think how much more popular your app would become if you knew exactly which feature is a hit with users vs. features that are never used.

Think about how many more conversions you could generate through in-app communication channels, if only you approached the right users at the right time, in the right location …

To enjoy all of this, you need an analytics solution that can make such complex multiple calculations, extract value from them, and make these scenarios become a reality.

Using analytics to measure your app’s performance enables you to change your strategy and make the app more efficient. It will also help in designing the future app roadmap and to come up with innovative features.

If point isn’t clear by now, to wrap up the benefits argument, I believe that app developers, looking to survive (and even succeed god forbids) in the mobile world, can’t afford to hold off on analytics. Plan it thoroughly. Plan it well. You’ll be thanking yourself later on.

Right, we now have agreed analytics will be in place no matter what, or we will die trying! The question is what to measure?

Curious? Go on the part 2 for an overview of what you must measure and some implementation advice.

Elli is one of Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Having years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry promoting popular mobile apps and B2B related services. Presenting specific expertise on users' acquisition strategies, PR, social media, product marketing, BizDev integrations and more
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