Users: New vs Returning - Mixpanel
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Users: New vs Returning

Last edited: Aug 9, 2022 Published: Mar 25, 2020

Your users are either new or returning. Each segment has value, but there are different reasons for tracking new user and returning user metrics.

The Difference Between New Users and Returning Users

First, it helps to define what a user is. A user is an individual who interacts with your website, online service, app or virtual product. Analytics is used to determine how many users there are for a given time period. New versus returning users is one of the most basic types of user segmentation.

New users are the people who have never visited your website, app, etc and are interacting for the first time. Returning users are those who have already visited before. For a business to be successful, both new and returning users are needed. They have to fill the pipeline with new users that become returning users who are more likely to convert and spend more money.

The distinction between new and returning users is pretty simple and straightforward, but there’s one caveat. A new user can end up getting counted as a returning user as well if the new user returns within the tracking period. And while new and returning users may behave in a similar manner, it’s important to track each group for different reasons. 

Why New User Metrics Are Important

Tracking first-time visitors can tell you a lot about your marketing efforts, conversion funnels, website design and more. Here are a few of the most important insights you can take away from tracking new users.

Find Out How Many New Users Convert on the First Visit

If your marketing messages, website copy and conversion funnels are on point users will convert on their first visit. Tracking can tell you the conversion rate for new users and whether it’s getting better over time. It will also tell you if changes have a positive or negative impact on new user conversions.

Know What New Users Do Before Converting

Knowing what steps new users take before converting can help you optimize conversion funnels to capture more leads on their first visit. It also tells you what interests new users the most and ways to enhance user experience.

Tells You If Marketing Campaigns Are Working

After launching a new marketing campaign the number of new visitors can tell you if it’s working. A surge in the number of new visitors can suggest that the marketing campaign is successful.

Which Channels Send the Most Valuable New Users

New users are great to have, but many of them won’t convert. Tracking where your new users come from can tell you which channels send users with the highest conversion rate.

Bounce Rate Suggests Something Needs Attention

Do new users have a high bounce rate? New user bounce rate is a reflection of your website or app’s first impression. If the bounce rate is high there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Either the marketing message is off, users aren’t sure what to do once they hit the landing page, you’re targeting the wrong market or users don’t see the value of the product or service. (Note: Bounce rate is something that’s not tracked by Mixpanel out-of-the box)

Why Returning User Metrics Are Important

Businesses need new users, but you want them to become returning users. Why? Because returning users tend to be more engaged and convert at higher rates. Tracking returning users can verify this while providing other valuable insights. 

Tells You the Stickiness of Products

If you have a high number of returning users it suggests that your product or service is “sticky” and users are finding value in it. 

Know the Retention Rate for Returning Users

Once you gain a new user the next task is keeping them. How often and how soon a user returns speaks to the retention rate.

Understand Subsequent Visit Conversion Rate

Many return users didn’t convert on their first visit. Tracking the behavior of returning visitors provides insight into why users convert on subsequent visits and how to increase the conversion rate.

Find Out How Engaged Users Are

Returning users typically spend more time onsite than new users. This shows that returning users are more engaged, but unless you isolate returning user metrics you won’t know how engaged they are and what’s holding their interest.

Gauge Customer Loyalty

One of the most common reasons for tracking returning users is to gauge customer loyalty. The higher the return rate is the more loyal customers are.

A Note About Tracking New and Returning User Metrics

Depending on the analytics program that’s used, there can be notable shortcomings in accurately tracking new vs returning users. To get the most accurate user counts an analytics platform should have: 

  • Ability to track the same user across numerous devices. 
  • Ability to track the same user across different browsers.
  • User IDs that go beyond cookies. 

With these factors in place, your new vs returning user reports will provide better information. For that reason, many businesses will find that robust analytics platforms like Mixpanel offer more than Google Analytics. 

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