What is mobile analytics? | Mixpanel
What is mobile analytics?
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What is mobile analytics?

Last edited: Aug 18, 2022 Published: Oct 6, 2017
Mixpanel Team

Mobile analytics captures data from mobile app, website, and web app visitors to identify unique users, track their journeys, record their behavior, and report on the app’s performance. Similar to traditional web analytics, mobile analytics are used to improve conversions, and are the key to crafting world-class mobile experiences.

Why do companies use mobile analytics?

Mobile analytics gives companies unparalleled insights into the otherwise hidden lives of app users. Analytics usually comes in the form of software that integrates into companies’ existing websites and apps to capture, store, and analyze the data. This data is vitally important to marketing, sales, and product management teams who use it to make more informed decisions. Without a mobile analytics solution, companies are left flying blind. They’re unable to tell what users engage with, who those users are, what brings them to the site or app, and why they leave. Companies in this situation must rely on intuition or domain expertise and often underperform compared to their peers according to Gartner.

Why are mobile analytics important?

Mobile usage surpassed that of desktop in 2015 and smartphones are fast becoming consumers’ preferred portal to the internet. Consumers spend 70 percent of their media consumption and screen time on mobile devices, and most of that time in mobile apps. This is a tremendous opportunity for companies to reach their consumers, but it’s also a highly saturated market. There are more than 6.5 million apps in the major mobile app stores, millions of web apps, and more than a billion websites in existence. Companies use mobile analytics platforms to gain a competitive edge in building mobile experiences that stand out. Mobile analytics tools also give teams a much-needed edge in advertising. Mobile advertising now accounts for nearly 70 percent of all digital advertising according to eMarketer—some $135 billion—and growing. As more businesses compete for customers on mobile, teams need to understand how their ads perform in detail, and whether app users who interact with ads end up purchasing.

Mobile is now more important than desktop

70% of ‘screen time’ is spent on mobile – ComScore

92% of time on mobile is spent in apps – TechCrunch

How are mobile analytics different from web analytics?

In the past, companies treated mobile and non-mobile devices as separate, and even used a separate vendor for their web analytics, but this is becoming a rarity. Most modern product analytics platforms track users on both mobile and desktop devices. That said, the physical differences in screen sizes and aspect ratios lead to slightly different mobile and non-mobile user experiences. On mobile, users have less screen real estate (4 to 7 inches) and interact by touching, swiping, and holding. As a result, mobile app and site pages are more spartan with fewer navigation options. Fonts are larger, and users take relatively fewer actions. On a desktop, users have larger screens (10 to 17 inches) and interact by clicking, double-clicking, and using key commands. Desktop tracking generally involves more interactions, more content, larger menus, and more links per page. A good mobile analytics platform will account for these device disparities and provide one single, centralized dashboard that recognizes unique individuals and their behaviors across devices.

Tracking mobile and non-mobile devices differs

How do mobile analytics work?

Mobile analytics track unique users to record their demographics and behaviors. The tracking technology varies between websites, which use either JavaScript or cookies and apps, which require a software development kit (SDK). Each time a website or app visitor takes an action, the application fires off data which is recorded in the mobile analytics platform. Mobile analytics typically track:

  • Page views
  • Visits
  • Visitors
  • Source data
  • Strings of actions
  • Location
  • Device information
  • Login / logout
  • Custom event data

Companies use this data to figure out what users want in order to deliver a more satisfying user experience. For example, they’re able to see:

  • What draws visitors to the mobile site or app
  • How long visitors typically stay
  • What features visitors interact with
  • Where visitors encounter problems
  • What factors are correlated with outcomes like purchases
  • What factors lead to higher usage and long-term retention

With mobile analytics data, product and marketing teams can create positive feedback loops. As they update their site or app, launch campaigns, and release new features, they can A/B test the impact of these changes upon their audience. Based on how audiences respond, teams can make further changes which yield even more data and lead to more testing. This creates a virtuous cycle which polishes the product. Mobile apps and sites that undergo this process are far more effective at serving their user’s needs. A/B test the impact of these changes upon their audience. Based on how audiences respond, teams can make further changes which yield even more data and more testing. This creates a virtuous cycle which polishes the product. Mobile apps and sites and apps that undergo this process are far more effective at serving their user’s needs.

How different teams use mobile analytics: 

  • Marketing: Tracks campaign ROI, segments users, automates marketing
  • UX/UI: Tracks behaviors, tests features, measures user experience
  • Product: Tracks usage, A/B test features, debugs, sets alerts
  • Technical teams: Track performance metrics such as app crashes

How do I track mobile app usage?

Teams that implement a mobile analytics platform can log into the interface to view mobile app usage, although usage means something different to each business. For a gaming app, usage may be the amount of time users spend. For an investment app, usage may be the volume of trades. Once teams define usage, they can create reports to track it.

What is mobile attribution?

Mobile attribution is when teams tie user events back to ads or marketing campaigns. If a user purchases or signs up, the ad or campaign that influenced them receives credit. Team can then compare which campaigns worked best. For example, an e-commerce retailer can set up mobile attribution in its analytics platform to determine its top-performing mobile ad.

The ultimate mobile analytics tool stack

Mobile analytics don’t exist in a vacuum. Teams must build a technology stack of tools around the platform to provide up-to-date data. A mobile analytics tool stack may include:

  • CRM or sales platform
  • Data management platform (DMP)
  • Customer support platform
  • Content management system (CMS)
  • Marketing automation platform
  • Advertising platforms
  • Product or app
  • Testing tool
  • Payment system

How to implement mobile analytics

Mobile analytics platforms vary widely in features and functionality. Some free applications have technical limitations and struggle with tracking users as they move between mobile websites and apps. A top tier mobile analytics platform should be able to:

  • Integrate easily: With a codeless mobile feature, for instance
  • Offer a unified view of the customer: Track data across operating systems, devices, and platforms
  • Measure user engagement: For both standard and custom-defined events
  • Segment users: Create cohorts based on location, device, demographics, behaviors, and more
  • Offer dashboards: View data and surface insights with customizable reporting
  • A/B test: Test features and messaging for performance
  • Send notifications: Alert administrators and engage users with behavior-based messaging such as push notifications and in-app messages
  • Out-of-the-box metrics: Insights with minimal client-side coding
  • Real-time analytics: Proactively identify user issues
  • Reliable infrastructure: Guaranteed uptime for consistent access to the platform

The actual installation of mobile analytics involves adding tracking code to the sites and SDKs to the mobile applications teams want to track. Most mobile analytics platforms will be set up to automatically track website visits. Platforms with codeless mobile features will be able to automatically track certain basic features of apps such as crashes, errors, and clicks, but you’ll want to expand that by manually tagging additional actions for tracking. With mobile analytics in place, you’ll have deeper insights into your mobile web and app users which you can use to create competitive, world-class products and experiences.

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