When building a mobile app, well-thought-out strategy is critical, great design is paramount, and solid development is fundamental. But analytics is key to measuring the execution and value of all the hard work you put into the app. As smartphones continue to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, it’s understandable why marketers and developers alike are making a sustained effort to measure user behavior through app analytics. While the mobile application industry is relatively young, there is a variety of platforms and services vying for the privilege of providing you with good app data.
These tips will help you to get the most of of mobile app analytics, and hopefully help you to avoid some costly mistakes.
1. Start Using App Analytics Way Before Your App Is In The Store
If you start thinking about analytics the day your app gets accepted into the app store, you’re too late. There’s a wealth of data that can be analyzed during your app’s alpha and beta phases that will allow you to create a stronger, more user-friendly v1. One tool to manage a data-driven beta period is TestFlight which allows developers to distribute a beta and analyze usage to facilitate quick iterative cycles. A lot of developers get caught up with feature and design changes during beta, but a data-driven beta period will result in a better product. This brings us to the second tip…
2. Your Users Might Not Use Your App The Same Way You Do
This is particularly frustrating for developers, who meticulously plan users’ flow through their applications. Despite countless hours of planning, the unapologetic truth remains, users might not use an app the same way its creators thought they would. That’s why it’s so critical to get unbiased (i.e. not your friends and family) users using your app. Apple permits up to 100 users to be authorized per each standard developer account, and developers should really try to take advantage of each of these to collect feedback from a diverse sample of test users. One interesting tool you can use to get qualitative UI feedback is heatma.ps which is a supplemental analyics tool that allows developers to see which parts of your app users interact with using (you guessed it) heat maps. This can give you unbiased, behavioral feedback that goes beyond data, because “The best information always comes from real users.” as noted by heatma.ps CEO, Cyprian Ciećkiewicz.
3. Pick KPIs that Make Sense For Your Target Audience
If you somehow missed the message in Apple’s “There’s an App for That” campaign, let me note that there are a lot of apps for a lot of different things. Apps for content publishing, social networking, utilities, commerce and gaming all require attention paid to different KPIs. Before you dive into analytics, make sure you understand what you’re hoping to better understand. For instance, a content publishing app might be more concerned with user retention, while an ecommerce app is invariably primarily interested in purchase conversions. As Wayne Chang, founder of crash reporting provider Crashlytics notes, “A bunch of useless numbers on a screen are not helpful. But, the right information, at the right times, can provide incredible insights that are actionable for the developers.” Be sure to define an analytics strategy that aligns with your app’s core offering.
As Suhail Doshi of mixpanel notes, app analytics isn’t about pageviews. Instead, “focus on measuring things that matter like specific engagement related to [your] app.”
4. There Are Different Analytics Providers for Different Types of Apps
The variety of mobile apps is expansive, making the phrase “mobile apps” pretty undescriptive. Some analytics providers cater to different app verticals. For instance,Playtomic might be a good fit if you’re developing a mobile game, whereas Localytics might be a better choice if you’re building a content delivery app. Not all apps are created equal, and neither are all analytics platforms.
5. Analyze Market Data to Avoid Mistakes Competitors Have Already Made
There are a few analytics providers such as Distimo that offer market data. While you may find it a bit expensive to access, this type of data is useful to see what similar apps are doing in the marketplace relating to price and number of downloads. Armed with market data, developers can make well-informed decisions and potentially avoid mistakes that they see competitors making. For instance if a competing app is performing poorly at a $2 price point, you may be able to better determine the appropriate price for your app.
6. Make Sure You Install the Analytics Platform Correctly
User data can be really useful, pending the data is accurate. Chances are, your analytics provider of choice will offer an SDK to install its platform. Be careful to install this correctly, because an analytics platform that’s supplying faulty data is no good and counterproductive. Another important point when installing an SDK is to be mindful of how it might affect your app’s speed. Following proper installation protocol will ensure that the least amount of bloat is incurred. When in doubt, consult your analytics provider’s support team to make sure everything is as it’s supposed to be. They might also be able to offer some helpful pro tips to help you get the most out of their product.
7. Pick a Provider You Can Grow With
If you have an iOS app and are looking to create an Android version, or an iPhone app and are looking to build an iPad version, make sure you pick an analytics provider that you can cater your needs. If you’re considering monetizing your application through in-app advertising, you might want to use an analytics provider that also has partnerships with ad networks or strong ad delivery models. Pick a vendor that is going to be able to handle your needs as your product scales, whether that means covering different platforms, devices or geographies.
8. Mobile App Analytics Shouldn’t End With Your Mobile App
For “mobile only” products and brands that leverage mobile as one of multiple channels, there are valuable insights that can be drawn from data away from your mobile app, related to your app. Most notably, social media can offer hints about user sentiment pertaining to your application. Social media is also a good tool to detect flaws and connect with users, because users are usually the first to point out if something isn’t working as it’s supposed to or could improve. Don’t approach mobile app analytics as a siloed entity, but rather integrate all of the areas where your brand is collecting data to get a comprehensive understanding of your app’s position in the marketplace.
There are an estimated one billion smartphones in the world today, and it is expected that there will be two billion by 2015 with exponentially more mobile apps. With the market developing so rapidly, it’s to be expected that app analytics will continue to evolve at an equally quick pace. If you dig your heels into app analytics now, you could save yourself from making some easily preventable mistakes. Do you have other questions or tips for getting the most out of mobile app analytics? Let us know in the comments.
Additional reporting by Drew Howard.