Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mobile Analytics: The Future of Business


Mobile Analytics

Like many of you, I have often found myself perusing websites or playing games on my mobile device without giving much thought to it.  A Google search here, a food recipe there, a Wordament game on the late night train ride home and a check on my account balance to finish it off.  As I was closing my browser, I noticed the window with the words “Please fill out a simple survey about your visit” and without even blinking I checked the “I decline right now” and thought nothing of it.   

After doing some research on this topic, I realized that this was just one piece of a larger whole of analytic tools that businesses use to gather data. In turn this data assists them in hopefully perfecting their marketing, business processes, web design, etc.

What is Mobile Web Analytics?

Web analytics, according to the Web Analytics Association Web Analytics Definitions, is defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.” (Web Analytics Association, 2008)  The term mobile is used as this process is performed from mobile devices that connect to the Internet.  In a nutshell businesses thrive, or at least they should be, on the amount of data gathered from traffic seen on their websites.  This traffic has to be interpreted into meaningful data for a business and that is why there is a plethora of companies that are making a footprint into the world of analytics like Google Analytics, Webtrends, and Ensighten to name a few.

Why bother with Mobile Web Analytics?

As more and more mobile devices are purchased every year, the ability to statistically track website usage and visits from these mobile devices, has seen an almost paradigm –ical (yes, I just now made that word up) shift for businesses.  It’s important that businesses understand the importance of mobile analytics as in 2011 there were an estimated 6 billion…yes that’s 6 BILLION mobile subscriptions worldwide which equates to about 87% of the world’s population. (International Telecommunications Union, 2011)  One report estimated that 2012 would be the year that the “number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth…” and of that 48% of these would be smartphones.  (Cisco, 2012)

To date that means there are more than 100 million smartphones “using over 1GB/month of data” (Cisco, 2012)  Just as an afterthought, I went to the local sales office of my phone company and asked about their internet data plans for my iPhone.  The customer service representative said that the best plan they offered was a 2GB/month data plan on a 4G wireless.  He then chuckled and said, “that’s more than enough.  You won’t use more than that in a month.”  By the end of this year, I predict that this phone company as well as all of the others will be offering data plans much larger for mobile devices if they want to stay marketable.
So what does that mean for businesses?  By understanding the behaviors of mobile users, BI can create more efficient reports which in turn can generate improved process flows, a more intuitive website design and effective marketing ad campaigns, via email marketing and on-site surveys to name a few. 

Mobile vs. Traditional Analytics

Effective web analytics is a combination of different tools.  According to Avinash Kaushik, traditional methods that use a combination of page tagging, page views, tracking site hits and counters, daily unique visitors, top exit pages on sites, and visitor screen resolutions, to name a few are dead.  (Kaushik, 2006)  Now most businesses use free online analytics via Google Analytics, Omniture, and Webtrends, to name a few, thereby circumventing the need to have design an in-house method.

On the mobile side of analytics Kaushik offers three solutions:

  1.  Log-based solutions
  2.   Packet-Sniffing solutions
  3.  Tag-Based solutions  


A log-based solution uses the information found in the log files of websites which are located in the webservers running the website. Packet-sniffing solutions involve using a device between your web servers and the website, thereby circumventing tag management in the website.  Tag-based solutions use JavaScript tags or pixel image tags on a website to collect data.  Most large analytic providers like Google Analytics, use a JavaScript tag systems to collect data. (Avinash Kaushik. “Emerging Analytics: Social, Mobile, and Video.” Web Analytics 2.0. Wiley Publishing: Indiana. 2010, pp. 250-251).  Pixel tags use a 1 x 1 image on a webpage in order to track data.   The only downside to this is that the smartphones have to have the cookie and JavaScripts enabled. 

Future of Mobile Analytics

The future is quite clear, mobile analytics will improve because the business of mobile will increase.  As more and more mobile devices are purchased, businesses will inevitably use mobile, as they are currently doing, to increase their business and their revenues.  This in turn will increase the ability of mobile analytics as more companies like Google Analytics and Omniture improve their methods.  

Further material:

Mobile Analytics Reports
Conversion Tracking Methods
Traditional Web Analytics
Global Mobile Statistics
Cisco Visual Networking Index