Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mobile Analytics- New Opportunities and Challenges

Mobile Analytics – New Opportunities and Challenges

Web Analytics technology has been around for many years, and surely this system of tracking for feedback and improvement is an important and functional system for monitoring and customizing the performance of a company's web presence.  Furthermore, with constant improvement in performance and customization, it will continue to be an important source of information for the foreseeable future.  Another area of monitoring is emerging and will need to receive as much – if not more – attention: Mobile Analytics.
Mobile devices are a relatively new and certainly rapidly growing segment of the web-viewing market.  These include, of course, smart phones (Android, Iphone, Blackberry, Windows), tablet devices (again Android and iPad), dedicated mobile devices like the new Chrome Book, and even the few remaining non-smart phones that can view web content.  Whereas many of these devices are capable of viewing full-content versions of pages, they often default to a mobile version.  This is often done for the simple facts that the screens tend to be smaller, the touch interface on most of these devices make small links more difficult to interact with, and bandwidth considerations (cost of mobile data as well as speed).  For this reason, Analytics with a specific eye toward the mobile market must be addressed.
Certainly Mobile Analytics offer some challenges as compared to more traditional Web Analytics.  One of the most central functions of Analytics is the ability to identify a site visitor as new, unique, returning.  There are many techniques for handling this in traditional Analytics, but some of these may not work in the mobile arena.  Many mobile browsers do not offer javascript functionality.  If an analysis tool uses this, it may prove worthless in the mobile realm.  Cookies are widely functional now, but they can easily be turned off (this is not truly different from a non-mobile browser).
If a devices IP address is used as a means of identifying the visitor, this presents its own set of problems.  The IP of a mobile device may be assigned by that device's isp gateway.  Furthermore, mobile devices may switch providers during a single browsing session.  Say, for example, you visit an ecommerce site while at a restaurant.  You don't finish your session prior to getting back into your car.  Your car has its own hotspot, and in the interest of safety, your spouse is driving.  Your phone switches to the car's hotspot.  You then enter your house and your phone is handed off to your home wifi.  You have now gone through a single session on three distinct networks (potentially four if the restaurant had wifi).  Clearly this is an extreme example. The more important illustration is a completed session on one network and another on a different network.  Will your analytics see the customer as a new visitor?
Mobile Analytics solutions have other ways of tracking individuals.  The most interesting of these is the use of specific characteristics of the device itself.  Manufacturer, model, memory, screen resolution, etc. can be tracked to aid in the identification (furthermore, these criteria don't disappear when a cookie is deleted).  Also the models of devices visiting the site is helpful to track as the site can be optimized for the hardware of the devices that visit the site most often.
With the increasing number of smart devices, the quality of mobile content is extremely important.  Attention must be paid to tweaking the mobile site experience.  Because there are mobile-specific pages while full-content pages are still available, bounce rate data can take on new meaning.  A visitor may visit a site, because the site detects a mobile browser, the landing page defaults to the mobile content.  After a few taps the user may become frustrated with the experience and request the full site.  Because clicks occurred, this would not be registered as a “bounce” but is extremely important to track.  It represents a failure of the mobile version.  Therefore a new metric is required.
Lastly, there is also the potential for applying analytics to mobile apps.  They are not web content browsers, but many are web content users.  Online usage of a mobile app can be tracked (for example ebay app, amazon app, kindle app, etc.).  In addition many mobile apps can be used offline.  Activity can be stored and transmitted to the host the next time online content is accessed.
This is by no means an exhaustive or thorough discussion of mobile analytics, merely a general introduction to the subject as a whole with highlights of some of the challenges and new potential rewards of applying analytics specific to the field.  As the field of devices, connectivity and range of types of new applications expands, this field of Mobile Analytics will certainly grow with it.

Gordon Oremland


1 comment:

  1. Mobile analytics definitely seem to be where the analytics market should be focused. Especially considering the explosive growth of smart devices and mobile application downloads.