Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mobile Analytics – “We aren’t in Kansas anymore Toto”

Mobile devices (specifically smart phones and tablets) in the past few years have radically changed, and continue to change, many aspects of the computer industry and business world today. New markets have appeared from selling the devices themselves to virtual markets and app stores that have created a new content delivery system for the devices. Additionally businesses and start-ups have grown based entirely around the “new” mobile industry. Analytics, which once seemed solely focused on measuring page hits, is now on the front lines of this new market. With the growth in the mobile industry, analytics are not simply a tool that only a few of the players use; they have become a critical aspect of success in the fast paced arena of mobile device and app development. 

Analytics seemed to gain most of its public notoriety with web analytics; measuring a variety of data regarding web site traffic and usage. However, analytics has been around for some time and mobile devices could simply be viewed as “another channel.” But this new channel brings with it some twists and challenges. Many organizations still view analytics from the fixed web site point of view; page hits which were once considered the “Holy Grail” of determining the popularity and viability of a web site. Not so anymore.
Greg Dowling pointed out that, “Mobile devices, which favor apps over web pages, brings a new aspect to the analytics world.”1 Mobile analytics, especially when used with apps, needs to move towards measuring events.2 
Conversion and retention in the space now bring a whole new point of view to the table. Moving past the metric of downloads (perhaps the equivalent of page hits) businesses can now measure how their application is used; they can measure engagement. This type of metric, this type of data, alters how a company develops their product. Now that a company knows how their application is used (as opposed to the less helpful metric of number of downloads), time and resources can be directed towards the exact location that needs work in the product. Mobile apps, by majority, have a huge drop in engagement that happens very quickly. Very few are good at conversion.3

Surprisingly, many businesses are still struggling with a clear mobile road map. Mr Dowling stated there are typically 3 hurdles that many companies face today:
1.)    Many organizations lack a defined mobile strategy.
2.)    Implementation – very different to measure fixed web vs. mobile
3.)    Integration – how to get this new mobile data integrated to all the other data points you are collecting.4

Even after jumping those hurdles, a business that wants to successfully implement data captured by mobile analytics needs to determine which metrics to focus on. Tracking the wrong metric, and then acting on that data, could ruin your product. It isn’t the same for each organization; Suhail Doshi, from MixPanel, pointed out that a company gets “more value from analytics when it is customized to their business.”5  All metrics are not created equally and some don’t need to be created at all.6  

When an organization establishes which metrics have value for them, Mr. Dowling suggests that setting some KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that compare across all levels and access platforms7 will allow a company to truly gage a successful product rather than simply collecting data that is isolated and cannot be correlated with other business analytics in the organization.
In the fast paced business world of mobile device and app development, we aren’t in Kansas anymore Toto. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.


1, 3, 4, & 7 - Beyond Web Analytics, podcast Episode 7 with Greg Dowling.

2 & 5 - Beyond Web Analytics, podcast Episode 60 with Suhail Doshi.

6 - Webtrends engage 2011, Mobile Analytics 101 (slide deck), Eric Rickson & Megan Douglas.

Additional Resource - Mobile Analytics 101: Finding Your Mobile Traffic (video), Christoper S. Penn.


  1. This is so true. My company has invested thousands into a mobile solution to only come back to the drawing board because they didn't have a plan in place to begin with. "Just get the mobile app out there, we need a mobile app and now!" It is coming back to bite them now.