Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mobile Usage Analytics

Mobile Usage and Interaction Analytics

From October 2011 to November 2012, smartphones went from 38.5% of the total US mobile phone market to 53% (Source). This is anticipated to continue to grow over the next several years, particularly as individuals begin to utilize their smartphones more than their laptops or home computers. When lumped with the burgeoning tablet market, mobile applications and software are going to become more and more pervasive. Analytics will be incredibly important in finding out how people interact with their devices and apps, and using that intelligence to better design apps and hardware that better serves customers. Because this market is so new, there is not a lot of data around mobile analytics, as most analytics companies are still trying to figure out how to best crack this nut.

Current State of Mobile Analytics

To date, mobile analytics is still operated much like traditional website analytics; embedded code tracks page/frame views, pathways, dropout points, etc. Mobile analytics services like Google Mobile Analytics, Bango, MixPanel, and others still have a similar underlying goal – try to increase conversions (with conversions being a relative term based on the type of business running the app). The underlying assumption is that individuals interact and flow through apps on their mobile devices in much the same way they do on computers and web browsers. The current reality is that individuals use their mobile tools much differently than they do on traditional computer platforms. Two examples:
Traditional Scenario: User sees Widget on ACME Co’s website, and decides he wants to purchase said Widget. User opens more browser tabs, checks prices, eBay auctions, and googles “Discount ACME Co Widget.”

Mobile Scenario: User sees a Widget on ACME Co’s website that he wants to buy. User hits home screen, checks price in mobile app, hits home screen, checks auctions on eBay mobile app, hits home screen, opens Google Chrome app and searches “Discount ACME Co Widget.”
Current mobile analytics tools do not provide for analyzing the user behavior, but rather views mobile activity in the same frame as a website; thus app companies know how individuals move within their own app, but have little clue about how they interact with other apps as a system. The result is that mobile apps operate largely in silos, rarely communicating with each other and

Analyzing Behaviors, Not Pathways

There's a great opportunity analyzing how consumers behave and interact with their mobile devices and apps as a system, rather than applying traditional metrics and methods that analyze app usage in isolation. The result is that companies will have better data showing how their mobile apps fit into a user’s overall system and patterns of behavior; a more complete and realistic view of how their customers truly interact with their app. With this knowledge, customer retention and conversion strategy becomes easier to understand and establish.

How To Get There

Analytics tools as I have discussed will exist in the future; however, how to get there is still unknown. A mobile analytics system such as this would require the willingness and cooperation of app providers to allow an outside company to access their data to create a comprehensive mobile usage map. Furthermore, it is unknown if such a system would be in violations of Apple’s and Google Play’s terms of service. However, it stands to reason that eventually such a mobile behavior and interaction analytics platform will emerge to address this large need within the analytics toolbox.

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