Mobile App Analytics: Where it's Been and Where it's Going

Jun 07, 2017

Article ImageIf you want your app to succeed, you need to keep one ear to the ground at all times, listening for new trends, needs, and expectations among your users. Mobile analytics are the best way to keep tabs on your audience, which is why it is fundamental to keep your tools sharp.

But it's fundamental to keep things in perspective. If we want to know how to sharpen our tools and modernize our analytics equipment, we first need to see what our current tools offer, and what they lack. In this article, we are going to give you a short overview of how mobile app analytics changed over the past few years. We will also show you what you need to do, going forward, to make sure you’re always in line with your users’ latest needs and expectations.

Where is Mobile Analytics Today?

It’s growing at breakneck speeds, that’s where it is. According to Technavio’s latest report, global mobile analytics market is set to grow at a CAGR of 21.33% during the period 2016-2020. Smaller, promising analytics start-ups are raising money and being acquired virtually every day. The funny thing is, the mobile app market still has a lot of room to grow, which means the analytics market will grow with it even further.

But as the market grows and matures, user expectations change, and with them - the tools used to monitor and act on those expectations. Automated in-app marketing platform Insert recently released a report saying users are quick to abandon apps that don’t offer a personalized experience with “timely notifications, seamless navigation and unobtrusive communication.” In addition, Software testing firm QualiTest reported that a few bugs are all it takes for users to abandon an app.

What users have grown to expect is a quality user experience. Having an app that simply does something for the user is no longer enough. The app needs to be easy to use, simple to learn, logical in its navigation and as stable as possible.

But things like timely notifications, seamless navigation, and intuitive interaction isn’t something that’s easily tracked through traditional analytics tools. Usually, mobile app analytics tools are used to track metrics like number of downloads, use frequency, session length, or daily active users (DAU). These are all important metrics that speak a lot about the state of an app, but they can’t track things that define more of the quality of the UX.

Mobile app analytics tools needed to evolve. Luckily they’ve started to.

Solutions for the Future

In order to tackle this problem, app pros are increasingly turning towards qualitative analytics – a particular set of tools that evolved from, and works in synergy with “traditional” quantitative analytics. These tools allow app pros unfiltered insight into the quality of the experience users are having with an app. Let’s take a closer look at how these tools operate and what they bring to the table.

Touch Heatmaps

Touch heatmaps is a tool that directly tackles one of the problems mentioned earlier–seamless navigation. It works by aggregating all of the interactions users have with the app and uses that information to create a visual heatmap. All swipes, taps, pinches, and other gestures are tracked by the tool. Once aggregated, the tool places a visual layer on top of the app itself, showing app pros how and where users interact with their app. A higher concentration of interactions is highlighted in red, while those elements that users interact with less are highlighted in blue.

As you can imagine, the tool allows app pros to see if their users' preferences (for example, login preferences for a social app, or tools preferences for a utility app). However, the possibilities of this tool are not just limited to identifying these preferences. Another important thing touch heatmaps tackle are unresponsive gestures.

Unresponsive gestures occur when users try to interact with an app’s element that wasn’t designed to be interacted with in the first place. Sometimes, users would try to tap on a picture, thinking it’s a button. Sometimes, they’ll try to swipe on the bottom of a screen, thinking they would be able to move across the app that way. This is a huge issue that can wreak havoc on an app’s retention rates, and needs to be remedied as fast as possible.

User Session Recordings

The second high-caliber tool is the user session recording which--as you might have guessed by its name–records real-time user sessions. This tool helps app pros successfully tackle a whole range of user experience issues that are impossible to solve with quantitative analytics only.

User session recordings helps app pros understand things like why their users abandon an app too soon, why they decide to quit the app before making a purchase, or why it crashes. Essentially, with real-time session recordings, app pros can get an unaltered view of their users’ app experience, helping them tailor future versions to their users’ liking. Advanced features of this tool allow app pros to view sessions from specific platforms, devices or demographics.

Quantitative analytics help app pros realize that there is a problem. Qualitative helps them uncover what the problem is. That is why qualitative is seen as important piece of the mobile app analytics puzzle, and an evolutionary step forward.

Here’s an example: using a traditional analytics, you notice an unusual increase in the number of users uninstalling your app for a certain week. What could it be? Is the latest patch crashing the app? Is there a buggy ad, or is the login screen too complicated? You turn to qualitative analytics and, by watching user session recordings, you notice that ever since the last patch, notifications are set to push by default, popping up on users’ screens and hurting their experience. They respond by deleting the app. It’s a simple fix that was easily spotted, but without watching user recordings, it might have taken you much longer to find the issue, which might have resulted in a larger number of people quitting the app.

A Step in the Right Direction

A few years ago, the focus of app analytics platforms was just on the app. Now, it's on the app's users and their experience. Previously, app pros just tracked KPIs like download numbers, session length, and session frequency. That placed strong emphasis on the app. Now, as the tools evolve, the emphasis is on the quality of the experience with an app.

Quantitative tools are still an important grummet, but the chain that pulls an app forward is now enforced with qualitative tools. It is time to put the user in the center of your app's analytics efforts.

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