It shouldn’t surprise you that mobile devices and the platforms they support are here to stay. But what might shock you is the way that you should (or, actually, shouldn’t) be tracking data from your native mobile application. Specifically, the Google Analytics view that you’ve come to depend on for website data should not be used for your native mobile application.

The “why” is the important part, and here it is: The website and mobile app configurations available in GA are very different, as is their reporting. These configurations are so different, in fact, that one of the first prompts when creating a new view should look something like this: Analytics1

The tracking used to pull in website data, which is embedded with JavaScript, is entirely different than the language used to track activity in native apps. So if you’re using the wrong configuration, there is no telling what kinds of data are being fed to the tracking code and summarized in the standard reporting you see when you log in. If you aren’t using the mobile specific toolset, you’re seeing polluted data that becomes more meaningless by the second.

Let’s go back in time and start with a clean slate with our mobile tracking. You’ve just finished tying the bow on your freshly configured native app and you are ready to send it off to the world, but want to make sure it calls home on Sundays to let you know how it’s doing. At this point, you’re staring down two categories of reporting: free services and paid services.

 

Free Services

In the world of free mobile app analytics, there are really only two major contenders: Google Analytics and Flurry Analytics. Though both are free, they are quite different, so it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each when determining which is best for your mobile app.

We’ll start with the basics. Both platforms provide the following in terms of service:

  • Android and iOS support
  • Custom views of your data in interactive dashboards and reports
  • Custom campaign tracking from mobile acquisition

But let’s dive into the real reason you’re still reading: How do these services differ?

Google Analytics is familiar to most people running any sort of numbers on a web experience, and Google Mobile App Analytics is not a far cry from its parent platform in that it provides in-depth looks at things like e-commerce and Advanced Segments. That is not to say that Flurry is incapable of this analysis, but Google Mobile App Analytics certainly has the edge in these areas.

The caveat to Google’s platform is that it is narrow-minded in terms of its available information. Because the creators of Google Mobile App Analytics also developed the Android operating system, there is more Android information available than iOS which is a major problem considering the market share of Apple and its devices. Take for example a simple metric like acquisition, at the time this article was written, Google only supports those apps that exist in the Google Play marketplace for those types of insights.

Mobile Analytics

Flurry on the other hand, supports acquisition on both operating systems. Another big advantage to Flurry is that unlike Google, they don’t sample your data. With Flurry, you gain a holistic view of what is happening within your mobile app when you go above 500,000 visits. Flurry also gives you the ability to benchmark your app’s performance against their entire database. This type of in-depth view can give you detailed comparisons of demographic information as well as various interests by category.

But there are areas where Flurry falls short with its service, as well. As mentioned above, if you are looking for robust e-commerce tracking, Flurry might not be the best platform for you (at least not yet). These additions have been mentioned but as of this date, nothing has been added to support in-depth revenue tracking. Flurry is also unfamiliar to most while GA is nearly ubiquitous. This sounds like a minor note, but given the ease and flexibility with some of the reporting within Google Analytics, Flurry can seem a lot like learning to ride a bike, if only to gain a short list of advantages.

 

Paid Services

So what if you need a more extensive analytics experience? Even beyond that, what if you want to be able to take the insights you gain from your mobile analytics platform and quickly act upon what you find? Paid services offer impressive ways to connect the dots with your mobile app marketing. They are great options for companies that want total control of their app reporting and provide the ability to use complex query building to export custom segmentations of data in a delimited format.

What starts to really separate paid from free service is the ability to reach out to not only your users, but also specific user segments. For example, you could segment your data to determine users who are likely male, ages 24-35, which access your app on a monthly basis and engaged with a specific campaign. Then, using this identified segment, you can send push notifications to 10% of the group to promote an in-app offer. The ability to see your most engaged segments and then market to them directly allows for powerful, actionable insights that can lead to more revenue and consequently higher ROI.

For paid app analytics, there are several versions out there. Localytics and Mixpanel are two great paid platform options that provide in-depth analysis and flexible outputs. So which is the better option? Let’s comparison shop:

What they have in common:

  • User-friendly interface
  • Separate your audience into meaningful segments
  • Send targeted messages to users
  • Customizable dashboards

Localytics

  • Multiple operating systems including iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and HTML5
  • Analytics-only version available
  • Free version available, though limiting

Mixpanel

  • Lower cost of entry
  • Catered to small to mid-size businesses
  • Free version available, though limiting

Both products offer demonstrations prior to purchase, so I would encourage anyone to check those out before swiping the company card. That said, either option will provide the ability to extract meaningful insights well beyond what a free version would be able to offer.

As you can see, there isn’t a clear cut winner in the mobile app analytics game. The right choice is highly dependent upon who you are, what your priorities might be, and what you have to spend. The good news is that there really isn’t a wrong choice as long as you’re using a platform that is engineered specifically for the mobile arena.

And one more thing, here’s a quick summary grid to help you in your decision making process. It’s not exhaustive, but it’ll get you going.

Comparison of mobile analytics platforms

If you have any questions about anything analytics related, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

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