How to Approach Analytics for Mobile Apps

In 2018, it’s fair to say that nearly all mobile professionals agree: we live in a mobile world. A whopping 85% of the time users spend on mobile devices is spent in mobile apps. Mobile revenue is expected to reach $248B by 2020. There is also little doubt that app users are highly valuable. App users spend 20x times more and convert 3x more than average mobile web visitors. Therefore, it’s no surprise that every app wants to capitalize on existing growth opportunities in 2018’s mobile realm—the question then becomes how to accelerate and measure mobile growth in 2018. For many, access to accurate and reliable attribution data is the key to building mobile success. With a plethora of analytics tools in the market to lend visibility and credibility to a humongous and ever-growing volume of mobile data, setting up mobile analytics should theoretically be easy—but, as you probably know, it’s never seemed more complex.

The Fundamentals of Mobile App Analytics

Before you set up analytics for mobile apps, you first need to think about what you want to measure. You shouldn’t jump straight to selecting mobile app analytics tools. The gold standard is to have a 360 degree view on the different stages of your user lifecycle. Keep in mind that a user’s lifecycle almost always encompasses more than one platform. That is, your mobile app users are also likely mobile web users. In this day and age, mobile apps don’t live in a silo, and so your app analytics can’t either—you need to measure your users’ app analytics alongside their mobile web analytics.

Below, we are going to walk you through some of the key mobile app analytics and metrics.

Mobile App Analytics to Track When Optimizing User Acquisition

You have invested your valuable time and resources into optimizing your SEO strategy, social media posts, and paid advertising efforts, and even into building a referral program. How successfully are you convincing people to download your app? How can you optimize your acquisition efforts and more efficiently allocate your mobile marketing budget, doubling down on what works and scaling back on the rest? Your mobile app analytics acquisition reports give you data about:

    • Downloads by channel: Knowing where your users, and—in particular—your most active and valuable users originate can inform future budget allocation in a meaningful way.
    • Downloads by demographic group: Knowing which demographic group(s) tend to more frequently download your app can help you narrow down the target segments in your organic and paid acquisition campaigns.
    • Downloads by time: Is your download volume cyclical? Can you increase ROI by only switching on acquisition campaigns in peak hours or during peak periods?
    • Paid advertising efficiency: Measuring popular paid acquisition metrics like cost per click (CPC), cost per 1000 impressions (CPM), cost per action (CPA), conversion rate, customer acquisition cost, and return on investment (ROI) can expose areas of strength and potential improvement in your paid campaigns.

Just measuring mobile app downloads can only get you so far, however. It’s important to remember that acquiring mobile app downloads does not necessarily mean you’ve set mobile growth in motion.

Let’s take a look at a quick example—say you’re measuring downloads of your mobile app from Facebook and from email. You notice that you’re getting more downloads from Facebook than from email. Clearly Facebook is the more valuable user acquisition channel, right? Not so fast.

Measuring beyond mobile app downloads—for instance, measuring conversion to signup and conversion to purchase—can give you a far clearer, more accurate, and more actionable portrait of the channels, platforms, and tactics that are actually driving growth. In this brief example, measuring these additional metrics may ultimately suggest that while Facebook is generating more mobile app installs, email is actually generating more user activations and conversions—or at least that these percentages are far higher among app users acquired via email.

For mobile acquisition tips and best practices, check out our recently-released Ultimate Guide to Cost Effective Mobile User Acquisition.

Mobile App Metrics Behind Improving User Activation and Onboarding Rates

Now that users are downloading your app, the next challenge is to convince them to sign up and start experiencing the awesome benefits of your app.

In the true spirit of optimizing mobile user onboarding, you’ll want to measure conversion each step of the way, from each mobile user’s start to points of completion. You may have your own definition of what completion is—some view conversion as successful sign-up, while others view it as first interaction with your products or services (first booking, first purchase, etc.). The key is to understand where leaks happen and conduct A/B testing for continuous improvement.

In order to best understand where these leaks are happening, it’s essential that you zoom out to look at the full cross-platform picture. One of the greatest drawbacks of legacy attribution providers is their reliance on outdated last-touch attribution models. With a legacy attribution provider, you’ll only catch these leaks if they happen to be later on in your acquisition funnel—with the multi-touch attribution that accompanies attribution solutions, however, you’ll be far better equipped to patch these leaks no matter where in the acquisition funnel they occur.

To be sure you’re plugging and repairing any leaks in your current mobile marketing funnel, check out our latest Mobile Growth Handbook, chock full of tips for optimizing mobile user experiences and improving mobile user retention.

Fundamental Mobile App Metrics for Measuring User Retention Rate

No matter the marketer, and no matter the brand, sustainable mobile growth is impossible without retention. Monthly active users (MAUs) and daily active users (DAUs) are key indicators of an app’s health, or strength of the product – market fit. Activated users must be retained in order to become MAUs or DAUs.

Another highly recommended exercise is cohort retention analysis. Instead of looking at the average user at a given time, you are measuring

retention rate of the groups of users who activated in different week or month. If you see a decline over time, that is a big red flag.

To peel the onion and understand underlying drivers of retention trends, look into engagement metrics such as daily sessions per user, average time spent, number of clicks. Pick a metric that is most highly correlated with retention. There are often leading indicators of retention.

Acquisition and retention often go hand-in-hand, however. For instance, check out how Boxed fuels both mobile user acquisition and mobile user retention with web-to-app smart banners and deep linked email offerings.

Mobile App Metrics Behind Today’s Best Mobile Referral Strategies

Once you have fully optimized your acquisition, activation, and retention engines, it’s time to jump start viral growth. You can calculate your viral growth indicator (k-factor) by multiplying number of invites sent by each new user by % of invites that convert to new users. These referred customers will then enter your activation and retention funnel if, based on your app’s mobile user journey, they choose to do so.

When considering churned users, it is important to measure the resurrection rate. Resurrected users also count towards MAUs and DAUs.

Finally, sending personalized messages and customizing onboarding for referred customers can help boost conversion significantly: Hobnob witnessed a 300% increase in conversion, while (formerly Gogobot) witnessed a 78% increase in conversion.

A Note on Mobile Metrics for Improving App Revenue

If users can make purchases on the app, especially in the case of e-commerce apps, besides in-app purchase rate and average revenue per user (ARPU), you should look into repeat purchases rate. Ultimately, you need to compare your cost of acquisition to customer Lifetime Value (LTV). Getting customers keep coming back to buy products and services on your app is a key lever to increase LTV.

For instance, email is one of most popular and effective channels for driving in-app purchases. Ensuring continuity in user experience is key: for instance, Instacart saw 6X lift in click-to-purchase rate from incorporating deep linking into their marketing emails when mobile users who clicked on email were routed directly to the app to complete purchases.

Best Practices and Takeaways for 2018’s Mobile Metric Strategies

Tip #1: Have the entire organization focused on one or two north star metrics. For example, the Facebook growth team has maintained a relentless focus on MAUs and DAUs. Their success has rendered these two metrics the most popular goal metrics. To operationalize your goal metrics, break down your goals so each team—and, beyond that, each individual—owns a piece of the puzzle, and can quantify the impact he or she is making towards the company goal metric.

Tip #2: Paying attention to acquisition, activation, retention, viral growth, and revenue doesn’t mean blindly maintaining equal focus across each. Depending on the maturity of your app, you may select primary areas of focus, whether it’s acquisition or retention or triggering viral growth. For example, when you first start off, reaching product market fit by optimizing retention is of paramount importance. There is little point to investing in new user acquisition if 95% of them are no longer active after 1 week.

Tip #3: Invest in understanding why and how you can best fix elements of your app in need of improvement. If there a dip in any metric, you may consider segmenting your user base to understand which customer group is driving the bulk of the change. Experiment, experiment, experiment—test solutions so that you can allocate and invest mobile marketing resources knowing you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Tip #4: Always think and measure cross-platform. As we mentioned above, these days you can’t afford to maintain a siloed view of your user activity. In a world in which the expectation and reality of app accessibility is cross-device, cross-channel, and cross-platform, it’s essential that you take every opportunity to broaden your data collection accordingly. Connecting your mobile web and app users to get the full picture of your users’ activity has never been more important.

Lastly, you can’t look at app data in isolation. This is where a lot of apps fail to optimize their practices and operations. Users interact with your product across desktop, mobile web, and mobile app, so naturally it’s important to mirror this process in your interpretation and analysis of data. For instance, instead of merely measuring your app’s MAUs, you should look at MAUs across all platforms by also monitoring web-to-app user conversion (because ultimately, you want to convert as many users into app users as possible, for the exact aforementioned reasons).

Connecting the dots across platforms is no piece of cake. Giving your team a truly cross-platform look at user acquisition tactics and campaigns that work and don’t work is lovely in theory, but is it actually, really possible? The answer, luckily, is yes—Branch’s deep linking infrastructure and unique attribution engine collectively allow mobile apps to track people, not cookies. In fact, you can learn about how Nextdoor saw a 77% increase in attributable app installs with Branch’s attribution engine by clicking here