Mobile Application Analytics and Testing

The proliferation of mobile applications has spawned a new approach to digital analytics and user testing. Where previously these  disciplines focused on behavior and user data within a large screen web browser, mobile applications live outside the browser and come in various screen sizes across many platforms. This presents unique challenges for our Marketing Sciences team, but it also opens up new opportunities for data-driven optimization of applications and business in general.

A New Approach
While many of the same metrics and principals of web analytics such as "unique users" and "average session duration" still apply to applications, the mechanics of measurement can be very different. Traditional websites render content on individual pages. User paths and behaviors through those pages are stitched together with a unique identifier (a cookie) stored on the user’s hard drive. For many mobile applications, however, the concept of a "page" does not exist. This requires our analysts to take a unique approach to understanding what is being consumed, from where, and in what context. Key events that take place within the application are more likely to be associated with time and context-based measures to understand where and when the event occurred in a user’s session or life-cycle. Most of today’s analytics tools providers have become more flexible, allowing us to change the measurement standards to our needs.

Event-based Tracking versus Page-based
Mobile applications are typically geared towards an ‘event-based’ tracking model. Rather than monitoring the pages being viewed, we might track interactions within a financial chart, or perhaps an unlocked power-up within a game. Events become the beacons that signify that the user did something noteworthy. Taking it a step further from our examples, we can then accurately tell that the financial application user was a high net worth individual exploring mutual funds, or that the gamer just purchased a shield after playing six hours and completing 4 levels. The deep insights generated from this degree of measurement go beyond the application, often helping inform both product and marketing strategy for the entire business.

Optimizing the Application
Where website optimization strategies often aim to entice a higher percentage of users to complete a task, mobile application optimization tends to focus more on maximizing lifetime value from individual users. Testing two power-ups in a game or varying price ranges for in-game currency are examples of ways we increase monetized events. Alternately, in a location-based application, testing two different ways to interact with a map will likely increase use over time, impacting the entire life-cycle of the application.

Many tools exist in the market today to help manage the serving and tracking of test variants to your audience. Our approach allows us to be tool agnostic, putting our focus into identifying and optimizing the elements with the highest potential return.

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