The State of Mobile Analytics

How companies use session replay to deliver better business results and customer experiences.

Table of Content

Introduction

Just as some were prediction the demise of mobile commerce, or at least mobile apps, it turns out that Q2 2020 was the largest ever for mobile app downloads, usage, and consumer spending.
In the era of lockdowns, shelter-at-home, WFH, and big-box retailers moving to curbside pickup or home delivery, mobile has become more relevant and more business-critical than ever. It’s convenient, everywhere customers are, and proven to convert high-intent purchasers who are on their phones using your app.
That’s why it’s more important than ever that your app delivers on its promises of speed, reliability, and usability–and that you respond rapidly and effectively to issues that arise.

Mobile app downloads were driven by a 60% increase in first time users in March 2020 over the same month last year...

Mobile session volume is up 41% while engagement time has tripled...

Mobile friction is on the rise...

What are mobile analytics?

Mobile analytics are a category of technology that help organizations understand how customers actually experience their mobile applications, revealing insights and opportunities to improve that experience. It’s against this backdrop that understanding and improving the mobile customer experience is so important.
Mobile analytics tools were traditionally lumped together with web analytics tools. But with mobile taking the driver’s seat of retail and hospitality revenue, as well as loyalty, mobile analytics tools are now associated with the emerging category of product analytics tools. See our Appendix on official definitions for mobile analytics to learn more.

In this document, we’re specifically going to drill down into the mobile application experience–whether native or hybrid. Mobile website experiences are a different breed and can be analyzed via regular web analytics tools. See our definitions below to understand the difference between native app, hybrid app, and mobile web.
The bottom line: If you have a mobile application, you need to deeply and minutely understand how customers use it in order to deliver the best experience and drive the best possible outcomes.

Understanding the difference between mobile web, native app, and hybrid app

A mobile website is simply a website adapted to tablet and smartphone browsers (i.e., Safari on iPhone), whereas a mobile app is a program that is installed on a user’s mobile device.
In general, end users download mobile apps from the iOS or Android Store. However, the teams that are building mobile apps need to be more specific. Similar to web sites, which primarily use either Traditional/Multipage or Single Page Architecture, mobile apps also have two distinct types of architectures.

These are the two main types of mobile apps:
Native apps are applications developed specifically for a mobile operating system. For developers, that means Objective-C or Swift for iOS vs. Java for Android. For users, native apps generally offer a more rich user experience.
Hybrid apps are essentially websites packaged into a native mobile app wrapper. They look and feel like a native app, but ultimately outside of the basic frame of the application (typically restricted to the controls/navigational elements) they are fueled by a company’s website. Popular examples include Uber and Instagram. Advantages of hybrid include faster development cycles, fewer app store limitations, and more cost efficiencies.

Mobile analytics offer a single view of the customer across mobile and web

In most enterprises, mobile app and website development live in different worlds. Mobile app teams tend to be siloed, running code on separate platforms, requiring unique engineering skill sets and processes. This traditionally made tracking a single visitor across platforms a challenge.
Here are a few common objections to capturing cross-device mobile analytics from the enterprise perspective.

  • There are higher priorities
    Mobile product teams tend to be lean, focused, and either optimizing experiences or putting out technical fires. Without dedicated “mobile tagging teams,” analytics has often taken the backburner to solving more urgent and complex issues around APIs, security, and performance.
  • Platforms are siloed, so is data
    Due to technical differences in how analytics data is implemented across platforms (mobile uses Software Development Kits (SDKs) vs. web uses JavaScript), companies have been forced to either deal with limited or even no mobile analytics, or they’ve had to try and “stitch” visitors across platforms.
  • SDK failures
    Non-performant or insecure SDKs have resulted in diminished trust by mobile teams. If they fail, teams are forced to wait for a vendor fix, re-install, and wait for the next app store release.

But fear no more. The days of making trade-offs between either optimizing or analyzing are over. Now, you can get mobile analytics, session replay, and performance all in one view across mobile and web. Now, there’s a common way to capture, visualize, derive insights and alert regardless of channel and without additional tagging.

Master the fundamentals of mobile data capture
SDK vs. JavaScript

To capture data, mobile apps use SDKs, whereas websites use client-side JavaScript. Analytics SDKs are small pieces of code installed in the app whose main function is to capture signals and transmit data for reporting purposes.
Because mobile apps and websites are inherently different architecture, analytics tends to focus on measuring “pages” whereas mobile apps measure “views.” This traditionally required teams to make accommodations in reporting and define traffic differently across devices. However, it’s now possible to measure traffic singularly across platforms.

Performance implications of SDKs

SDKs can have a negative impact on a mobile app’s performance because they sometimes demand more resources than the app can handle. In the past, this meant making difficult trade-offs between delivering great customer experience (fast and personalized) and tracking every engagement.
For example, to replay mobile app sessions, many mobile app SDKs take screenshots of the user experience. This approach can be non-performant and difficult to visualized at the level of granularity needed. In addition, taking screenshots of the user experience can introduce security and encryption challenges

Mobile App Tagging Obstacles

In addition to installing the SDK, tracking customized events (such as a button tap) often requires additional custom development in mobile apps. In fact, tracking user engagement typically requires multiple lines of tracking code be built throughout the app, which involves additional time and resources.
Once developed, code must be extensively tested and deployed to production via releases to the app store (iOS or Android), which can take anywhere from 3-4 weeks, and involves a different publishing process for different stores. And then users have to update their apps if they don’t have auto updates turned on.
To avoid complications of traditional mobile analytics SDKs and vendors, enterprises should seek out a more reliable, lightweight SDK that minimizes mobile app tagging. This way, analytics can be transformed into a logical structure on the customer’s device, giving you better performance and a more precise way to replay the user experience. Not only is is faster, but the data is more secure and compliant.

Quantum Metric’s mobile SDK: Unparalleled native app performance & visibility

Native app session replay with you and your users in mind. 100% of app traffic, highly performant, and secure by default.

Lightweight SDK (iOS and Android):
Our Android SDK is about 200KB. Our iOS SDK leverages bitcode, so it compiles down to less than 1MB in the final build
Encrypted at source:
We can block or encrypt data at cource, which is much more secure than other solutions that rely on auto-masking.
Patented, highly performant data capture:
We translate native app views into HTML (DOM), which reduces memory and CPU consumption, as well as data plan usage.
No perceptible impact:
Your native app UI stays quick and responsive. A typical enterprise customer will see a 8-9% decrease in Frames Per second (FPS) in their mobile app.

Quantum Metric supports both web and native mobile application on both Android and iOS. We work out of hte box with all modern dynamic content sites, including Single Page Apps (i.e., React, Angular, Backbone, etc.), WebComponents, JQuery, AJAX, HTTP/2, HTTPS, SPDY, HTML5, and more.
Finally get that real-time insight into your native app experience while protecting customer data and minimizing performance impact.

WATCH A PRODUCT TOUR

Measure what matters with mobile app metrics

We know mobile app development takes time and money. So why let all that hard work go to waste, risking your return on your investment? Like any business, the app development process doesn’t end after it launches. With Continuous Product Design (CPD) you never stop iterating and improving.
As you consider which mobile app KPIs are relevant to your business, it’s key to remember that apps are much more than just another channel to generate revenue. Mobile apps can transform your customers into brand loyalists by incentivizing them with hyper-localized features. They can bring people to your storefront and allow you to engage with them on a personal level.

Here are a few high-level business goals and questions you may want to answer:

Here are a few mobile app metrics that can help track your KPIs. We’ve broken them down by key categories, including Customer Experience, Acquisition, Engagement, Frustration Events, Task Completion, and App Performance.

Customer Experience
  • iOS and Android app store ratings
  • NPS and CSAT
  • Call Center Engagements
Acquisition
  • Entries
  • Campaign Attribution
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Average Revenue Per User
  • Customer Retention / Churn
Engagement
  • Visits/Sessions
  • Views Per Session
  • Taps
  • Average Time Per Session
  • Daily or Monthly Active Users (DAU/MAU)
Frustration Events
  • Error Messages/Window Alerts
  • Possible Frustration
  • Blocked Conversions
  • Empty/Bad Search Results
  • Profanity Detected
  • Frozen UI
Task Completion
  • Time Spent Alerts
  • Sign-ins
  • Carts
  • Abandoned Cart
  • Orders/Completions/Conversions
  • Revenue
App Performance
  • Crashes
  • Network/API Speed
  • Network/API Errors

Detect conversion blocking issues with mobile app session replay

Reduce or remove customer friction

Think about the last time you had a bad experience on a mobile app: You were trying to check your bank account balance and the app froze; you were reading new and noticed the app hadn’t updated since last week; your car broke down and the roadside assistance app was not responsive …
Mobile app developers work overtime to ensure that apps meet users’ needs. Yet the reality is that when you’re always pushing new app releases, errors and breakage can occur. That’s why teams building apps need to know ASAP when friction is occurring. You need to know when the error occurred, what it said, and most importantly why it happened so you can minimize the customer friction. What you don’t need is to find out about customer friction from negative reviews in the app store, skyrocketing uninstalls, and plummeting revenues.

Anomaly detection

Receive an alert that customers are experiencing unusual levels of friction after the latest mobile app version update

Mobile analytics

Segment which users are impacted, e.g., by device and OS type, and see where exactly in the funnel drop-off or friction is occuring.

Mobile session replay

Watch a few replays to instantly identify a newly designed feature that is confusing customers and causing them to abandon.

Design friction-free mobile experiences

Think about the last time you had a bad experience on a mobile app: You were trying to check your bank account balance and the app froze; you were reading new and noticed the app hadn’t updated since last week; your car broke down and the roadside assistance app was not responsive …
Mobile app developers work overtime to ensure that apps meet users’ needs. Yet the reality is that when you’re always pushing new app releases, errors and breakage can occur. That’s why teams building apps need to know ASAP when friction is occurring. You need to know when the error occurred, what it said, and most importantly why it happened so you can minimize the customer friction. What you don’t need is to find out about customer friction from negative reviews in the app store, skyrocketing uninstalls, and plummeting revenues.

Improve employee productivity and satisfaction

Beyond customer-facing apps, many apps, such as Salesforce Lightning and Zapier, help employees complete tasks at work, as well as better serve their customers. Or consider apps that manage airline boarding for agents, drive retail points of sale, or manage orders in a restaurant. all these, and many more, are as critical to the mobile value chain as customer-facing apps — and perhaps even more important.
When employees encounter friction in mobile apps — they suffer and their customers suffer. This leads to a simultaneous drop in both customer and employee satisfaction. The faster friction in this type of app can be identified and mitigate, the better for workforce retention, reputation, and profitability

Agent opens a ticket

An agent has an issue boarding an airplane passenger. He logs a ticket.

Helpdesk views the session

A helpdesk engineer opens the ticket, watches the replay, and sees the agent struggling with an error message.

Helpdesk quantifies, sends to Engineering

Watch a few replays to instantly identify a redesign that was confusing to customers.

Airline identifies UX friction on customer service agent boarding mobile app within minutes vs. hours.

Reduce time to remediate high-severity mobile issues

As pressure mounts to increase agility and iterate faster on mobile, it’s inevitable something will break, no matter how much testing you do.
But the stakes are higher for app releases, since every release requires app store review and approval, which can take days or sometimes weeks. That’s in addition to the time for your teams to investigate and resolve the issue. In a large-scale digital enterprise, where just a few minutes of downtime can mean literally millions of dollars in lost revenue, a few days can seem like a lifetime. That is why the need to detect frustration and alert with actionable insights faster so you can reduce the time to remediate and fix sever issues is ever more critical.

Make data-driven decision with mobile analytics

Apps bridge physical and digital experiences in ways that can delight customers through convenience and faster service. Most relevant COVID-era successes include mobile curbside delivery and pickup for restaurants and retail. In large hotels, mobile check-in and keyless room entry were becoming the norm even before COVID started.
But showing ROI from these in-app engagements requires more than just measuring high-level KPIs and revenue. Enterprises must invest in deep cross-channel insights and understand product design flaws and errors to avoid customer backlash. Doing so means intelligent monitoring and detecting when customers are struggling. It means replaying those encounters, having data to prioritize fixes, and delivering those insights to mobile product and technical teams so they can iterate and improve the experience next time.

Mitigate security and privacy risk related to mobile analytics

Safeguard your customers
As mobile enters every aspect of our lives, enterprises should be prepared not only to prevent malicious attacks, but also protect the rights of their customers’ data. Lots of potentially sensitive customer data can be captured through a native app. With new international privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, protecting customer data is not just the right thing to do, it’s legally required and can have enormous negative repercussions, both financially and to your brand reputation.

As you evaluate mobile analytics vendors, here are three key questions you can ask

1. From a security perspective, does the vendor provide clear documentation and support around how data is captured, not captured, or captured and encrypted?
2. For privacy compliance, does the vendor provide support for GDPR and CCPA?
3. Does the vendor provide documentation to ensure the transparency and communication to your customers — will your customers have peace of mind that you won’t take their data for granted?

Secure your mobile analytics data

Before implementing mobile analytics, understand and categorize your mobile app data into the three key categories:

Know which data to NEVER capture:

As they say, the best defense is no offense. If you don’t capture the data to begin with, it’s less likely to be the subject of a data breach. Be clear on what data should NOT be captured for analytics purposes. PCI and credit card data falls into this category.

Decide which data to capture that needs no encryption:

Most traffic data is relatively harmless to begin with, such as public data shown on a web page or product search terms. Either way, ensure this data is transferred and stored securely across networks and servers.

Decide which data to capture & encrypt:

Although most companies choose not to capture PII (personally identifiable information), there are situations where sensitive data needs to be captured, such as name and address of a user or the order number of a purchase. This identifiable data needs to be encrypted for GDPR and CCPA purposes. In addition, ensure the encryption occurs at the device level rather than just at the network level.

Establish a compliance program

Protecting PII is not just about posting a privacy policy. Besides the legal obligation, it’s the right thing to respect your customers’ personal data. And doing so should not require massive time and resources, but should require ongoing attention. When done correctly, you can develop goodwill with your customers while minimizing legal risks at the same time.

Here are a few strategies to build a comprehensive privacy plan:

Audit existing privacy policies and practices:

Identify what data you are collecting currently and if it is meeting your specific needs. If it’s not being used, determine if there’s enough of a future business case and value to retain.

Curtail data collection and retention:

Identify opportunities to slim down on data attributes that may be risky and don’t add business value.

Ensure data retained is secure:

Work w/ IT/security teams to safeguard customer data of all types.

Develop strong privacy policy:

This is required by law and easy to do with many templates available that can be customized to your business.

Reate awareness and communication:

Besides standard privacy policy jargon, take every opportunity to be upfront and explain clearly (and directly) to customers what data you collect and what it is being used for so there are no surprises.

Open a forum for feedback and complaints:

Get an email address for customers to address privacy concerns so that together you can build trust and loyalty.

How to evaluate mobile app analytics vendors

Let’s face it. The mobile analytics vendor space is crowded. With literally hundreds of product offerings, it can be overwhelming for enterprises looking to select the right solution for their business needs. Many of them appear similar and are not great at differentiating their offerings.
For your vendor evaluation, it might be tempting to start with massive spreadsheets cross-referencing dozens of vendors and product attributes. These large, complex exercises can often turn into time-consuming projects that end with zero stakeholder consensus.
So what’s the best way to choose? Enterprises can greatly simplify and streamline the vendor evaluation process by honing in on a few key questions focused on speed, flexibility, and ease of use.