When I got into mobile analytics a couple of years ago, I quickly realized that there were several very different ways to interact with (and therefore, to measure) the medium: there's the mobile web, and then there are mobile apps.Mobile web - even though it's fraught with data collection problems - is easier to come to terms with as a web analyst because it's like the Mini-Me of the existing desktop (or "fixed") web. We know exactly what to expect from the mobile web, it just has a smaller-than-normal screen and lame browsing technology.
Continuing with the Austin Powers analogy, mobile apps are like the Mini-Me of Web 2.0. Since the "Web 2.0" buzzword can mean several things, in this context I am referring to rich internet applications. When RIAs first became popular on the fixed web, analysts had to shift our thinking away from measuring page views to measuring events. The same holds true with mobile apps, where we now have no tiny page views, just tiny events.
When I've written about measuring the mobile web in the past, I've always intentionally stepped around the issue of mobile apps because they seemed like a bit of an edge case. Well, those days are over. With the rise in popularity of the iPhone and similar devices, we see an increased awareness of and interest in mobile apps. You get your new phone and immediately you want to download apps. Back in September 2009 Apple announced that more than 2 billion apps have been downloaded from their app store. Wow.
As a web analyst, this is why I care:
In the past I've been involved in Semphonic client projects where we used the Omniture data insertion API to push mobile app activity to SiteCatalyst alongside related fixed web and mobile web activity. Omniture is definitely a viable solution for tracking mobile apps; within the past 6 months they've expanded the list of smartphone platforms whose apps they're able to measure. I have also recently learned about stand-alone mobile app tracking applications like Flurry and Pinch. I welcome your blog comments if you've used these products or others like them.
The big news, though, is that Google Analytics has entered the running as a mobile app measurement solution. Last month GA announced a set of new features, including the ability to measure iPhone and Android mobile apps. GA doesn't cover as many smartphone platforms as Omniture (yet), but then again it, uh, costs a lot less than Omniture. In another recent official GA post highlighting app tracking, they offer up a video clip case study:
The video interviewee says mobile app tracking has led to insight about popular features, which in turn has informed product development and usability initiatives. It's a useful story no matter which tracking tool you happen to use (or plan to use).Lesson: the minute you get the idea to build a mobile app, take a breath and then think about how you're going to track it. You have a number of options. None are super-simple, but they're all manageable and will meet an important need down the road when your business executives want to know, quantifiably, how customers are using the app. Good luck!
[PS For those of you following my blog post series on functionalism, I will get back on track in my next post. I could not resist this tangent.]