Cracking The Black Box of Digital Measurement: Mobile Apps
Columnist L. Erik Bratt discusses why you need to have the right strategy and tools to bring you insights into how users are engaging with your mobile apps.
Since the dawn of web measurement in the late 1990s, digital marketers have been a notoriously analytics-focused bunch, living their lives through conversion rates, bounce rates, click-through rates, open rates and a slew of other metrics too numerous to mention.
But if there is one area of measurement where marketers appear unable to work their powers of digital insight, it’s mobile apps.
According to a Forrester Research report (“Use Analytics To Create Mobile Best Practices,” 2015), more than half of all digital business professionals (57 percent) use no analytics whatsoever to measure their mobile apps. Moreover, only one in five developers integrate crash reporting to monitor app performance.
This means most marketers have no clue what is happening within their apps from a usage perspective, and worse, have no clear way to optimize those apps to increase in-app engagement.
Meanwhile, developers have limited insight into the performance of their apps. That leaves marketers and developers alike largely unable to fathom how users experience their app or make it better.
This probably wouldn’t matter that much if mobile wasn’t, well, kind of a big deal.
Mobile surpassed desktop usage several years ago, and there are now more searches on mobile than on desktop, according to Google. Coming to grips with mobile measurement and optimization is simply a modern requirement that marketers can no longer afford to ignore.
So why are mobile apps such a black box, and what can marketers do to gain some much-needed insight to help drive engagement and better business results?
A Different Animal
As downloadable programs built exclusively for mobile operating systems, native mobile apps are an entirely different beast from their web counterparts in the following ways:
• Lack of Agility – Unlike the real-time nature of web environments, tracking activity within mobile apps has typically been a much more manual process, either involving hand-coding or implementing analytics software development kits (SDKs).
Implementing an SDK requires a lot of pre-planning for the marketer and a lengthy implementation time for app developers — both parties try to account for everything up front because the last thing they want to do is make changes to the SDK.
This is because for every additional change, marketers must work with their mobile development team to update the app and then re-certify it through the app store (iOS, Android). This whole process can take several weeks or months.
• Siloed Teams – Mobile apps are developed outside of marketing teams, and sometimes even apart from traditional engineering teams. In many instances, mobile apps are developed by outside agencies.
All of them have something in common: They are not thinking about measurement when deploying these apps. It’s incumbent upon marketers to work with developers to make sure measurement is baked into the app upon release.
• Incomplete Tools – According to Forrester’s mobile analytics report, many marketers are still relying on traditional web analytics (Adobe, Webtrends, IBM) to measure their mobile apps and mobile websites, despite a growing number of specialized mobile app analytics vendors.
Additionally, brands are more focused on (minimal) engagement metrics such as downloads, user logins and active users, not on business outcomes.
All three reasons point to mobile immaturity — businesses are uncertain how to measure (the technology) and what to measure (the KPIs). Both directly impact the ability to take customer engagement to new levels.
Simplifying Mobile Marketing
One of the easiest ways to gain agility surrounding mobile apps is to bake in a tag management solution, which can provide several foundational benefits, depending on the solution. (Note: My employer, Ensighten, offers enterprise tag management.) This includes delivering a degree of marketing agility until now only associated with web environments, such as:
• Basic lifecycle metrics – Some enterprise tag management vendors offer out-of-the-box metrics, including mobile screen views, buttons clicked and metrics around whether the app is active and being used or has been pushed to the background.
These metrics are easy to get and provide much more depth into user engagement.
• Mobile tag management – Just as on traditional websites, enterprise tag management systems make it easy to deploy and manage key third-party marketing technologies, including different analytics tools, without burdening IT teams and without additional SDKs.
Once the tag manager’s mobile libraries are baked into the app, marketers and analytics professionals can add solutions or adjust data points on the fly, without having to re-certify the app.
• Mobile app optimization – Metrics and optimization go hand-in-hand, which is why real-time optimization is an important tag management capability. Real-time A/B and multivariate tests can help mobile marketers understand which app content is driving conversions and engagement and empower them to make changes on the fly.
Today, only 16 percent of enterprises are currently doing any type of testing within mobile apps, according to Forrester.
At the enterprise level, tag management can also help bridge the gap between web and mobile channels by making it possible to correlate visitor profile and IDs across devices in a secure, anonymous manner. This makes it easier to piece together a single customer view and drive more consistent and relevant experiences across touch points.
Although tag management can be of great help in cracking the mysterious black box of mobile app measurement, marketers first need to commit to solving the problem. This is a big step.
Once committed, they can then make sure they have the right strategy, the right resources and the right tools to conquer this complex but mission-critical challenge.