Making Sense of Mobile Analytics

This post originally appeared on NetNewsCheck.com.

Publishers, it’s likely that your executive team discussed your mobile strategy in the last month, week, day or hour. Somewhere in that exchange of ideas was measuring the performance of that strategy. If you’re like me, you’re held accountable for finding the right numbers to measure and then working intelligently to hit those digits.

Crafting a mobile strategy to cope with how quickly your audience is shifting its time and attention to mobile can be overwhelming. There are numerous mobile analytics tools available. But instead offering here an exhaustive list of mobile analytics providers, let me rather focus on the right kind of analytics tool for the job.

It’s human nature to try and make the complex seem simple. The same principle applies to mobile analytics, and putting these tools into categorized groups is the only way I make sense of the world. I classify the three types of mobile analytics: product, marketing and audience.

When mobile apps launched, product analytics were the first type of mobile measurement available. Here, one looks to benchmark product performance over time. The usual suspects are page views, unique visitors, time spent, operating systems and device types. As this category matures, we see much more sophisticated product suites available to measure social interactions, real-time content consumption, code quality and crash reporting. These are product-focused metrics that formed the early foundation of a mobile strategy. This is also where most mobile teams focus their efforts today.

My second bucket of mobile measurement is marketing – the tools one uses to measure and improve app revenue and store listing optimization and to measure lifetime value or cost-per-acquisition of a new user. These include the standard measurements of impressions, clicks and CPMs. In the last two years, we’ve seen advertisers request real-time location more frequently, which when used to improve ad performance, can count as a marketing measurement. Also included in this group are the tools used to manage the performance of remnant ad networks, which can be akin to managing a nursery school room full of four-year-olds; there is both an art and a science to get them to behave.

The final type of mobile analytics, and the most recent entrant, is audience analytics. This data seeks to understand exactly who your audience is. Attributes that are well known in desktop advertising – including gender, age ranges, income ranges, education, interests and behaviors – are hidden or un-actionable today in mobile. 

Mobile historically struggles here due to the lack of first party data and the lack of cookies.  Traditional desktop advertising built massive profitability on the back of the cookie, where advertisers expect to buy their target audience. 

The parties not struggling here are Facebook, Google and Twitter. They use their audience data to sell fewer ads at higher rates. So what about everyone else?

Most publishers can quickly rattle off their product and marketing statistics. Unfortunately, most have no idea about their male/female user ratio. If they do know their audience by gender, they can’t make that segment available for advertisers, depressing their effectiveness and therefore their revenue.

Audience data proved incredibly valuable during the last presidential election, and 2016 is going to be even more data-driven. The price of admission to capture mobile’s growing share of political ad spend is buying the right (or left, or independent) audience. The digital media publishers that can target mobile audience by political affiliation and voting districts will simply outperform their peers.

Product, marketing and audience analytics play critical and equally important roles in a big-picture digital strategy. They don’t function in isolation of each other, either. Some product stats, like content consumption, help one understand the audience. Conversely, audience data helps inform product decisions.

To succeed in a cross-channel environment, it’s time to know the mobile audience.

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