While the web measurement & analytics space is quite mature, the mobile landscape is still emerging and open. Here are ten of the research & analytical tools that I’ve found most helpful for understanding mobile app usage. Would love to hear your thoughts. 

Category & Competitive Benchmarking

Similar to Quantcast, Alexa, Compete, and Google Trends on web, these tools are good for looking at broad market trends, or for competitive benchmarking:

  • Distimo: An easy way to look at leaderboards & trends. Onavo also falls into this category, but I’ve found the data to be fairly spotty in the long tail of apps.
  • AppData: Good place for top apps by category, as well as DAU & MAU counts for Facebook connected apps
  • XYO: Provides, what I believe to be, the most complete set of global download numbers
  • Facebook App Center: Here you view leaderboards of Top Rated and Trending apps, as well as Likes and (rough) user counts to get a relative sense of how apps stack up against one another

Keywords / App Store Optimization (ASO)

While the web has tools to examine keywords such as Google Keyword PlannerWordStreamKeywordSpy, on mobile there are a few tools to aid in understanding the keywords that drive App Store impressions (views), for both my apps and competitive ones:

  • Straply: Provides set of competitive terms and ranks (for free)
  • SensorTower (formerly known as AppStoreRankings): Paid, but  the most powerful set of tools I’ve used — very helpful in optimizing your listing all across the board. There is also the up & coming AppCodes which is also very good, but I think SensorTower has more useful features.

Tracking Downloads & Installs (your app)

These tools help to track daily downloads and upgrades by app:

  • AppAnnie: Downloads and updates, as well as reviews
  • Facebook Insights: For Facebook connected apps you can track user growth (MAU / WAU / DAU) as well as demographic characteristics of your users

App Usage / User Behavior

For how customers intreat within your app, there are a wide range of choices, but fall generally into two distinct categories:

  • App-based SDKs: These require code-level plug-ins to your app, and track all set behavior, and are starting to have more marketing capabilities as well. I personally find Localytics to be the best / most appropriate for my use (and has a really slick new dashboard); however, there are others like Flurry, Kontagent, etc. Personally, I think Localytics provides more depth in its reporting interface, and the new marketing features enable you to deploy promotions / messages dynamically w/o a resubmission of the app, which is incredibly helpful.
  • API-based: If you have a good server-side event model for your app, you can manage how a user changes “state” with any of the other analytic providers that allow for API-based calls (server-to-server). We’ve found USERcycle to be incredible for our use, since it’s designed around “people” va. “events”, or “screens”, and enforces the Startup Metrics for Pirates model; however, most of the web-based guys you may already be using (MixPanel, KissMetrics, etc.) can work as well.

Other 3rd party tools

There are [too] many tools to track paid ad spend for user acquisition via ads, affiliates, and incentives (although I think Nanigans is the best ;) ). Additionally, your specific application, or industry, may have custom metrics that are best served by an internal data warehouse / BI system. However, for now, this should give you enough of a flavor of the core tools that all mobile app developers need to know about.

Fragmentation –> Frustration

With all of these individual tools, it becomes quite difficult to attain a holistic picture of the user experience in one spot. To illustrate this challenge, here’s an example of how I try to track the user experience of the “acquisition funnel” — which is really just a simple sign-up / registration flow:

  1. A user first discover the app via a landing page on the web, which we track via Google Analytics
  2. That user then goes to the App Store, and hopefully downloads, the latter tracked via App Annie
  3. For those users that install, open the app, and sign in via Facebook, we look at Facebook Insights to to understand permission dialog impressions (from those who click on the Facebook Sign-in button), and those who actually authenticate for the first time (accept the FB permissions)
  4. Once they’ve signed into the app, new users must go through a registration process, which is one screen. For his we use Localytics to understand who arives at that screen and who completes it — this is even more important if you have a multi-step registration flow
  5. Finally once the users have completed the registration process, we log them in UserCycle to track their downstream behavior, by cohort
  6. To further complicate things, this initial flow (Steps 1-3) can also occur via the web, so for that we need to reconcile those numbers via Google Analytics

Would love to know whether anyone else has better suggestions to manage this flow, or any other suggestions. If you can help add to this list, please leave a comment!

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2 comments

  1. Hey Rishi, what do you think about an in app service like Helpshift for getting customer feedback in app? You can get more qualitative insights from engaging directly with users. Where does that fit in the scope of the other tools you mentioned (which are more quantitative)?

    1. Never used Helpshift – but will certainly check it out.

      I have used tools like UserVoice and GetSatisfaction. Ultimately though, we found the over head to be too high with those tools, in that customers don’t want to brose a forum and prefer an answer immediately to their own question / comment. So we ended up implementing a lighterweight email system, that output directly into our internal ticketing system — rather than having yet another tool.

      Again, that’s just my experience, and perhaps not the sweet spot for what these guys are going after.

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