Building a successful app is a process. No matter how you go about designing and developing your app, you have to spend some time developing a mobile analytics strategy — one that’s rooted in your KPIs and the business value you hope to derive from the app.
That might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many app development projects begin with decision makers blinded by a certain technology, or by the sheer brilliance of their app idea. During our mobile app strategy engagements, we help clients define what their idea truly could — and should — become. We help them break ideas down to the very core, finding the intersection of where a user problem and business opportunity overlaps, then start to build the definition for what will become the app MVP (minimum viable product).
Setting goals and defining key performance indicators (KPIs) — and building a mobile analytics strategy — must be part of this crucial upfront work. When you sit down to decide what you want to achieve, what features you plan to include in the app, as well as your brand strategy, you should also be thinking about what your KPIs will be and how you will determine whether you’re achieving them. How will any given feature contribute to your success metrics and what will you need to test to see how the feature will help meet your larger objectives?
To help get you started, here are five steps for creating a mobile analytics strategy for your app:
1. Create an analytics plan
An analytics plan can begin simply as a written list of your business goals on a sheet of paper. Add one column for the goals, another column for their success metrics, and a third for what is required to constitute success.
Break those goals down into tactics — the actions you’re going to take, or the features you’re going to build to meet those goals — and decide how you’re going to measure their success. Set manageable targets and be honest about them: Set the bar too high and you’ll never be successful. Set it too low and you won’t learn anything. Use your intuition. Search the web to see who else has solved similar problems and use their baselines as a guide. You don’t have to be right on the mark, you just need a line in the sand to work towards so you can learn and improve.
Refine this list as you iterate throughout your app development. Put yourself in the place of your users and create stories to help you model features that solve a key problem for those users. Then think about what metric value will indicate that your app has helped them solve the problem.
Along the way, you will develop hypotheses about what will affect these metrics and you’ll modify your app features to test the hypotheses. Use the data to gain insight so you’re not guessing what you have to do next.
As you progress, you may find it useful to expand your measurement plan to include audience segments and cohorts. There is so much to learn from the data you gather — and you can help ensure your app’s success by using insights gained from the data to make improvements.
2. Identify your one metric that matters
You’ll find that some of your app KPIs are more important to achieving your goals than others. For example, if you push hard on a particular metric, you may see faster growth than you do by focusing on something else. Perhaps your most important business goal is to get more users onboarded, or maybe it’s to retain users and prevent them from uninstalling. Each app, and each business, is different. When you apply a mobile analytics strategy throughout the app development process, you’re very likely to discover one metric that ties most closely to your overall objectives and is directly affected by the tactics you use to achieve them. This is your One Metric That Matters (OMTM). It’s not that you should discount other KPIs. But recognizing your OMTM helps you focus your team on one well-defined target.
A good OMTM is simple, easily compared to prior time periods, often a ratio to ratio, and meaningful. That means if you design an experiment to affect your OMTM, the answer you get will have significant impact on the business and allow you to make real improvements. If your app has an ecommerce feature, for example, it could be as simple as units sold per day. If you are a media company, it might be the number of videos consumed per user per day.
Make the current status of your OMTM the topic of conversation at the water cooler. Create a dashboard with the one metric and place it where everyone can see it. Knowing the desired value of your OMTM helps you plan hypotheses and experiment. And you can use it to quickly decide whether an experiment is worth executing. If you go forward with an experiment and your OMTM drops, you can still recover quickly.
Finally, don’t be afraid to change your OMTM. It can evolve depending on where you are in the app’s lifecycle, the larger business environment, or even your function on the team.
3. Create a culture where it’s OK to fail — and fail quickly
To err is human. When you implement a mobile analytics-driven app development strategy, one of the first things you’ll discover is that you’re not going to make the correct decision every time you try something new. But if you don’t go down the wrong road sometimes, you’re probably not trying hard enough. When measurement and analysis drive your development process, you will quickly learn which hypotheses are true. Even if your hypothesis turns out to be wrong, you will know what not to do. All information is valuable; it’s driving blind that can hurt you.
So, if you create a culture where people aren’t penalized for failing, you’ll be able to treat these experiences as opportunities to gather information and learn. Using mobile analytics is also a great way to end debates among team members — let the numbers define “winning” ideas based on how an app performs in the hands of users. Have an idea? Test it and get the answer rather than choosing a direction based on who has the loudest voice.
The ability to test hypotheses is great — as long as you monitor the results of the test and respond before a wrong turn can harm the business. Make sure you know what results a new feature should bring about before you deploy it. Model the results you expect, and if the change doesn’t meet your target, quickly reverse and try something else.
Don’t run an experiment unless you’ll actually have the ability to interpret the data and make choices based on the results. And don’t run an experiment you can’t reverse quickly. This is where some mobile app analytics tools can help.
4. Develop a common language
Teams work well when they share a common purpose. One way to foster this within your team is to ensure that everyone understands the goals and objectives. Telling your team, “Our app is going to change the world by disrupting worldwide widget distribution” is less helpful than saying, “We make a profit when 500 new people a week buy a widget through our app.” If the total is 499 at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, your team will be doing everything they can to reach 500 by end of day.
You can reinforce your common purpose with the language your team uses to talk about the app objectives and the metrics that support them. Create a data dictionary that defines exactly what your most important metrics represent to the business and how they are captured, derived, and calculated. Update it regularly as your objectives and metrics change throughout the app lifecycle.
5. Make everyone a business analyst
Analytics are no longer the purview of the finance team running to meetings in a wake of printed spreadsheets. In our connected world — and especially for the new world of mobile and connected experiences — data is the oxygen that feeds success. Understanding and creating insight from the data that businesses thrive on should be a fundamental skill of any team member.
Further, these people are on your team because they have the expertise you need. They know their part of the business best, so empower them to dig into the data and ask questions. Help them use their subject matter knowledge to improve your hypotheses, or quickly determine where an experiment may be failing. Sharing objectives, targets, and experiment results with the whole team will increase your collective knowledge and insight.
Now that you know how to build a mobile analytics strategy…
To learn more about how you can use mobile analytics as a foundation for your app strategy, download our free ebook, The Smart App: A Comprehensive Guide for Using Mobile Analytics to Make Your App a Success — Right from the Start.