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Knowledge is power.  This is especially true when talking about the future of your mobile app. Informed, data-driven decisions are always better than reacting from the gut. Analytics help paint a clear picture about your app’s performance and can increase the value of your app as well as address potential challenges before they happen.

Below are several smart ways app developers can benefit from analytics to help deepen user engagement, increase revenue, and prepare an app for success.

1. Conserve time and resources

Knowing which app features people are using most and how often is valuable because it can tell you where you may benefit by focusing your development efforts as well as suggest areas of your app that shouldn’t get as much attention, saving you time and resources.

A good analytics tool helps you track specific user behaviors, or “events,” each time a someone interacts with a certain feature of your app. Imagine being able to pull up this data for a specific date range and being able to sort by different criteria, like how many times people purchase a weapon in your game, or any other feature of your app during a specific day, week, or over time. And if the data reveals that no one ever uses the specified feature of your app, you can avoid wasting time further developing the feature.

2. Make your app easy to use

  • User flow: One way to find out if your app is easy to use is to view each stage from the context of the user experience. For example, if you have a game and people are abandoning the app before completing a level, it can be helpful to find out exactly when and why they’re not advancing. Once you identify a stall in flow, uncovering the root of the problem — like a bug on certain mobile devices that doesn’t allow them to complete the level — becomes easy. The use of mobile analytics enables you to easily pinpoint obstacles or barriers to a successful user experience so you can improve outcomes of each app interaction.
  • Engagement: User engagement is another way to determine whether or not your mobile app is easy to use. Getting someone to download your app is one thing, but whether or not they use it is another matter entirely. With mobile analytics, you can track how often people use your app as well as how long they interact with it in a single session. This data can let you know if you’re moving in the right direction or not when it comes to design and functionality.

Tip: Identify multiple user events (e.g., answering a question, clicking a button, downloading an item, etc.) to create a funnel of desired activity/behaviors.

3. Track ROI (Do you know who your VIPs are?)

As the saying goes, you need to “spend money to make money.” But if you’re not optimizing your marketing channels (e.g., inventory sources)  all of the time, you’re likely needlessly wasting some of that cash. Here’s the basic process for tracking ROI:

  • Install tracking: You want to be able to know with certainty where your users are coming from before they download your app. In other words, you want to know the accurate source of your referrals – which ad networks are sending you the most new users.  Further, by knowing the lifetime value of users from particular sources, you’re going to identify the source of your most valuable customers.
  • Study Results – By separating marketing channels and tracking them individually, you can find out which campaigns are working and fund them with more money. And for channels that aren’t converting, you can spend less money.

Knowing the lifetime value of your users is an essential piece of data that enables you to successfully track your return on investment. It may seem obvious, but some are VIPs.  Knowing who is making frequent purchases or using your app most loyally enables you to market to them differently than you would a one-time user (or one that does not repeatedly return to your app).

4. App downloads vs. app usage

It’s important to note the difference between app downloads and app usage. Of the people who download your app, only a certain percentage will open it up and actually use it. This is why incentivized downloads/environments are not a very good idea. While incentivization may increase the number of times your app gets downloaded, if a user is merely lured by a one-time perk, there’s a chance that their interest in your app will be fleeting. And when this happens, the lifetime value of your users will sink like a rock.

5. Build a marketing strategy

Don’t act on a hunch. To build a successful marketing strategy that results in a nice ROI, you need to make data-driven decisions based in reliable, accurate analytics. This can help you establish clear goals that are measurable. If you don’t know which features users are interacting with the most and the source of your most valuable traffic, you’re just throwing money at advertising which isn’t smart.

6. Detect crashes and problems with certain devices

While it would be a much better world if developers could build one version of an app and have it work exactly the same on the myriad of mobile devices that are currently in use — not to mention future ones — we accept that this is just not possible. Help is available, however, for those who track crashes in order to find out which devices are having problems, and the areas within the app that are affected. Crash reporting is very important.

7. Drive conversions

Knowing what factors drive purchases/conversions so that you generate revenue is important. While bringing a great app to the world can give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, bringing in revenue is going to allow you to continue making the app better – not to mention put food on your table. By looking at individual user behaviors and in-app events as well as user flow funnels, you can identify the factors that trigger purchases, conversions into a sale or specified action so you can make a commission.

From increasing app usage to creating more revenue with better conversions, mobile analytics is the smart way to make decisions. Going with your gut feeling may work occasionally, but if you’re making decisions based on cold, hard data, you’re going to be more successful.

Dale Carr is the founder and CEO of Leadbolt, the mobile marketing platform. Ernst & Young named Carr its 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology in Australia.

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