Successful mobile app development does not end with the release of a mobile product.
In fact, that’s just the beginning of a long, iterative process that heavily leans on collected data and analytics to optimize a product to reach target goals and achieve continual success. Unfortunately, this is where many brands fall short. Not only do they fail to define what success will look like to them (i.e. increased engagement, a certain number of downloads) they also fail to track critical metrics that will help inform actionable solutions when issues (i.e. losing users) begin to arise.
Mobile app metrics
This article will break down 12 key mobile app metrics that you should be tracking throughout the lifetime of your app, from development to launch, to better understand users, improve app health, and increase retention.
The metrics listed below will be broken down into four categories based on performance, users, engagement, and business.
Performance based metrics simply focus on whether an app works or not. These metrics help developers discover major issues in how the app performs and operates, like if the app crashes every time it’s opened on an iPhone. These metrics are the foundation for optimizing an app, because at the end of the day, performance issues such as long loading periods and constant app crashes make it extremely difficult to retain users.
API latency time
An API (application program interface) is a technical development environment that grants access to a third party app or platform. A prime example of this is Facebook’s API that allows Facebook users to sign-up for an app like Spotify by using their Facebook account credentials. It also allows users to share content to their Facebook news feed from another app.
Latency refers to the total time it takes for this action to occur. Having this functionality has become standard and expected by users. The longer it takes for your product to communicate with another, the greater the possibility of users abandoning your app. Knowing your API latency time will allow you to optimize this function of your app.
RELATED: We asked the experts for their best free API recommendations, see what they had to say.
Crash rate is fairly self explanatory, but essentially this metric will break down the number of times your app crashes, making it easier pinpoint the issue within your app. It is essential that developers are diligent in monitoring this type of technical failure in order to avoid disrupting the user experience or causing data loss. In some cases, this metric can be broken down even further to include deeper insights, like how much a crash costs, if they happen with app updates, and so on.
App loading speed
This metric is concerned with how long different features of your app take to load. For example, how long it takes for search results to appear or how long it takes for the next level of a game to load. This metric is key for highly-engaged users, because slow loading speeds are a leading cause of user frustration, which can lead to abandonment.
User-centric metrics offer insight into a product’s user base; how large it is, where they came from, and how often they use the product. This insight sheds light on user behavior which for developers, is invaluable information as it helps to create a more personalized user experience. A more personalized user experience generally leads to higher engagement and retention rates.
Acquisition refers to the number of users who download and install an app from a certain location, and found the app either through organic search, word-of-mouth, or paid campaigns. This metric is important to track because it provides insight into what marketing efforts are bringing in the highest number of new users, and can provide direction as to where a marketing team should focus their future efforts.
Studies show that roughly 79 percent of users abandon a product after day one, and after three months that number can plummet to nearly 98 percent. This is what is known as app churn. Churn rate simply refers to the percentage of users who stop using an app within a particular time period. Identifying and understanding app churn is essential to your app growth strategy as the number of new users must outweigh the users who leave.
Understanding the churn rate will allow developers and businesses to identify if they are having issues with retaining users, pinpointing why this might be, and ultimately give them the opportunity to enact retention strategies to fix this issue.
DAU is an acronym for Daily Active Users. This metric reflects the number of users who actively engage with an app on a daily basis. This metric provides insight into what percentage of your user base actually uses your app and gives further detail into how engaged those users are. This can give developers and idea of what features users like and identify areas of improvement. Furthermore, for many this can also be a way to measure app success.
Engagement metrics take a deeper look into how users are interacting with an app, in particular their usage patterns and in-app behavior. These valuable insights provide a much needed understanding about users that is essential to improving an apps functionality, retaining a loyal user base, and optimizing a monetization strategy.
Session length refers to how much time a user spends in an app during an individual session. Session length is marked from when an app is launched to when it is closed or times out. Tracking this metric is critical to discovering potential streams of revenue through app flows or other in-app scenarios.
For example, if users make purchases on your app, you may find out that the average session length is five minutes, but the average checkout takes six. Knowing this, developers can implement methods to either encourage users to stay in the app longer or shorten the checkout process.
Session interval refers to the time that lapses between each time an individual uses an app. Ultimately, this metric shows how frequently users interact with a product. Once this metric is understood, it is easier for businesses to optimize the user experience and encourage more frequent opens.
For example, if this metric shows that tablet users have longer session intervals than smartphone users, this is an indication that the screen flow or design of the tablet app needs to be improved to provoke more frequent use. This can also be an opportunity to add in-app or push notifications to your retention strategy to encourage more immersive interaction.
Time in-app tracks how long a user is in your app over a period of time. It’s another way to track how engaged users are. This metric is used to determine usage trends; for example, if a certain segment of users is consistently opening your app for long periods of time. Knowing this, teams can break this data down further to determine if they are all following a similar screen flow, making more purchases, or doing research?
Knowing this information is instrumental in learning what users do with a product so that developers can tailor products to these particular desires adding extra value to the experience.
Retention rate is the percentage of users who return to your app based on the date of their first visit. Tracking this metric identifies the most engaged users, creating better targeting capabilities. Splitting out retention rate based on important dimensions like purchase frequency, location, or device, allows developers to experiment with personalization to improve an app.
Ultimately app success is greatly dependent on its ability to generate revenue or at least visible ROI. Where the metrics listed above focus on how the app is being used, business metrics focus on the monetization of an app, helping developers make informed decisions as well as predict any financial issues that may arise.
Lifetime value (LTV)
Lifetime value (LTV) is the primary metric for tracking revenue. This represents the financial value of an app and how much each app user is worth in his or her lifetime. LTV can show growth over time for different segments (i.e. by acquisition channel) and signals how much more can you spend toward acquisition to gain more of these users and still turn a profit.
Cost per acquisition
While getting downloads and seeing your app gain traction amongst users can be exciting, it is important to track how much user acquisition costs. Acquisition reports track how much money is being spent to acquire new users, and what they’re doing when they get into your app. You can analyze the ongoing value of acquired users against organic users, or discover which users from certain campaigns have a higher LTV.
What to do once you start tracking these metrics
Tracking the right metrics plays a vital role in a developer's ability to optimize an app to obtain and retain users continuously. No matter the business model, a successful app that brings value and drives revenue is dependent on creating engaging and personalized experiences.
The 12 metrics listed in this article are only a few out of myriad metrics, but they serve as a foundation to gain a deeper understanding into in-app usage patterns and habits. Developers can use these insights to inform redesigns, UX changes, and messaging campaigns to build stronger funnels that will boost ROI and make an app stand out in a saturated market.
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Chris is a Marketing Assistant at Clearbridge Mobile, a mobile app development company helping companies build better relationships with customers by delivering best-in-class mobile app experiences. He writes about all things related to mobile app development, UX/UI, strategy, and marketing. In his spare time Chris can be found with a guitar in his hand, jamming along to his favorite tunes.