April 23rd, 2015
So you’ve just finished building and you can’t wait to get this product in front of everyone. Stop. Hold that excitement. Let’s make sure we’re measuring critical user behaviors. I know you’re excited, but put yourself in your shoes a month from now, where you’ve gone through the long release and feedback cycle, and are wondering what to do now that your app still has only 100 users. Take a couple hours and really think through what you want to measure.
The worst possible thing you can do is try to measure everything. If you go through and add over a hundred measurements to your app, you will easily be inundated with data and likely overwhelmed with the amount of things to fix, also known as paralysis by over analysis. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
Here are the three things that I would make sure to measure:
Unfortunately, there is no prescription event to track for this section, as it’s truly unique to every product. The primary question you’re asking yourself here is: how do I know if someone has used my product? Converting to signup but never making it any further is not a real user of your product, unless your product was just a registration form.
This is best illustrated by example. I recently launched a product called Sweep for iOS 8. The core premise was that users could quickly go through their photos on their phone and delete the duplicates. For this app, I tracked the actual photos swiped through and cleaned up. If a customer made it through 10 or more clusters of photos, I would consider them a user. According to my metrics, I’ve had around 4000 installs, but my tracking would indicate that I’ve had about 400 real users. Obviously, a 10% conversion from download to actual use is pretty poor, but mind would immediately begin racing to all the things I could do to try to get more people engaged with the actual value proposition.
The knowledge of where your users are coming from, and the ability to split out product use by origin is incredibly important for determining your pathways for growth. For example, let’s say you’ve been spending all your time trying to woo the press to write articles about you and your product. If you have a mechanism for determining how many new installs came from a particular press article, and you combine this with the data from section one, you might learn that press actually generates a lot of installs of people who never use the product.
This install origin data was extremely hard to track before companies like Branch. Now, using the service, you can use their links for everything from marketing campaigns to sharing features in your app, to map out the source of all of your installs. Tie the install source to the actual value proposition of the user to know the value of each growth channel.
Lastly, this isn’t absolutely necessary to track in your first release, but will become much more important as time passes. You’ll want to measure how often each user comes back, and the time between sessions. This will give you an idea of retention at the daily, weekly and monthly level. Retention is the most difficult metric to achieve, as it means that a person actively thinks about your service and reopens the app. This means that the person actually changed their behavior and went out of their way to interact with your product.
However, since this metrics implies that you have users to actually be retained, I recommend focusing on the first two before worrying about retention. It’s great to start measuring it as early as possible, so that you can see the effects of your early efforts around the growth and value proposition metrics.
Now you’ve got the data you need to make informed and well prioritized decisions about where to spend the next development time. Every single decision you make about the product and its features going forward should be done with these 3 numbers in mind. If your engineering efforts are not going to drive improvement to one of the above metrics, you should reevaluate your priorities. Additionally, with every feature added or improvement mad, you should go out of your way to know the individual impact on each of these three metrics. They are the only real numbers that will determine how successful your product is.
Alex is the CEO of Branch Metrics, a full service, deeplinking solution for mobile apps. Branch links have the power to deeplink through app install and open, allowing the app developer to deliver a personalized post-install experience. Branch links can be used to build full user-to-user referral programs with automatic install attribution and rewarding, or for automatically deeplinking to content post-install. Also, the Branch analytics dashboard gives insights into where organic installs are coming from, as well as interesting metrics like install conversion funnels and k-factors of growth features.