2-Bit Opinions: Mobile App Tracking & Measurement

Forget Big Data. Focus on answering Big Questions.

by Liam Keenan

Big Data. It’s everywhere, isn't it? Everyone seems to want it. No, need it. Without it our businesses are going to get left behind as our competitors speed ahead leaving us in their collective dust with our users in tow.

All this talk of Big Data reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes.

Lyle Lanley, legitimate businessman
Lyle Lanley: “You know, a town with money’s a little like the mule with the spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.”

But this isn't an article about Big Data or spinning wheels. It’s about how you should fundamentally be thinking about your app and its data. What questions should you be asking? What should you be tracking to help answer those question? How do you then take that data and use it to inform your strategy, marketing and product development?

I’m going to look at several different areas to answer the above. To bring it into the real world, I’m going to look at it through the lens of two different apps:

  1. Marvel Contest of Champions: A mobile game (which had me hooked over Christmas) developed and published by Kabam set in the Marvel Universe.
  2. Carousell: A Singapore-based C2C eCommerce platform that is expanding across Asia and has received funding from Sequoia Capital

What questions should you be asking?

I’ll (annoyingly) start by answering that question with a question: What do you want to know?

Ultimately the answer to that is usually yet another question: How do I make more money? And that’s a good starting point. To help us tackle that question, let’s break it down into three separate areas:

From here we can start to take a much more structured approach and ask more focused questions like:

  • Acquisition: What acquisition channels are providing the highest ROI?
  • Retention: How stable is our user base is?
  • Monetization: What mechanics are driving player conversion?

We’ll look at each of those areas and what they mean for our tracking in more detail in a moment. But first let’s think of what questions our chosen two apps might ask.


For many companies, particularly those at early stages of their growth, this is the No. 1 priority. They need to build up the user base that will sustain the app, attract new users and bring in revenue through in-app purchases, subscriptions or fees.

Possible questions to ask:

  • What is the most effective acquisition channel? e.g. best ROI, lowest CPI
  • What percentage of my new users are coming from paid vs. organic vs. viral/social sources?
  • What devices do my users own? Do we need different acquisition approaches for each OS?
  • How can we increase our ROI? e.g. conversion rates, CTRs

Metrics to track:

  • CPI, CTR, Conversion rate
  • # of new users
  • Segments: Acquisition channel, Device type/OS, Geography, etc.
  • K-factor (the average number of additional users each user introduces to the app)
  • LTV (more aligned to monetization but also very relevant to acquisition)

How this may impact product/marketing/strategy:

  • CPI and LTV per channel would greatly influence the marketing strategy and allocation of budget. For example, a high CPI and low LTV would most likely lead to budget being shifted from that channel.
  • Device type/OS could impact the marketing, product and overall strategy. For example, if one OS, e.g. Android, was driving all the growth, it could lead product to shift increased dev resources to building out features for that platform.


Developing a comprehensive understanding of your users is important across all businesses and no less so in the world of apps. Retention metrics and the actions that drive retention (or churn) can provide invaluable insight into your users and how they interact with the app you've created.

Possible questions to ask:

  • What are the primary causes for our users to churn? How do we address it?
  • What’s the average lifetime of a user? Is trending up or down?
  • How long do users spend in-app? How has that changed over time?

Metrics to track:

  • DAUs , MAUs
  • Average and Median # of Sessions and Session Length
  • Churn rate
  • Cohort data: when the user joined the app
  • Segments: Acquisition channel, Device type/OS, Geography, etc.
  • Event/Goal data: Level, In-app progress, features used, achievements earned, etc.

How this may impact product/marketing/strategy:

  • Product may see that users are frequently dropping out once they reach a certain point in the game. This may lead to additional features in the game to keep users engaged at that point.
  • Marketing may choose to use data on churned users, particularly those with a high value, to re-target them through re-engagement ads.


The final piece of the puzzle. Assuming you've managed to acquire a bunch of users AND they haven’t abandoned you to watch the latest season of Game of Thrones or House of Cards, the last critical step is getting the users to convert.

Getting your monetization strategy correct is very challenging; trying to strike the right balance between maximizing return but minimize frustration to the user. Leveraging the right monetization metrics, in conjunction with some of the retention metrics we've already looked at above, can help ease this process while increasing conversion and monetization rates.

Possible questions to ask:

  • What is driving revenue?
  • What traits do our biggest spenders share?
  • How do we encourage more users to convert? And how do we encourage existing users to convert more often?
  • What do our users value most?

Metrics to track:

  • Life Time Value (LTV)
  • # Paying Users, Total spend per user
  • Conversion rate, Average time between conversion
  • Cohort data, Segments (e.g. device, geo), Event/Goal data (e.g. level, in-app progress)
  • Items purchased & item value

How this may impact product/marketing/strategy:

  • The marketing team may see that users acquired through YouTube have higher conversion rates and, subsequently, a higher LTV than other channels resulting in more marketing budget being directed to that channel.
  • If the current monetization strategy is not working, e.g. micro-transactions, the app may have to an alternative strategy instead, e.g. monetization through in-app advertisements.

That was just a sample of some of the things that we can track and the questions we could and should be asking. In time, with the success of the app, all these metrics may well reach the scale of ‘Big Data’. However, as long as the fundamental questions underpinning it reflect the strategy and goals of the company then you should be on the right path to yielding insights from your data (and not just jargon).

Enjoyed this article and want to see more? Avoid being like a mule and with a spinning wheel by visiting my profile here.

Note: The views outlined in this post are mine and are not an indication of the views or opinions of my employer

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