Is there any difference between a mobile app and a mobile optimised web site from the point of view of user interaction or analytics?

At first sight they might look like a similar proposition and from the point of understanding user behaviour many marketing professional look to apply their web tools to the task of analysing their app usage.

It may be possible to argue that this is a reasonable decision but there are some real pitfalls in doing this, and some real opportunities to be exploited.

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Firstly, let’s examine how the user is engaging with your brand. Will a mobile optimised web site the interaction is likely to be more opportunistic with a bookmark being the end game in terms of an end user action to bring the brand into their world.

Typically the installation of an app is a more considered choice with a user having to take a positive action to install and possibly pay for the app and it’s likely that there will be good engagement over the longer term. In some sectors the level of engagement in an app is comparable with that of social media.

In terms of analysing usage many web analytics tools will fall short of giving really valuable insight. For example, by default, a session in a web analytics tool is often set to 30minutes as an industry standard which doesn’t really apply in the app context. Many web analysis tools rely on the concept of a page view which again doesn’t apply to the app world. Clearly for many apps there is also the possibility to use them whilst disconnected from the network which can cause real issues as most analytics software is predicated on a persistent network connection to pass page tag data to data collection servers.

Analytics software built for native apps can provide detailed information on app usage and behaviour by getting more detailed access to device level information such as GPS location or accelerometers which can be challenging (in the least) to get via a browser based tag. This can allow analysts to overlay behaviour and answer questions such as: Where was the user located when they interacted with the app? Or Were they travelling when viewing the articles on sport in my news app? This could easily be used to provide personalised timely and relevant content or information to users via the app, or determine segments for email or push style notifications.