A key capability that sets mobile apps apart from mobile websites is that apps can still be used when your iPhone or Android phone has no coverage. App publishers know this is a major reason why the user experience with apps is much stronger than the mobile web. What many app publishers don’t know is that if they’re not accurately tracking offline use, they might be missing 15% of their customers!
Two of my favorite iPhone apps are The New York Times and Instapaper. Before getting on a plane or subway, I’ll often open the NYTimes app and quickly download the latest news. I won’t read a single article then, but after losing coverage, I’ll browse through the entire “newspaper.” Without the right app analytics, that session and the 20 odd articles opened would be lost.
Lost usage means lower app engagement, which for many app publishers directly translates into lost revenue. At a minimum, the artificially low user reach and frequency statistics hurt efforts to sell advertising space. Worse, impressions for advertisers and sponsors that were made while offline will either not be counted or be incorrectly reported.
If your app already supports offline functionality, like the New York Times, look for a mobile app analytics product that also supports offline usage. Solutions like Localytics take just minutes to integrate and could immediately show a huge jump in unique users and engagement!
Localytics fully supports offline usage by efficiently caching all analytics data on Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 devices, with timestamps for each start, stop and event tracked. Localytics uploads cached analytics data when the app is started or stopped. So if an app is used while online, data collected at the app’s launch are immediately uploaded. If the app is used while offline, the data collected are saved and uploaded the next time the app is used online.
Localytics records if the app is used while offline or online and can report if the connection is via 3G, Edge or WiFi. Localytics is also able to determine whether an app was actually used while online or offline by looking for large differences in the time between an app being opened and analytics data being uploaded. Having done so across the thousands of phone and tablet apps using Localytics, with over 10 million app starts per day, we found that about 15% of all app launches were made without Internet access–customer engagement that would be missed using web-centric analytics tools.
Accurate reporting of offline usage is just as important as actually collecting it. Offline usage should be recorded at the time it happened, not the time it was later received by your analytics product. Traditional web analytics were built to process data when they’re received, not when the events actually happened. On the web, there’s no real difference between the two; but with mobile apps, the analytics data received today could have actually occurred days or weeks ago.
If your current app offerings don’t support offline use, our research suggests you might be missing a significant opportunity to grow your customers’ engagement with your apps! Remember, the 15% offline usage is just an average; there’s no reason a well designed app couldn’t see a much larger boost in customer usage.