This piece is a short one. Startups and even big firms struggle in getting product analytics right. One of the reasons is conflict at the center of the design of product analytics tools. It’s implemented by the engineering team but often used by Product Managers, marketing teams, or business leaders, leading to some interesting challenges. But more importantly, there isn’t a clear differentiation in the industry. Mixpanel, Clever Tap, Amplicture, Localytics, Google Analytics, or Firebase to an extent seems to help you measure the same things.
Often marketing, product, and engineering team would have different tools offering the same analytics events. For example, at Fitso, we could see Daily Active Users (DAU), in Crashlytics, Google Analytics, and Mixpanel. And for different teams, these different tools make more sense. Engineering would need Crashlytics to track crash reports, and we needed Google Analytics and Mixpanel for product and marketing analytics.
My goal in this blog is to help you decide what product analytics tool to use. Fyi, I have written a piece on how to implement product analytics tools, applicable to most of the popular product analytics tools.
Decision Points for Product Analytics Tool
In order to decide the tools, I would suggest a few criteria:
The first decision point is free vs paid tools. Google Analytics and Firebase are almost free. In contrast, Amplitude, Mixpanel, CleverTap, or Localytics could be free (for startups until you record a certain number of events) to cost even $100K per month depending on the number of events tracked and users. The problem with starting with paid tools is when you switch, you have to start fresh from other platforms with no historic data (although some firms offer an option to download CSV data).
The second decision point is about the user profile. One of the Google Analytics T&C is that you can’t pass any parameter that would help identify a user uniquely. Hence, by restriction, Google analytics doesn’t allow user tracking. In contrast, Mixpanel, Clever Tap, and Amplitude provide an option to attribute every action to a particular user who could be identified. I am not sure whether this violation of privacy, but it’s definitely something Google would not risk doing. However, it’s a helpful feature in figuring what user action led to the crash or just understanding the pattern in the user flow.
The third decision point is about B2B SaaS vs B2C SaaS. In B2B SaaS firm, you want to be able to track firms rather than individual users.
For example, let’s consider a feature in the admin panel. In that case, what’s important is 80% of the organization hasn’t used our key feature than 80% of users haven’t used our feature. That’s because in most firms there 1-2 admins so this feature anyway would be accessed by 1/10th or 1/20th of users on the product depending on the size of the organization.
Amplitude offers this service track account lever behavior. In Mixpanel, this could be indirectly implemented bypassing “account name” as super properties. In Google Analytics as well, “account name” could be passed as a people property, as long as it doesn’t lead to the identification of a user. Again Mixpanel and Amplitude have a lead here.
The fourth decision is funnel analytics. All third party analytics tools help track the user flow funnel. However, there are some limitations. In Firebase and Google Analytics you can’t create funnel retrospectively. Further, Google analytics offers limited ways to dig deep into funnel and segment by event properties or user properties. I found Mixpanel and Clever Tap to be exceptionally good when it comes to funnel analytics.
Finally, uninstall tracking could be the fourth decision point. Uninstall tracking is tricky. For mobile apps, generally, analytics products use silent notification to figure whether an app has been uninstalled. In the third party tools I have mentioned in the blog, only Clever Tap offers uninstall tracking for the mobile apps as far I have explored. This is an exceptionally useful feature. As soon as users user uninstalls, the product teams could send an email asking for feedback and nudging to return. At Sqrrl, it helped us get honest feedback, and 10-15% of the time users even installed the app again.
Uninstall or churn could be directly observed in Amplitude and Mixpanel. If a user hasn’t opened the app in a long period of time (defined by the domain you operate), the user could be considered as churned.
Final advice, I think based on these criteria, you would have narrowed down to 1-2 tools. Then it mostly depends on pricing and tech support. So go ahead and schedule a call with Mixpanel, Clever Tap, or Amplitude.
I do think Mixpanel has an edge when it comes to using AI (Insights feature). Further, notification and email features also come handy.
On that note, Clever Tap was a surprise package for me. I used it Sqrrl, a fintech startup I worked as a Pre-MBA intern. Clever Tap offer product analytics which includes user profile, uninstall tracking, and product communications tool (email, notification, and SMS).
I also realized in the blog, I have mostly spoken about features where Google Analytics and Firebase (almost free tools) aren’t good. That’s because I have focussed on the point of differentiation between the third-party tools. However, to be fair, these are great tools. After a point, I also believe the obsession over analytics in teams becomes an academics exercise. Google Analytics and Firebase offer all the core analytics features and are good places to start product analytics.
I would love to hear about your decision points. Send me either in the comments or via email.