Mastering Mobile App Analytics with Google Analytics 4 in 2024

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How can you ensure that your mobile app becomes popular and really brings in money?

Well, you could probably try republishing the app on a new moon and chanting: 'Blessed moon, rise and shine, all the customers be mine, money comes, money flows, grow, my ROI, grow grow grow!'. 

Sadly, nobody can’t guarantee this would work. However, what we’re 100% sure about is that mobile app analytics is a total must in 2024 and beyond.

  • How do people find your app?
  • How many times was it installed?
  • How often do users run the app, and what do they use it for?
  • How many of the goals you’ve set for your app have been achieved?

Mobile analytics helps answer these questions and a whole lot of others. Once you’ve got the answers, you’ll be able to make your app more effective: improve user experience, engagement, and retention, reduce acquisition costs, etc.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits Google Analytics 4 provides for mobile app analytics. We’ll take a closer look at what to start with, what to consider in implementing mobile analytics, what the difference is between mobile app analytics and website analytics, and a number of other frequently asked questions.

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Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 to address the possibilities of using Google Universal Analytics and was completely updated in January 2024 for accuracy and comprehensiveness on using Google Analytics 4 for mobile analytics.

Why use Google Analytics 4

In this dynamic world of digital analytics, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) stands out as a versatile and powerful tool, especially for mobile app analytics. Before diving into how GA4 operates for mobile apps, it's essential to understand the significant advantages it offers:

1. Unified Tracking Across Platforms

  • Cross-Platform Integration: GA4 is significantly improved compared to GAU in tracking user interactions across mobile apps. This is particularly beneficial for e-commerce businesses that leverage apps as an additional (or the main) sales channel. With GA4, you gain a comprehensive view of user behavior, whether they interact with your brand via the web or mobile apps.

2. Market Leadership and Resource Availability

  • Industry Standard: As per W3Techs statistics, GA4 is a leader in the market of web analytics tools. This prominence means users have access to an extensive range of resources. There are abundant guides, tutorials, and ready-to-use solutions available, making it easier to find help and optimize your analytics setup.

  • Large Expert Community: The widespread use of GA4 has led to a large community of specialists and experts. This community serves as a valuable hub for troubleshooting, exploring advanced strategies, and sharing insightful tips.

3. Cost-Effectiveness

  • Free to Use: One of the most appealing aspects of GA4 is that you can use a free version. This accessibility empowers businesses of varying sizes to integrate advanced analytics seamlessly, avoiding additional expenses. For startups and small businesses, this capability can revolutionize their approach to comprehending and enhancing user engagement, all within budget constraints.

4. Integration capabilities

  • Seamless Integrations: GA4 offers native data onboarding integrations with various Google services, including Google Ads and Google AdSense. These integrations allow for the automatic import of crucial data such as cost data, RPM, and app download numbers directly into GA4.

  • Integration with Google BigQuery: GA4 offers the capability to export data at event-level data to Google BigQuery automatically. This feature enables a more in-depth analysis of data, allowing businesses to dive deeper into user behavior and app performance.

  • If you need to add non-Google services data to your Google Analytics reports - you can use FREE OWOX BI BigQuery -> GA4 Pipeline not only to collect the cost data, but also revenue data.

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How to start with mobile app metrics analytics?

Before setting up Google Analytics 4 for mobile app analytics, decide what key performance indicators and metrics you’re going to track. These can be, for example, the number of installs, retention rate, daily active users, average revenue per user, session length, etc.

There are three ways to set up mobile app tracking:

  1. You can initiate the collection of fundamental app-usage data by integrating the Google Analytics for Firebase (GA4F) SDK into your application, whether it's on iOS or Android. The GA4F SDK incorporates the Play Install Referrer API for enhanced functionality.
  2. Using Google Tag Manager. First, implement Google Tag Manager SDK for Android or iOS, then add Google Analytics 4 tags.

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  1. Using Google Tag Manager and Firebase Analytics (a free solution for mobile app analytics). This method is convenient if you already have Firebase Analytics installed. You’ll only have to integrate Google Tag Manager and Firebase and configure a new container for your mobile app. More information on how to do it can be found in the developer’s help for Android and iOS.

More information on how to set up mobile app tracking can be found in Google Analytics Help

Whatever your methods and means for collecting data may be, there are universal recommendations on how to get more accurate information. For example, if you have multiple apps, it’s better to collect data from each app in a separate property so that the data doesn’t get all jumbled. Different versions of one app, for example, iOS and Android apps, are more convenient to track in one property with multiple views for each OS.

Do you need to create separate properties for an app and a website? If you’re not using the app to sell products, then yes, yes, you do. If you have an Ecommerce app, then it’s not necessary to use a separate property. There’s a possibility that your customers use multiple devices on their journey to a purchase. Create a special reporting view to track all user interactions with your website and app using User ID. Please note that user-ID views only display data about authorized users. To see website data and app data separately, create two different reporting views.

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How to Setup Events Tracking in GA4

We’ll show you a step-by-step guide on how to set up events in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) on the example of tracing users clicking the 'Add to Cart' button in an app, follow these steps:

Step #1. Enable Ecommerce Tracking in GA4

  1. Before you start: Make sure you've added the GTM to your website and added the GA4 tracking code to your tag manager account.

  2. Navigate to 'Admin' → 'Data Streams' and select your app stream.

  3. Turn on 'Enhanced Measurement' and ensure 'Ecommerce' tracking is active.

  4. Enable E-commerce Settings in GA4: Navigate to your GA4 property. Go to 'Admin' → 'Data Streams' and select your web or app stream. In the stream settings, find 'Enhanced Measurement' and ensure it's turned on. Make sure that 'Ecommerce' tracking is enabled within the Enhanced Measurement settings.

  1. To start collecting e-commerce data and send it to Google Analytics 4, you’ll need to add a tracking code to your app. Use Google Analytics 4 SDK to collect Ecommerce, and don’t hesitate to contact a fellow developer should you need any help.

Step #2. Define the 'Add to Cart' Event

  • In GA4, events are used instead of the traditional goals in Universal Analytics.

  • If the 'Add to Cart' event is not automatically tracked, you may need to set it up manually in your app using the Google Analytics SDK or Firebase.

  • The event should be named consistently, like 'add_to_cart'.

Step #3. Mark the Event as a Conversion

  • In GA4, navigate to 'Events' in the left-hand menu.

  • Find the 'add_to_cart' event (or the name you've used) and toggle it on as a conversion. This allows GA4 to treat this event as a conversion goal.

Step #4. Assign Value to the Event (Optional)

  • If you want to assign a monetary value to the 'Add to Cart' event, you can do so within the event parameters in your app's code.

  • For instance, if 30% of cart additions lead to a purchase with an average value of $1,000, you might assign a value of $300 to each 'Add to Cart' event.

Step #5. Implement Event Tracking in Your App

  • Add the necessary code to track the 'Add to Cart' button presses in your app. This typically involves modifying the app's code to send an event to GA4 when the button is pressed.

  • If you're not comfortable with coding, you may need assistance from a developer.

Step #6. Test and Validate the Setup

  • After implementing, test the event tracking in your app to ensure that the 'Add to Cart' events are being sent to GA4 correctly.

  • Use the 'Realtime' report in GA4 to verify that the events are being recorded.

Step #7. Analyze the Data

  • Once data collection is in place, you can analyze the 'Add to Cart' conversions in GA4's various reporting features.

Which reports to analyze in GA4

1. App Installs

Analyzing app installs helps you better understand how your customers find your app. You’ll be able to discover channels that perform best at generating traffic and channels that should be optimized. 

The Acquisition reports in Google Analytics 4 will provide you with useful information, including, but not limited to:

  • How many new users have installed your app.

  • Which ad placements and campaigns generated traffic?

  • Which operating systems and devices do your customers prefer?

  • What is the share of loyal users?

If you promote your app using Google Ads, don’t forget to link up your Google Analytics 4 and Ads accounts. 

This will enable you to see how many people have downloaded your app after clicking a Google ad, along with in-app actions after the installation. With this data in your Google Ads account, you’ll be able to better optimize your campaigns. 

See our slick Google Analytics 4 setup tutorial to learn how to link the accounts and much more.

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The Ultimate Guide to Google Analytics 4: Setup, Configuration, and Usage

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2. Get more information about your customers

Let’s get to know your customers better. Who they are, how old they are, what they like, your users, how often they use your application, and how long their sessions last. This, and other data, will help you optimize your app and target your ads.

For example, the 'Overview' report in the 'Engagement' group of reports in GA4 will help you get a general idea about how many people use your app and identify new and loyal users. You’ll be able to see, for example, how many screen views your app receives per session and the average session duration.

In addition, from the 'Acquisition' group of reports, you can receive the following information:

  • The number of unique users who opened your app at least once within a given period.

  • All the basic metrics (sessions, average session duration, etc.) for different app versions. By comparing them, you’ll be able to find the best-performing version.

  • Cohort behavior. Cohorts are segments of your users who share a common factor. For example, you can group your users by the first time they visited the application or made a purchase. With this data, you’ll be able to interact with your customers more efficiently. Let’s say you’ve noticed that a group of users didn’t make repeat purchases within a month after the first transaction. In this case, you can send a push message with a promo offer.

  • Demographic information about your customers (age, gender, etc.), their location, and the content they interact with most often. This information will help you target your ads more accurately. Let’s say you’ve noticed that most of your buyers are women aged 25 to 34. It would make sense to target your marketing and optimization efforts towards this group.

3. Analyze how users interact with your app

The 'Engagement' group of reports will also provide you with useful information to help improve user experience and fix technical problems. You’ll be able to answer such questions as:

  • How do users interact with my app? You’ll see how many screens were viewed in total and how many per session; how much time, on average, it takes to view a screen, what percentage of exits from a screen your app has, etc. This will help find and fix bottlenecks in your sales funnel. For example, if a user exits your app after spending 1-5 seconds on the first screen, the content they see might not be interesting to them.

  • In what order do users interact with app screens? Answering this question will help you optimize the funnel. If you expect your customers to take specific steps before making a purchase, and they go 'astray' from the intended path, it might be worth making changes to your app’s content.

  • Are there any technical errors, exceptions, or crashes in my app? To track such errors as network connection timeouts or empty search queries, use the guides for Android and iOS.

  • What is the load speed for screens and certain elements of my app (game levels, search results, etc.)? Take, for example, you’re selling plane tickets. Each time a user searches for flights to a certain destination, they have to wait for some time to see the results. With the reported data, you’ll be able to understand if this latency affects the conversion rates, for how long your users agree to wait, and for which destinations it takes the longest to find tickets. To send user timing data to Google Analytics 4, you’ll need to implement a few lines of code (see more information in the help center articles for Android and iOS).

4. Analyze user engagement

An event is essentially any user interaction with app elements (button presses, ad clicks, downloads, etc.) that can be tracked independently from a page or screen load. More information about event components can be found in thisarticle, and guides on event tracking can be found on these pages for Android and iOS.

Event reports belong to the 'Engagement' group of reports. Here, you’ll be able to see a lot of useful information, including but not limited to the total number of events, their value, the number of unique events, the screens users interact with most often, the screens where users most often submit their email addresses, the features users don’t interact with (meaning there’s no need in them).

In the example below, you can see that users typically view product pages and product catalogs and are least likely to add products to their wish list.

5. Ecommerce purchases

If you use your app to sell products, you’ll be able to collect information about transactions, number of purchases, average cost, etc. You’ll be able to map the entire customer journey, from the first visit to a purchase, discover bottlenecks, and optimize your sales funnel.

With the Ecommerce purchases report in the Monetization tab, you’ll be able to see:

  • How many users viewed a certain product and left, how many users have added the product to the cart, and how many users have made a purchase. You’ll be able to see detailed data about new and returning buyers, their geographical location, etc., and segment your users for further analysis and remarketing. For example, you can create a segment of users who have left the app after adding a product to the shopping cart and then use it as a remarketing audience with your Google Ads campaigns.

  • What products are the most popular, and how many items of each product were sold? The number of unique purchases. The revenue from each transaction. These and other metrics will help you learn a lot about your products. For example, if your customers often add a certain black mobile phone to the cart but rarely buy it, you might consider adding white models of the same phone to your store. If a certain product frequently runs out of stock, you probably should contact your vendor more often.

  • Detailed information about each transaction: the list of ordered products, taxes, shipping costs, etc.

  • The paths your customers take before making a purchase. You decide which steps are the most important for you and determine the main stages of the purchase process. They can be, for example, visiting a product page, adding a product to the cart, filling out and submitting a checkout form, and completing a purchase.

Mobile App Analytics Best Practices

Remember, GA4's approach to tracking conversions is event-based, which is a shift from the goal setup in Universal Analytics. This method offers more flexibility and detailed tracking capabilities. 

Mobile App Analytics Best Practices:

  • Define Clear Objectives: Define precise objectives for your app, such as enhancing user engagement, elevating retention rates, or increasing in-app purchases.
  • Track Relevant Metrics: Focus on key performance indicators (KPIs) like daily active users, session length, retention rate, lifetime value (LTV), and conversion rates.

  • Segment Your Users: Analyze behavior based on user segments (e.g., new vs. returning users, demographics, behavior patterns) to understand different user needs and preferences.
  • Implement Event Tracking: Monitor significant user actions, such as app installations, button clicks, and screen views, to gain valuable insights into user interactions with your app.
  • Monitor User Flow: Understand how users navigate through your app to identify popular features and potential bottlenecks or drop-off points.
  • Analyze Retention Data: Study retention rates to understand how well your app keeps users coming back and identify factors that influence user retention.
  • Optimize for User Experience: Use analytics to identify and fix usability issues, improve app speed, and enhance overall user experience.
  • Leverage Funnel Analysis: Set up conversion funnels to track the user journey towards a specific goal, like completing a purchase or signing up.
  • Test and Iterate: Regularly A/B test different features, designs, and content to see what works best and continually refine your app based on data.
  • Integrate with Other Data Sources: Combine app analytics with other data (e.g., web analytics, CRM data) for a comprehensive view of user behavior across platforms.
  • Ensure Data Privacy Compliance: Be transparent about data collection practices and comply with privacy regulations like GDPR or CCPA.
  • Use Real-Time Analytics: Keep a real-time watch on app performance to promptly detect and address issues or trends as they arise.
  • Regularly Review and Act on Insights: Consistently review analytics data and take action based on the insights to drive continuous improvement in your app.

Optimal GA4 Reports for Analyzing Mobile App Performance

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers a range of reports that are invaluable for analyzing mobile app performance. Once you've connected your app to GA4 and started collecting data, you can access these insights:

1. Lifecycle Reports

  • These reports provide a comprehensive view of the customer journey, from acquisition to retention or churn. They help you understand how users interact with your app over time.

2. User Reports

  • User reports focus on understanding your app's user base. They provide insights into user demographics, behaviors, and preferences.

3. App Developer Reports (Requires Firebase Connection)

  • If your app is linked to Firebase, you'll gain access to app developer reports. These summarize key metrics like user engagement, session data, and more.

4. Games Reporting (For Gaming Apps)

  • For apps categorized as 'Games' in app stores, GA4 offers specialized games reporting. This provides detailed insights into user behavior and funnel metrics specific to mobile gaming apps.

Key Reports to Focus On

1. In-App Purchases Report

  • Found under the Lifecycle section, this report is crucial for apps with revenue from in-app purchases. It tracks important revenue-generating metrics.

2. Firebase Overview Report

  • This report gives an overview of Firebase Analytics data, including active users, engagement, and in-app purchase revenue. It's useful for understanding overall app performance.

3. Events Report

  • The Events report in the Engagement section allows you to track specific user interactions like button clicks and screen views. It's essential for understanding how users engage with your app.

4. Conversions Report

  • Located in the Engagement section, the Conversions report provides insights into the conversion process, highlighting areas where users may drop off and help identify opportunities to improve conversion rates.

The reports within GA4 provide comprehensive insights into different facets of your app's performance, empowering you to make well-informed decisions that improve user experience and fuel growth.

What are the differences between collecting mobile app and website data with Google Analytics 4?

1. Screenview vs Pageview

In GA4, the distinction between screen views (for apps) and pageviews (for websites) is streamlined. GA4 uses 'page_view' for web and 'screen_view' for app interactions, automatically differentiating between the two based on the data source.

For mobile apps, tracking screen views is crucial. In GA4, this is typically handled automatically when using the Firebase SDK, which sends 'screen_view' events.

2. Device Identification

Unlike websites that use cookies, mobile apps in GA4 rely on unique device IDs for user tracking. This ID is generated when the app is first installed.

The device ID remains the same unless the app is reinstalled or the device's system data is cleared. This provides a more stable way of tracking user interactions over time compared to cookies.

3. Data Dispatching

The dispatch intervals mentioned are more relevant to the older Google Analytics SDKs. In GA4, especially with Firebase integration, data is often sent in real-time or near real-time.

GA4's approach with Firebase SDK is more efficient in terms of data transmission, reducing the delay in data availability in reports.

4. Data Layer Management in GTM

In GA4, if you're using Google Tag Manager (GTM) with your app, it's important to manage the dataLayer effectively. The dataLayer in apps persists across screens, meaning it retains information until it's explicitly cleared.

It's a best practice to clean or reset the dataLayer as needed to prevent sending outdated or irrelevant data. This can be done by setting parameters to null or reinitializing the dataLayer as users navigate through different screens in the app.

In summary, GA4 offers a more integrated and efficient approach to tracking both web.

How to define sessions?

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the default session timeout is set to 30 minutes, both for in-app and on-site sessions. However, depending on the nature of your app or website, you might want to adjust this setting to better reflect user engagement. Here's how you can modify the session timeout in GA4:

Steps to Adjust Session Timeout in Google Analytics 4

1. Navigate to GA4 Admin Settings

  • Log in to your Google Analytics 4 account.
  • Go to the GA4 property you want to adjust.
  • Navigate to the 'Admin' tab located in the bottom-left corner of the interface and click on it.

2. Access Session Settings

  • In the 'Property' column, look for 'Data Streams' and select the data stream (app or web) for which you want to change the session settings.
  • Click on 'Configure tag settings' under the relevant data stream.
  • Find 'Session timeout' under the 'Configure tag settings' options.

3. Adjust Session Timeout

  • The default session timeout is 30 minutes.
  • For apps like messengers, where interactions are frequent but short, you might reduce the timeout to 5-15 minutes.
  • For apps or websites with longer interaction times, like online stores or news media, the default 30-minute timeout is usually appropriate.

4. Save Changes

  • After adjusting the session timeout, make sure to save your changes.

Why use Google Tag Manager to collect data in Google Analytics 4?

If you're not using Google Tag Manager (GTM) and need to make changes to your app's tracking code, the process can be quite cumbersome. It requires you to rebuild and resubmit your application to the app store, which is not only time-consuming but also subject to potential delays, as app store reviews can take up to a week or more. Furthermore, the effectiveness of these updates is contingent on users updating their apps, which is not always guaranteed since many users disable auto-updates.

In contrast, using GTM offers a more efficient solution. With GTM, you can implement and modify tracking tags directly in your mobile app without the need to rebuild or resubmit it. This capability significantly streamlines the update process. GTM containers, by default, refresh every 12 hours, but this interval can be adjusted for both Android and iOS according to your specific needs. This flexibility ensures that your tracking data is up-to-date and reduces the dependency on the app update cycle, providing a more real-time and responsive approach to app analytics.

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  • What are the benefits of using Google Analytics 4 for mobile apps?

    Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for mobile apps provides advanced tracking of user behavior, cross-platform analytics, and AI-powered insights. It offers a comprehensive view of user interactions, enhances user engagement understanding, and supports predictive modeling. GA4's flexibility in event tracking and real-time data helps in optimizing app performance, improving user experience, and making informed marketing decisions, crucial for app success.
  • How do I add GA4 to my Android app?

    To add GA4 to your Android app, first create a GA4 property in Google Analytics. Then, integrate your app with Firebase, as GA4 uses Firebase for mobile app tracking. Add the Firebase SDK to your Android app project. Configure Firebase to connect with your GA4 property. Finally, set up custom events in your app's code to track user interactions and send data to GA4.
  • How do I add analytics to my mobile app?

    To add analytics to your mobile app, choose an analytics platform like Google Analytics or Firebase. Integrate the platform's SDK into your app's codebase. Configure the SDK to track key events and user interactions within your app. Customize the events and metrics based on your specific analytics goals. Finally, regularly review the collected data to gain insights and optimize your app's performance.
  • How to implement GA4 on mobile apps?

    To implement GA4 on a mobile app, first create a GA4 property in your Google Analytics account. Then, integrate the Firebase SDK into your app, as GA4 relies on Firebase for mobile app data collection. Configure the Firebase SDK to send event data to GA4, and set up relevant events and parameters in your app's code to track user interactions and behaviors.
  • Can I use Google Analytics 4 for mobile apps?

    Yes, you can use Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for mobile apps. GA4 provides a unified analytics platform that supports both website and mobile app data. It allows you to track user interactions, engagement, and behavior within your app, offering insights into app performance and user experience. GA4's event-based model is particularly well-suited for the dynamic nature of mobile app analytics.
  • What is Mobile App Analytics?

    Mobile app analytics involves tracking and analyzing user interactions within a mobile application. It provides insights into user behavior, app performance, and engagement metrics like session duration, screen views, and conversion rates. This data helps developers and marketers optimize the app experience, improve user retention, and make data-driven decisions to enhance overall app effectiveness and success.

icon Get in-depth insights

Comprehensive Guide: Set up GA4 Tags using Google Tag Manager

icon Get in-depth insights

Comprehensive Guide: Set up GA4 Tags using Google Tag Manager