It’s been another great year for mobile apps and mobile app analytics. The number of app downloads grew to almost 200 billion over 2017, and revenues from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store rose 35% percent. In the 2017 holiday season, more people did their holiday shopping on mobile than on desktop.

An important driving force in the mobile industry is app analytics. App analytics can help monitor crashes, improve usability, increase user retention, and optimize mobile marketing and advertising, giving developers the data they need to create an app that blows all its competitors out of the water. Alongside the mobile app industry, the app analytics industry has been growing by leaps and bounds. Looking back at 2017, many app analytics startups were acquired by larger corporations and completed funding rounds.

What has the app analytics industry been up to in the past year? The answer is: a lot. As the mobile app industry evolves, app analytics have also evolved to provide high-caliber tracking and reporting capabilities. This post will detail some of the biggest updates from the past year, and give you a sneak peek at what is to come.

Privacy has become the top item on everyone’s agenda

Data privacy has always been a deep concern for anyone involved in mobile, from the developer to the end user. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what data users are willing to part with and what data they’ll go to any lengths to protect, but there’s no doubt that privacy, especially on mobile apps, has been making headlines.

It was data privacy that put mobile app analytics, particularly the user session recording feature, on the mainstream agenda recently, following a report on password privacy by Princeton University. User session recordings are one of the most helpful features of app analytics, and they allow developers and designers to see exactly how users interact with their app. However, to do this, the app analytics platform needs to collect information about the user, and even though this information is never used or revealed, it presents a deep ethical and legal problem for mobile app analytics.

In other news, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which protects the privacy of customer data for all EU citizens, will become enforceable starting May 25, 2018 – just two short months from now. What this means is that 55% mobile apps will not be GDPR compliant, either because of their own code or because of the SDKs they use. Since most mobile app analytics platforms provide their clients with an SDK, the GDPR will be a new challenge for them, as they will now be required to stand up to much more stringent privacy laws.

Analytics platforms need to provide answers, not just data

Up until recently, app analytics were only capable of providing developers with piles of numbers: number of downloads, number of visits per screen, or number of minutes each user spent in the app. The sole task of app analytics was to take the long strings of numbers and present them in a way that humans can understand: in lists, graphs, and spreadsheets. The onus of actually deciphering the numbers and basing decisions on them was on the product managers and the developers. Other than provide visual representation of data, analytics could do little to help with the difficult, overwhelming, and guesswork-laden decision making process. As a result, this kind of app analytics could be easily dissected/understood by only by a select few – data scientists and analytics experts. Today, app analytics platforms can – and should – do so much more, and the reason for this is qualitative analytics.

In the old world of app analytics, numbers were the means and the end. This was the world of quantitative analytics. However, app designers need to go beyond numbers to measure user experience. Something had to take the numbers and add another layer of understanding to them: the missing link that takes data and turns it into human faces, actions, and decision. That is when qualitative analytics entered the scene. Qualitative analytics takes the numbers of quantitative analytics – the “what” – and complete the picture with other user data such as touch heatmaps and user session recordings. These visuals enable development teams to get exactly the information they need and to answer the “why”: Why does my app crash? Why do users abandon my app? Why do half of my users fail to complete a funnel? For app developers, these are the most burning questions. Qualitative analytics is the way to answer them, and the mobile app analytics industry is barreling towards that goal.

The user is still the most important person in the room

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is famous for leaving an empty chair in his conference room to symbolize “the most important person in the room” – the customer. In the mobile app world, this is no different. It’s clear by now that advanced personalization is going to be one of the most important trends in mobile app UX in 2018. If customization means allowing the user to choose their own design and settings for an app, a product, or a service, personalization means doing it for them. With personalization, users get an app that is perfect for their needs as soon as they launch it for the first time. This ability gives users a perfect experience, saving them time and making onboarding seamless and lightning-fast.

App analytics, and qualitative app analytics in particular, is an important component in the race for personalization, since it gives developers and UX designers the tools to zoom in on specific user journeys and filter them by criteria such as location, device, and more. Mobile app analytics are now being enhanced by machine learning and big data systems, which help make predictions on user behavior and make personalization automatic and instant.

Reducing the number of SDKs per app remains a big industry challenge

In a recent report on the mobile app analytics industry, VentureBeat concluded that two thirds of mobile developers use more than one mobile app analytics tool. In fact, the most successful developers, with more than 2 million active users, are more likely to use 3-5 app analytics tools. That means a lot of work for developers who have to sync up with 2-5 SDKs – and let’s not forget that some apps balance over 7 SDKs for app analytics alone, and sometimes over 15 SDKs in total.

One of the challenges app analytics platform providers face is meeting the tending to the various pain points of app development teams. Some focus on just one specific part of the process, such as crash reports or marketing analytics, while others strive to include more features in their SDKs and create an all-encompassing analytics solution. Mobile app analytics platforms such as Appsee address the various needs of each member of the development team, giving crash reports to developers, screen-by-screen UI analysis for UX designers, and even ad placement analytics for mobile marketers.

In conclusion

The app analytics industry is growing at top speed, and it is rising to meet the challenges of the future. As users’ needs evolve, so do developers’, and mobile app analytics providers need to take those needs into account. We’ve seen the increasing implementation of qualitative app analytics, which completes the analytics puzzle for designers and developers, and the adoption of personalization and predictive analytics. We are now seeing mobile app analytics providers get ready for the GDPR and the changes it will bring. The rest of 2018 will no doubt hold more surprises and new developments to keep us on our toes!