Don’t repeat others’ data tracking and storing mistakes! Here’s how to avoid them.

Some companies track their mission critical data client side. Don’t!

Some store all the data in-house. Don’t!

And some others forget about third party data altogether. Well, don’t!

Not unless you want to spend big bucks and get very little value out of it!

Here’s what you need to know about the types of user behavior data

There are 3 types of data that can be collected and analysed by clients about their users:

  • Mission critical data (In-app data)
  • User experience data (In-app data)
  • Third party data (Outside-the-app data)

1. Mission critical data


Mission critical data is exactly what it sounds like: data critical to the mission of your company. We include here all the events that are directly linked to your business goals and KPIs.

Throughout the lifetime of your product, these essential actions will be the same regardless of the updates to your app, precisely because they lie at the heart of your product.

For instance, in the case of MailChimp an example of mission critical data is sending newsletters. However many times MailChimp decides to change its interface, the number of newsletters sent will always be mission critical.

For a thorough analysis of your mission-critical data, you want an accuracy as close to 100% as possible. So you will need the complete history of all the essential actions performed by your users.

Because we are dealing with data critical to your product, it’s paramount to always be the owner of it, and not to depend on a third party. The worst thing that can happen is to lose all your critical data because the analytics company raises its prices and you can’t afford it any longer.

There are 2 methods of collecting data from a user who is using your app:

  • Client side tracking – which refers to tracking the user’s actions inside the browser. By using this method you are actually tracking what the user does in the browser. Mind you, this is not the most reliable method you can use. For example, if Mailchimp tracked the sending of a newsletter as being the click of the Send Newsletter button, it would interpret it as mission accomplished. Wrong. If an error occurs by any chance, and the newsletter is not actually sent, they won’t be aware of it.
  • Server side tracking – which refers to tracking the user’s actions on your server. Why? Because by doing so you will be able you to track the accomplished events, and you will know if any errors have occurred. In the case of MailChimp, they will know 100% that the newsletter was sent.
Two conclusions are worth noting:

When you collect data you have to make sure that the actions actually happened. That’s why, it’s advisable to base your analysis on the data which was collected server side, not client-side.
Make sure you are the owner of your mission critical data. This way you will have absolute power over it, and be able to decide whom to send it to.

2. User experience data (UX data)

User experience data refers to all the actions performed by users: every little click, every drag & drop or fill-in actions, every scroll they perform in your browser – everything!

Why is it important to track and analyse such huge amounts of data? Because they speak volumes on the user’s experience with your product, as well as because you can draw conclusions as to which action triggers a mission critical action. In fact, the more data you have, the more info you will get on how the interface influences the user to take one decision or another.

This data is normally tracked client side, because users interact with a browser and not with a server. A server doesn’t know when a user scrolls, drags or simply clicks around.

This data has little if any historical value. Simply because, generally speaking, companies constantly update their apps so that they are always on trend and riding the wave, so the user’s behavior will automatically change from one interface to another.

Now, the user experience data is tracked through javascript and because of the add-ons that block the tracking, the company proxy rules and the slow internet connections we can’t get 100% accuracy. But it’s perfectly ok! When analyzing UX data, statistic models are used and they don’t need 100% accuracy to give accurate answers.

So, remember:

It is advisable to track this type of data client side. Because of the huge volume of data and the lack of historical value it’s best to use analytics tools to store this data. The cost to host it internally is most often not justified.

3. Third party data


Clients interact with your business not only inside your app, but also by email, phone, tickets, support platforms, live chat, push notifications, payment gateways etc. so it is mandatory to analyse this data too.

So, third party data refers to the data from all the interactions your customers have with you outside the app.

By linking the third party data to the mission critical data and the user experience data, you can measure its influence on your business goals.

How? Well, imagine that someone uses your app and at some point contacts your support team through the live chat. Now, the question arises: at which steps do most users find it hard to go on without the help of your support team?

If many users stumble at the same step, you have the opportunity to do something about it, to improve your product so that you decrease your live chat efforts, which will lead to lower costs related to your support.

Most often this data resides on third party platforms (such as email platforms, CRMs, email marketing automations, advertising etc.) and can’t be linked to customer outcomes. You can use this data by connecting these services to your analytics tool through APIs.

Basically, only by linking your outside-the-app data to your in-app data can you draw conclusions as to what needs to be done to improve your users’ experience with your product.

Our recommendations:

Remember the big no no’s I mentioned at the beginning of the article? Here’s why you should choose a different approach.

In our experience, there are many companies that:

   
track mission critical data client side, just like they do with the user experience data. Mission critical data should be tracked server side so that it is 100% accurate and can be used in automations.
companies that store user experience data in-house. Not unless you want to spend huge budgets on storing that data on your own platform, and run out of money in order to hire specialists so you can use it.
companies that totally forget about or don’t know how to use the outside-the-app data. Don’t ignore this set of data as it tells you what the impact of your communication efforts on your business goals is.
So, ideally you should:
  • Track the mission critical data server side. Make sure you own it and have total control over it.
  • Track the user experience data client side. Store it with 3rd party analytics services.
  • Correlate the third-party data with the in-app data for precise and valuable insights.

Here, at InnerTrends, we place great emphasis on the clients’ mission critical data, which we validate regularly to make sure that we are always as close to the 100% accuracy point as possible. We analyse this data together with the UX data, and then with the data we get from the third party tools, to offer our clients easy access to immediate insights.

Author: Claudiu Murariu

InnerTrends' founder and lead analyst Claudiu Murariu is also the author of DataDiary, a weekly newsletter about and for companies that use data in their business decision making process. You can follow him on Twitter @cllaudiu.