Web, mobile and mobile web analytics: What’s the difference?

By Jonathan Crowl

Life would be easy if you only needed one type of analytics to measure your digital performance. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Different devices and platforms have their own analytics requirements, and the key metrics you have to follow can be very different when you’re moving from a traditional website to a mobile site or app.

Web and mobile analytics offer differing functionalities that are equally important. Mobile web analytics isn’t just a combination of the two — even this similar-sounding solution stands on its own. What do these types of analytics have in common, and where do they differ? Let’s take a look.

Identifying the common ground

Each of these three analytics strategies serves specific digital properties. Web analytics examines the performance of traditional websites and any activity that takes place on a traditional desktop computer. Mobile analytics covers activity and performance metrics that take place on mobile websites. Mobile web analytics, on the other hand, is a pseudo-hybrid of the two. It specifically focuses on mobile website performance, including the success of those websites in referring to mobile apps or other destinations outside the mobile browser.

However, despite these fundamental differences, much of the construction of these analytics systems is the same. Each follows a specific set of metrics, but many of these overlap. Regardless of whether the activity takes place on web or mobile, active usage time and session time are major indicators of success, and the same goes for conversion rates. Each analytics system interprets these data trends differently within a distinct type of ecosystem, but the process of monitoring and collecting the data is largely the same.

Where analytics system go their separate ways

To a large extent, the difference between each type of analytics is in what it’s trying to accomplish. A desktop website and mobile website might attempt to do similar things — namely, to drive conversions — but the metrics for that success might be different. Similarly, each type of site has its own experience, and those differences need to be accounted for. For instance, if cart abandonments are oddly high on a mobile device, it may be due to a poor or tedious checkout process.

Because mobile platforms have their own types of information to track, they require different analytics metrics. The most obvious example is location data, which has huge implications for the success of apps and mobile websites. A traditional website analytics solution wouldn’t do the job, as it fails to account for this distinctive feature of mobile. In other cases, very different types of data may form the basis for similar activities or key performance indicators. As Adobe points out, traditional web analytics puts a lot of emphasis on page views when evaluating user acquisition. However, for mobile and mobile web analytics, user acquisition is more effectively measured by analyzing the total user engagement an app or website enjoys.

Not to mention, the very construction of a mobile website is entirely different from a traditional website since touchscreens have replaced cursor navigation. Site performance metrics can be entirely different because the construction of a mobile website is different than that of a traditional website, let alone a mobile app.

These differences may seem small at first glance, but they have huge implications when you’re using analytics-based insights to make decisions that affect your entire company. Specialization is key, and these different analytics solutions are all built to provide value in their own specific ways.