Catching Firebase

Capturing and activating user behavior data on mobile with
Google’s new mobile analytics platform
By John Kinmonth

It’s all so dreamy, right? Build a native mobile app and the door to your customer’s heart and finger movements is perpetually ajar just waiting to be filled by your Pulitzer-worthy personalized messaging and content.

However, most apps, particularly ecommerce-focused ones, live in a boom-bust cycle characterized by seasonal acquisition and abandonment. The app user behavioral data is chronically underutilized and even more rarely tied to other channels (website, CRM, POS) in a meaningful, actionable way for digital marketers.

According to a Google 2016 Study, 90% of consumers use multiple screens for activities, such as booking a hotel or shopping for electronics. Meanwhile, marketers still struggle to understand the relationship between their mobile app and website behaviors.

However, most apps, particularly ecommerce-focused ones, live in a boom-bust cycle characterized by seasonal acquisition and abandonment.

With this in mind, Google recently announced the launch of the revamped Firebase, a unified app platform for Android, iOS, and mobile web development, which they acquired in 2014. Firebase Analytics, the platform's mobile-app focused analytics solution, was included as part of the May announcement. 

Despite already providing native mobile app tagging via Google Analytics and Analytics 360, Russ Ketchum, Google’s Group Product Manager, is now recommending Firebase Analytics as the preferred tool for mobile app analytics. One of the primary differences is that Firebase’s data collection model is designed to be primarily user- and event-based while Google Analytics is session- and page view-based. This is an important distinction in measurement methodologies, where Firebase is providing a better approach to understanding user behaviors within the app environment.

For those looking to adopt Google’s Firebase in lieu of GA or Analytics 360, here are some factors and features to consider:

Solid mobile analytics solution architecture is mission-critical       

More isn't always better. With 500 distinct custom events included, it’s crucial to align your solution architecture with your KPIs and other marketing data use cases. Otherwise, you’ll run into redundancies, gaps in data, and general confusion when trying to decipher and integrate your user behavior. While Firebase does include summary data on active users and demographics, using custom events properly enables intuitive reporting and allows you to establish common metrics between your mobile app and your other site-based digital experiences.

There is a dozen or so automatically collected events included in the Firebase SDK including the following:

  • In app purchase

  • Notification received and opens

  • Session start

  • App remove

*Note that some of the automatic events are device dependent.

With the sheer number of custom events available, taking the time to properly plan, document, and govern your mobile analytics implementation will prove the difference between organizations able to glean ROI from their mobile data and those stuck in a perpetual state of ambiguity.

Connecting new notifications, audiences, and Adwords features

Firebase’s Audiences feature allows you to create custom segments based on events (conversions, session starts, etc) and user demographics (age, gender, location), or a combination of the two. 

Within the tool, marketers can target these specific audiences for notifications to drive specific user actions or even deliver and test custom experiences with different audiences via Firebase’s Remote Configuration.

Firebase Audiences can also be linked into Adwords accounts to target segments with special offers based on demographics and behavior (i.e. targeting inactive users with re-engagement campaigns). Another feature includes dynamic linking that persists through the app install process allowing marketers to create warm welcomes for new or existing users to enhance acquisition or retention campaigns. 

firebase interface screenshot

Integrations with Google Tag Manager and BigQuery

Firebase includes integration with Google Tag Manager to build and trigger tags that you’ve already configured in the GTM web interface. In theory, this allows you to make changes to your Firebase implementation without having to resubmit anything to the app marketplaces.

As part of Firebase, raw events can be pushed into BigQuery in daily batches, allowing deeper dives into your raw analytics data. However, this functionality is not available on the free version.

Whether you’re using Firebase Analytics or another analytics platform for your mobile tracking, rock-solid data governance practices—including common metrics and naming taxonomies—will save considerable headache down the line. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we help Fortune 500 companies capture, understand, and activate their mobile data to power People-Based Marketing initiatives.

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