The challenge of mobile analytics - Part 1

  • 29-May-2008

Last year everyone was talking about Web 2.0; this year it's all about the mobile web. Let's take a look at what this means for mobile analytics...which by the way, I'll be speaking about on a panel at the Internet Marketing Conference in New York on June 4.

The bottom line...mobile analytics is relatively new; beyond infancy, but certainly not for the faint of heart.

Biggest challenges are

    Identifying unique visitors, because mobile browsers don't often accept cookies (you will likely need to rely on browser, OS and IP combinations)

    Identifying the phone and manufacturer (you may need to integrate data from the Wireless Universal Resource File (WURFL)

    IP addresses changing based on moving between mobile towers.

Vendors committed to JavaScript page tagging, such asCoremetrics and Omniture, are touting a "no JavaScript" image tag implementation strategy. However, these and other tag-based vendors rely on a JavaScript library file to collect data about the OS, size, and resolution of the monitor. To compensate, you need to stuff the image tag with query strings that will collect the data you require for reporting.

From the perspective of collecting browser (user agent) data, log file and packet sniffing still make sense because these are server-side methods, and therefore the http request gets logged. So AuriQ (packet sniffing), Unica and WebTrends are all possible alternatives, but still suffer the same issues with regard to unique visitor identification.

On the reporting side of things, vendors will point out that you can get the same reports as you'd get normally, which is true; you just have to filter accordingly to get a break out of mobile activity. Nedstat is an exception, recently announcing a more packaged treatment of their mobile analytics reports.

Reflecting the ongoing industry fragmentation within web analytics, a collection of new firms have emerged with a more specialized approach to analyzing the mobile web. I'll take a look at these companies in my next post.

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