We’re often asked about which platform offers the best analytics solution for mobile apps. We use both Google Analytics and Firebase (which is also provided by Google, but is tailored more towards mobile products). While these two platforms are interlinked, they serve different purposes and have a different set of features that product owners can utilise. We advise our clients to use Firebase as their primary mobile app analytics tool thanks to its specific mobile features. Let’s look at it in more detail.
What is Firebase and why do we use it?
Firebase for Google Analytics is a cloud based solution provided by Google that offers backend support, development and analytics services for Android, iOS and single page web apps. It’s very similar to Google Analytics. In addition, Firebase provides a variety of useful app services, including modules for database management, cloud storage, authentication, messaging, crashlytics, A/B testing and much more.
We highly recommend using Firebase for mobile app analytics as it’s such a good fit. The main advantage is that we can implement tried and tested solutions across our projects. We can add value to our clients’ services in a resourceful and efficient manner by building on top of what Firebase provides. Firebase’s services extremely scalable and far reaching, and because Firebase is modular, we can utilise it differently across each of our client’s bespoke projects.
While we’ve been writing this article, Google announced that it’s now possible to add Firebase reporting to the web’s Google Analytics suite for enhanced analysis and more efficient use of the platform. We’ll review this option going forward to find out if it’s a better option, however, for now, we’ll focus on Firebase monitoring alone.
How we use Firebase
Firebase provides more than just analytics, including full mobile app development options, but because our client requirements tend to be very bespoke, we utilise our own solutions and add Firebase’s services on top of that for added flexibility.
First of all, Firebase allows us to efficiently set up the infrastructure, toolkits for logging, add any integrations, authentication and anything else we need for an app. All of this can be done according to each client’s needs.
We use Firebase’s free Google Analytics solution to track and assess native app usage through dashboards offered via the console. When the app goes live, we give our clients full access to this reporting suite, so they can see everything that happens on their app. This enables them to monitor customer engagement by demographics, location and device amongst other useful metrics.
We can also set up custom events if there is something specific they want to find out about their app or customers. This allows our clients to make more informed product and marketing decisions with regards to their apps.
Here are some of the other features that we really like about Firebase.
One of the best features within Firebase is its ability to monitor errors and crashes within your app with Crashlytics. It records any occurrences whenever they happen in the app’s code. So if there is a crash, our developers can use Crashlytics to trace the bug to its root cause to fix any stability issues. Ultimately, this means less time investigating and more time proactively developing resolutions for problems.
We can also configure Crashlytics to offer real-time data and alerts, ensuring that all relevant parties are informed immediately if an issue occurs. All of this information is recorded and catalogued in the app’s version, so our clients can monitor their app’s quality over time too.
Firebase Cloud Messaging
In-app marketing and communication with users is very important to our clients, so we need to make sure they have all the tools they need to push any promotions or messages to their customers. For example, online gambling apps use these a lot to alert their customers of upcoming matches or latest offers - all of which are customised and segmented based on the demographic, so this functionality plays a big role in their communications and customer retention.
Firebase Cloud Messaging is a tool used to send push notifications between back office systems and the app. For more advanced integrations, we can utilise trigger based push notifications to relay custom messages to users based on specific system events, such as if they have completed certain activities or played certain games.
Firebase also enables user segmentation by demographic or behaviour to relay these messages to predetermined groups. To make the most of this feature, we implement Dynamic Links, which allow us to deeplink content and send users to any location or screen within the app. This enables app managers to display the most relevant content to their customers through these notifications.
Additionally, admins are able to determine custom push notifications within the Firebase console to send to users directly without any coding experience. Firebase retains a log of all of the sent notifications, so they always have a clear record available if necessary.
Security is an important aspect for many businesses we work with, particularly when it comes to customer details. Firebase’s secure authentication service provides an out of the box end-to-end solution for user accounts, supporting traditional email and password login combination, as well as Google, Twitter and Facebook social login options, which are all handled securely by Google. Firebase also offers additional security options, such as email and SMS verification if required for the product.
Firebase offers a range of other useful services that app developers and product owners might like. For example, it allows them to deploy single-page web apps, basic landing pages and progressive web apps onto the web, delivered utilising Google servers to deliver content globally.
Firebase also offers secure cloud based database hosting to store, use and scale data according to their needs and project requirements.
Firebase offers simple A/B testing features on specific areas within the app. This could be a change to the app’s UI, a new feature or simply a marketing campaign. It’s great for tracking how users react to these changes and enables developers and stakeholders to preview the results before the change is rolled out to the entire customer base. This way, they can make any adjustments or fixes and test these new features with a smaller focus group.
Making use of the Firebase features
While we don’t always use the entire range of functionalities provided by Firebase due to the different and often complex requirements of our clients, we utilise individual Firebase’s analytics tools a lot. For example, we always implement logging via crashlytics, because it’s important to have that data for optimising the product and fix bugs as soon as the occur. In addition, Firebase’s analytics module is efficient and easy to access, as it logs all app data and activities there. For example, some of our online gambling clients track their mobile activity and different events, as well as monitoring app crashes.
Crashlytics and push notifications are probably our most favoured Firebase functionalities. They’re very useful to us as developers and our clients like them because of the data and simple setup options they provide.
As you can see, Firebase has a great range of features, tailored to mobile app analytics and development. What we like about Firebase the most is that it’s constantly being developed with new features and services added very frequently. Its features are all tailored to mobile apps, including mobile development. While Google Analytics offers to add Firebase analytics to its suite, it doesn’t offer the same development tools that many app owners like, so some clients might prefer to use both platforms separately for their different services.
If you'd like to learn more about Firebase or add it to your app, get in touch with us!