The Guide to Real-Time Analytics: Discover Data Insights Faster

Learn the value of real-time analytics and how you can use them to build better products in less time with Amplitude's help.

Table of Contents

                What is real-time analytics and why does it matter?

                Real-time analytics refers to immediately gathered and accessible data, enabling near-instant insights. This allows for immediate adjustments, improvements, and compensations for data received in real time on web and mobile apps, allowing you to correct errors and capitalize on opportunities.

                This type of analysis gives you the capacity to access your data with near-zero latency between data ingestion and processing. Real-time data processing involves continual input, processing, and output of data, so organizations can access their data, derive insights, and act immediately.

                Why is it important?

                Speed is the single most significant differentiator between a good product and a great one. Real-time data analytics tools enable fast product iteration. By reducing time to insight and allowing your organization to come to critical product decisions quicker, you’re on your way to a better product—faster than your competition.

                Why real-time mobile and web analytics is essential to building a user-focused product

                When you’re building a user-centric product, you want to make your users understand the value of your product, and continue to use it through every iteration. Each new feature release or optimization should ultimately enhance the core product experience.

                Measuring the success of a new feature often involves looking at how your users behave immediately after its release. With Amplitude’s real-time dashboards, for example, you can view, analyze, and begin to understand your user behavior without delay.

                Without truly understanding your users, building a product that your users want—and will continuously use—is extremely difficult. Understanding that immediate updates allow immediate and substantial product changes is integral to get the most of your analytics, and here are the steps you need to do it.

                1. See what your users are doing now

                Monitor your metrics in real time to see how your campaigns are performing. The ability to see what your active users are doing while they are doing it can help you optimize their experience. Promote subscriptions, email marketing, advertising campaigns, share call to actions at the best time, and correct errors when they’re happening.

                2. Find out how your users adopt new features

                See how users engage with or adopt new product features as soon as you release. When you know who is interacting with your features, and which features are doing the best in different locations and on different devices, you can see what features are working the best and pour gasoline on advertising at the right time to get the best results.

                3. Run a small experiment and get results quickly

                Maybe you want to test something small—the color and placement of a button or copy for example—and see how it affects conversion for just a few hours. With real-time analysis, you could run several such experiments in parallel, evaluate the results, and get a good sense of what’s working and what’s not, right when you want to.

                4. Check if you’ve set up your analytics right

                With Amplitude’s real-time user view, you can debug immediately, and see if you’ve instrumented your events and properties correctly. Having analytics that are accurate, reliable, and accessible to all parties is essential. You will want to test your own data so that you have a clear and accurate picture of your performance. Otherwise, the adjustments you make won’t truly solve the problem.

                6 key real-time analytics metrics and KPI to track

                We’ve got the basics down; now let’s look at what to track. There are a variety of metrics to measure for real-time web analysis, many of which you may be tracking on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis already.

                Not all data sets are valuable in real time, and it’s important to focus on tracking the ones that matter most to your business, as recording this type of information can use significant storage. To make the most of your storage, learn what key performance indicators everyone should track, expanding on this list as you come across metrics that matter to you.

                1. Active Users

                It’s important to know how many active users you have and what they are doing on your website or mobile app. By knowing how many active users there are, you can use peak times to run featured ads and social media posts.

                If most of your customers are using one section of your site, you can consider using that area to test your latest ad campaign or do A/B testing on a feature. For example, see how letgo benefited from running A/B testing using Amplitude’s tools. By doing this with a large segment of your customers in a featured product, you’re likely to get feedback from some of your more engaged users.

                2. Sessions and Pageviews

                Where your users are on your site or in your app and how long they stay is one of the best ways to understand user behavior. Session length and bounce rate are crucial indicators for successes and areas for improvement. This insight into the features and content that your users value most will help you develop and improve your service.

                The bounce rate is an important metric linked closely to sessions and pageviews, helping you know which aspects of your service are underperforming. In real time, this behavioral information can help you catch an error on a page and fix it to manage your retention rate.

                3. User Location

                Knowing where your users are located can help you understand patterns related to your most successful content. If you can identify locations that are actively sharing your content or using your service more prominently, you can use this to increase the circle of influence and the impact of your advertising campaigns.

                If you run an eCommerce site and one of your ads is doing particularly well in a specific territory, you can try to target more ads to that region, or send call to action emails to capitalize on the attention.

                4. Traffic Source

                With immediate data, you can react to both positive and negative changes instantly. You should always know which marketing funnel your customers are coming from. If there is a sudden spike in traffic, it will let you know a certain marketing channel or campaign is successful, allowing you to highlight or enact a call-to-action.

                Alternatively, a sudden drop will alert you of a problem with one of your marketing campaigns. Instead of wasting time finding the source of the problem, you’ll be able to immediately start working on a solution. This can help you turn the problem around and get your funnel working again!

                5. Errors, Crashes, and Bugs

                Tracking the errors your website or mobile app in real time can help you fix a problem immediately. Crashed sessions, failed links, unresponsive gestures, and other problems with the responsiveness of your website or mobile app can not only cost you sales while the problem persists, but they harm your reputation and brand.

                Fixing errors that occur regularly in a timely fashion can help you gain a competitive edge, and build a great reputation along the way. Having instant data is the best way to make the most of these opportunities.

                6. Advertising Costs

                A clear understanding of how much you are spending on your advertising campaigns may not always be something you need to know off-hand, but there are times when it can be valuable. If you are monitoring expenditures on Facebook ads, you’ll know how much you are able to increase the spending if a post, page, or product goes viral.

                By having this information immediately available, you can capitalize on opportunities for advertising that your competitors are missing. Emphasizing the right advertising campaign at the perfect time will increase the amount of exposure or ROI you receive per dollar spent.

                Real-time data analysis tools: which platform works for you?

                Now that we’ve covered the benefits of instant analytics and the most important metrics to measure, it’s time to find a real-time analytics software and get the process started.

                Finding the right product for you will not only come down to performance, productivity, and speed, but also how the information is displayed and what is convenient and easy to use for you. Here are some of our top picks for different types of businesses.

                1. Amplitude‘s real-time analytics platform gets you to data insights faster

                Amplitude’s real-time dashboards capability, supported by its uniquely scalable backend architecture, adds to the platform’s overall data accessibility. When you have to wait for the data you need to analyze, you are blocked from accessing it, and therefore blocked from making progress and discovering insights.

                With Amplitude, you don’t have to wait for days to get the data you want; you have access to exactly what your users are doing right now. You can see this data in your dashboard within seconds after the user performs an action.

                You constantly have all the data you need to answer your analytics questions right away and discover valuable insights in just a few minutes—right at your fingertips. This ultimately means you can make product decisions quickly and iterate on your product faster than your competitors.

                2. Stream directly to the cloud with Striim

                Striim uses a cloud infrastructure model to provide real-time streaming analytics for users interested in behavioral analytics. WIth an emphasis on accessibility and performance, it displays information in a variety of ways depending on the type of data needed to make it simple to apply the data quickly.

                As one of the most popular, free analytics software tools, Google Analytics provides an easily accessible base product. It groups behavioral analytics simply and displays clearly on both web and mobile apps using the Google Analytics dashboard.

                Lacking some of the more detailed and customized metrics that more comprehensive services offer, this product is still ideal for beginners wanting to understand basic behavior with a short time delay.

                4. Take a grassroots approach with Apache Impala

                This open source analytics tool for Apache Hadoop is constantly updated and improved by programmers able to actively make changes. While it’s less expensive than some competitors, its open source format makes it more challenging to access and provides less customer support options.

                Web and mobile real-time analytics: best practices

                Reducing latency and increasing your ability to react quickly is the main objective when it comes to using real-time analytics. Whether you’re using a website or mobile app, there are a few best practices to follow to ensure you’re using the data to improve your product through
                meaningful insights.

                The list below summarizes our top takeaways for using the real-time data you’re now gathering. The following tips and strategies for how to use real-time analytics can enhance the impact of the adjustments you make, as well as help you avoid making rash decisions.

                1. Make measured decisions in a timely manner

                The ability to identify a problem instantly—such as a rapid drop-off caused by a faulty update or bounced traffic based on a delay in load speeds—can help you quickly identify the source of a problem and remedy the situation. However, this ability should be used cautiously. While current data can help you react swiftly to changes you would have missed with monthly, weekly, and even daily reporting, you don’t want to be too rash or reactionary.

                It’s important to weigh the impact on-the-fly changes may have on other aspects of your business when adapting to real-time web analytics. Be sure to identify the true source of the problem, consider the potential unplanned impacts, and act swiftly and decisively when it’s in your best interest.

                Learn more: Best Practices for Implementing Big Data and Data Sciences for Analytics

                2. Focus on the metrics that matter most

                While you’ll want to track plenty of different metrics for review, not as many real-time metrics will have a significant impact on your website or mobile app. Tracking data continuously also takes up a lot of storage, and can get pretty expensive as you add individual metrics.

                Be particular about the metrics you choose to measure by identifying KPIs that are most relevant and influential to the performance, user experience, and success of your product. This may take some trial and error. Track a variety of metrics and see how you can use them to make changes on-the-fly for best results. Continue to track the ones that prove most useful, and drop the ones that aren’t valuable over time.

                Learn more: A Guide to the Standard Reports in Google Analytics: Real-Time Reports

                3. Track real-time changes like you would marketing campaigns

                Much like you would track a marketing campaign to understand its impact, you want to do the same thing when making changes based on real-time data. Be sure to know why you think the change will achieve the intended results, consider potential side effects, and measure KPIs accordingly.

                After you’ve implemented the change, track how well it solved the problem. Try to analyze any peripheral or unintended impact the changes may have had, and be sure to find solutions to any new problems you’ve caused. Keep a record of the problems, changes, and results for future reference, as you’ll be able to use this information when you come across a similar problem. Better still, you’ll be able to improve processes each time by reviewing how well your solutions worked.

                Learn more: Real-Time Marketing Analytics: Strategies for Improving ROI

                4. Establish a stable/accessible data infrastructure to store and analyze

                For analytics information to be most useful to you and your team, you’ll want personalized data within a common operating procedure. This means using analytics software and best practices that are common and accessible, but which allows the display of information to be modified and manipulated for different teams. This will ensure that each team can access, assess, and utilize information that pertains to them seamlessly.

                Learn more: 6 Best Practices for Real-Time Analytics

                5. Quality is king

                When we think of data analytics, we often think of simply collecting the most of what’s important, but the reliability and accuracy of your data are paramount. If the information you are using to make changes is unreliable, the solution you apply based on those findings is unlikely to be the best solution.

                To make sure the information you are working with is good, you’ll want to run a number of quality control tests on your analysis systems. It’s important to centralize when possible for accessibility and speed. However, when testing for quality, you’ll want to measure using a few sources and run diagnostics to keep your software measuring accurately and reliably. You’re only as good as the information you have!

                Learn more: Web Analytics Testing: Process and Importance

                Case studies: successful real-time analytics applications and examples

                How will this apply to your website and mobile app specifically? That’s a great question. Processing data and applying insights immediately to achieve success is difficult. To learn how to apply what you’ve learned about real-time analytics, examine the case studies below. While they may not all relate to what you need of your analytics, they can help you think about new ways of using immediate data.

                Life360’s Product Roadmap Depends on Real-Time Analytics Reporting

                With their internal analytics stack, the team at Life360 used to wait up to a whole day for some of the data they wanted to look at. That was a problem, because they wanted to be able to release features and look at the data right away—minutes, sometimes seconds after some changes are implemented. Now, Life360 uses Amplitude’s real-time dashboard to monitor all the data they are tracking.

                Brandwatch Serves Wimbledon’s Social Media in Real-Time

                With over a billion viewers worldwide, Wimbledon is one of the most watched sporting events, drawing with it a hefty social media presence. When looking to understand the social media analytics in 2017, they reviewed data from 2015 to 2016, in which the social media audience grew from 8.5 million to 10.5 million. The challenge with such a large audience is tracking the most popular trends and highlights, which Brandwatch helped facilitate using real-time analytics.

                10 Best Google Analytics Case Studies

                Featuring case studies for Domino’s, Fairmont Hotel & Resorts, Panasonic, and more, this collection of ten case studies highlights how each company was able to benefit from real-time data in Google Analytics. You’ll learn how real-time analytics was used to improve conversion rates, completely revamp a social media strategy, and double transaction rates.

                How Calm Increased Retention 3x After Switching to Amplitude

                Learn more about how Amplitude tripled retention rates for the mindfulness and meditation application, Calm. This 3x multiplier on retention helped Calm become the 2017 Apple App Store Best App of the Year, ranking first in the category of meditation and sleep. See what they did to improve Calm’s customer retention and consider how they could help you do the same.

                Applications of Big Data in Real Life

                Highlighting a number of real-life applications of big data in various industries, these case studies speak to ways real-time data can be advantageous. Examples from the healthcare, weather, and transportation industries emphasize a few how having data immediately can allow for a quick response that leads to meaningful results.

                Using real-time data analytics for success

                Now that you have the tools, you can start running your own real-time data analysis and transform those insights into meaningful results. Turn around a slump, catch a technical error when it happens so you’re up and running again, and capitalize on an advertising or sales opportunity before it slips away.

                Remember the difference between instant and reflective analytics, and use the above to think about how you can use them to your advantage. Think about what real-time KPIs matter to your website or mobile app, and remember that it’s costly to collect and store consistent data flows, so be sure to use this wisely. Know why you’re collecting a metric, what you hope to gain from it, and how to reliably and accurately measure it.

                Using the tips above, you should be able to use real-time web analytics to your advantage, tackling both positive and negative challenges that come your way!