Mobile Analytics Firms Seek In-Roads

Mobile handheld devices may render the same Web pages as those found on personal computers, but measurement is another story. Traditional Web analytics vendors have limited ability to track mobile, opening the door for mobile-specific vendors to offer services.

In mobile, analytics providers have emerged in niche categories. The landscape is comprised of vendors including Amethon, Bango, Mobilytics, and TigTags. Mobile ad network AdMob is the latest to come to market with AdMob Mobile Analytics, a free service for mobile site owners to track: unique users, duration of visits, page performance, and insight into geography, carrier, and device specifics.

“The world after the click has been pretty opaque and there have been no tools to champion ROI,” said Jason Spero, VP of marketing at AdMob. The ad network doesn’t require publishers and advertisers to be clients to use the analytics. “We’re offering analytics for free as a catalyst for the mobile Web. If advertisers can better measure and manage their campaigns, they will be even more comfortable with the mobile medium,” he said.

AdMob most closely competes with Bango Analytics, which was released earlier this year. The service is offered for free in a light version, while clients can pay for a version with more features. Bango works on publisher sites and transactional mobile entities such as ringtone and wallpaper providers.

Mobilytics provides analytics for smaller publishers, and supports an ad network for a bulk of its users. TigTags’ competency is in location-based usage. The company is also doing work with 2D barcodes (define), which could become more important as adoption grows in the future.

Another competitor in the mobile analytics space is Amethon, which serves larger-scale publishers primarily because it requires a dedicated server.

Differences between the Web and mobile demand special requirements for the wireless Internet. “You can tag individual visitors by using cookies or identifiable information,” said Dean Collins, USA business development at Amethon. He said there is a dispute over how many handsets are cookie-compliant versus storing data at the carrier level. It’s possible to build a unique ID with handset information.

Information, however, gets recycled on a regular basis, typically every 30 days. “It’s not accurate to keep that information beyond a 30-day period,” Collins said.

Beyond building unique identification numbers for users, there are several issues for vendors to work through. Web analytics vendors have used several methods over the years, including page tagging and JavaScript, to track metrics such as unique visitors and time spent on a page. On mobile handsets, mobile browsers aren’t capable of the same functionality. A small portion are able to run JavaScript, and those that are, aren’t able to handle a heavy enough load.

AdMob and Mobilytics use code or tags on the site to apply analytics. Amethon insists on a dedicated server because it uses packet sniffing, a method for tracking behaviors without adding extra code to a site. The advantage is that it doesn’t add weight to the site. “Fifty percent of what you’re downloading to the browser was page tagging. For us there’s no page tagging, we don’t add anything to the Web site,” said Collins.

While waiting for separate solutions to come out, many ad networks have built their own. Bango and AdMob are examples, as their analytics offerings are products of measurement tools built to support their businesses. Mobile ad network Ringleader Digital also created a reporting system for its publishers and advertisers to measure usage and results on its network.

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