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Product analytics vs. digital experience analytics

Product analytics or digital experience analytics: Which should you choose?

A lot is being said lately about product analytics solutions and their value to organizations. The same can be said for digital experience analytics solutions. The critical question that keeps coming up, again and again, is what is the difference between the two, and which one should you choose?

There appears to be much confusion in the market. Although there is overlap between both types of solutions, the one you choose for your organization depends on the problem you are trying to solve. It is therefore essential to properly understand the challenges each solution addresses, where it can help and where it can’t.

Although typically used by the same persona—the product owner, product manager or head of a line of business—each tool’s strengths are different and come down to the problem the stakeholder is aiming to solve. In this post, we will cover the main differences between product analytics and digital experience analytics, where they overlap and the uses case where their differences come to play.

The goal of this post is not to focus on any specific solution, but to provide a high level of guidance on which kind of solution you should look into as derived from the problem you are aiming to solve.

The Difference between product analytics and digital experience analytics

Product analytics

Product analytics essentially focuses on how a customer or a group of customers are using your product over the course of time. The core is looking at a customer’s behavior over time across their multiple interactions or sessions with the product.

This is why you typically find product analytics solutions on SaaS mobile apps. Product analytics typically answers questions regarding a specific usage of a feature, for example:

  • How many videos did a customer watch before becoming a paying customer?
  • How long does it take a customer to become a paying customer?
  • How do specific capabilities correlate to a user’s behavior (subscription or churn)?

These questions are asked regardless of the number of sessions it took the customer to complete a specific action. Instead, these questions look at the general customer timeline.

The key to understanding product analytics is that it is a solution that looks at a specific sequence of predefined events without being constrained by the number of sessions it takes to complete them.

Digital experience analytics

Digital experience analytics (DXA) is different. DXA solutions typically look at all events during a single session. Some solutions will require pre-instrumentations of the elements (AKA as event or element tagging) so that each of the elements that a customer is interacting with may be captured and analyzed. The objective is the same, which is to understand the entire user experience on a website or mobile app during a single session.

Typical questions that digital experience analytics look at are:

  • Where the customer is struggling? This is often indicated by rage clicks, frequent back and forths, rotation of the screen and more.
  • What are the key reasons behind users’ abandonment?
  • Which screen elements drive a high conversion rate?
  • Where would it make the most sense to position new site or app capabilities?

This is the fundamental difference between the two types of solutions: Digital experience analytics looks at the entire experience of a user over a single session, and product analytics looks at the engagement of a user over a specific, predefined sequence of events across multiple sessions. It is important to note that there are more differences, but arguably this is the most important one which makes it the easiest way to understand where one solution ends and where the other begins.

This is also the reason you won’t find session replay and interaction maps in a product analytics solution. Product analytics solutions are not intended to map all the events which happen in a single session or all the activity (of all users) which happens on a single screen. On the other hand, you will rarely find digital experience analytics solutions supporting user cohorts as the user entity is not something that typically DXA solutions have.

Choosing the right solution

Let us now look at the different use cases for each one of these solutions and see in which type of use cases product analytics solutions shine and which types that digital experience analytics have the upper hand.

Product analytics solutions are typically used where your users are your customers, meaning they have a specific ID and you are looking to understand their activity which keeps them coming back to your site or mobile app over time. Two typical questions for product analytics would be:

  • What turns freemium customers into paying subscribing customers?
  • How does a specific feature/element/document that the customer interacts with correlate to them becoming a paying customer later down the road?

Digital experience analytics looks at a user’s behavior regardless of the fact if they are a customer or not. DXA identifies the areas on your website or mobile app which are broken and indicates how this correlates to users abandoning and the lost revenue opportunity. DXA solutions will also help identify those areas on your site which may be functioning correctly from a technical perspective but are not driving the intended user engagement with the content (e.g users do not interact below the fold, or why they are not converting from a certain campaign).

It is important to note that as the market matures, we are starting to see vendors whose solution addresses both of these demands, meaning it’s a combined solution of product analytics and digital experience. What characterizes these kinds of solutions is their ability to provide both classic digital experience capabilities, such as analysis of funnels, session replay and interaction maps, with classic product analytics capabilities, such as looking at a customer profile and user timeline and the use of cohorts.

The critical question you should be asking yourself when choosing the right solution for your organization is what is the problem you are trying to solve? Are you looking at improving your customer engagement (product analytics) or driving their experience (digital experience analytics)?

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