Why we implemented Google Analytics for Firebase into Interact

Tom Healy looks at how Google Analytics for Firebase works for ieDigital mobile development.

Why we implemented Google Analytics for Firebase into Interact. Image by champja, iStockphoto.com

There have been many changes to Google’s mobile and web development platform Firebase over the last year. It’s always been a great platform for developing rich mobile and web apps, and recent changes are taking its features capabilities to new levels. This is an opportunity to show you how we’re using Firebase at ieDigital to drive our own app development strategy.

First of all, what exactly is it? Google acquired Firebase back in 2014, and has since integrated the app and web development platform with many of its other services. The platform offers a host of different features and tools to help you build, improve and grow your app. For this article, let’s focus on Google Analytics for Firebase in light of the recent changes to Google Analytics Services for Android and iOS.

So, what’s changing? In October 2019, Google will begin to “sunset Google Analytics mobile-apps reporting based on the Google Analytics Services SDKs for Android and iOS”. This means that Google Analytics will no longer be available for mobile apps. Google has decided to only offer analytics through this platform for mobile. It’s important to note that:

  • Data collection and processing for mobile properties within Google Analytics will end on 31 October 2019. No data after this date will be available in any of those properties.
  • Access to the historical data in those properties via the Analytics interface or the API will remain available until 31 January 2020.
  • Once the Google Analytics Services SDKs are fully turned down, those properties will not be accessible via the Analytics interface or the API, and their data will be removed from Google Analytics servers.

ieDigital and Firebase

ieDigital currently has Firebase built into the latest version of our Interact digital banking engagement platform. It helps us understand our users and how they use our app, taking our knowledge to completely new levels. Not only do we have a better understanding of how the app is being used, we can leverage the data to prove the efficacy of our ideas. It also helps us build more accurate personas, which we use to inform our product offering right across the board. Understanding the customer always comes first!

Google Analytics for Firebase has been built from the ground up to provide all the data developers need in one single place. The SDK automatically captures certain key events and user properties, and you can define your own custom events to measure those things that uniquely matter to your business. Here’s a comparison diagram showing how traditional Google Analytics works in our mobile app, and how Firebase now works in the app.

Firebase, all in one place, eliminates the complexity of the architecture.

The Google Analytics SDK is what collects the data from our mobile app – SDKs (Service Development Kit) are based on the operating system and are usually split by android or IOS. The SDK works similarly to the web JavaScript model, and collects similar data such as number of users and sessions, operating system, device model and location. This data is packaged into a hit and sent to the Google Analytics account associated with the app.

Google Analytics for Firebase has been built specifically for apps. TheGoogle Analytics Mobile App Tracking was built for web and was adapted for mobile, which caused complications with simple metrics such as sessions, mobile sessions and web sessions being interpreted differently.

Firebase SDK built into Interact

ieDigital wants to continue offering a high standard of mobile analytics to our client base. Firebase is a tool that has exponential growth due to its backing, and will enable us to broaden our offerings. Firebase will provide our clients with the opportunity to stay up to date with the market and further understand their audience with machine learning and performance monitoring.

Here at ieDigital, we’ve recognised the need to act quickly, and have implemented the tool into our product way before the sunset deadline, to allow our client base to react just as quickly. Moving from Google Analytics to Firebase isn’t the easiest of tasks, which is why we decided to build Firebase SDK into our product. We use Google Analytics for Firebase not simply to measure what’s happening inside our apps, but to combine behavioural reporting, attribution reporting, and explore growth to understand the uptake of the app.

Firebase will store logged events on the local device either online or offline. When the device has a network connection and the data is ready to be uploaded, it will kick off a batch that compresses and uploads the data. After a successful data upload, the batch will be deleted from the device, and any failed uploads will cause that data to be scheduled for an upload at a later time. If the device is offline, the app will wait until the device is online before attempting an upload. Any data older than 72 hours will be lost. However, it’s possible to bypass this time limit, but it would require manual configuration changes. Google has put these limits in place to limit disk usage, as logging excessive data on an offline device for large periods of time could lead to data loss.

The reports we generate using Firebase provide an understanding of how our users behave, helping us make better, more informed decisions. We can dig deep within the data to enhance app user base and understand our strengths and weaknesses. We can now see detailed information about what our users are up to by logging events specific to our apps and goals. Custom user properties allow us to better understand our audience and how the different users behave differently, and we have the ability to segment users and create audiences based on any measurements from your app.

It’s been a challenging and rewarding journey to implement the Firebase SDK into Interact, and to be able to offer the many benefits to make your own journey smooth. We’d love to hear your feedback, so get in touch and let us know what you think.


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