User behavior analytics 101

User behavior analytics 101

Smartlook Team
Smartlook Team  |  Last updated: Sep 8, 2022
12 mins read
Data-informed decision-making has been around for a long time. Nevertheless, taking this approach to work can be challenging, even for bigger, developed companies.

It seems easier to just go on without changing perspective, especially when your daily tasks don’t leave much room for implementing new solutions.

Take into account, though, that such an investment can bring you serious advantages and increase the efficiency of your actions.

This also holds true in terms of user behavior. To learn more about what impacts your performance, you have to read into what lies beneath statistics such as the time spent on your website and the conversion rate. In these cases, you have to dig a bit deeper than just looking at the numbers. The real answers will lie in user behavior, or how people interact with your website.

How do you evaluate the interactions between your website or mobile application and its users?

If you rely mostly on assumptions and lucky guesses, it’s high time to implement user behavior analytics. In this article, we’ll explain what that is, why it’s worth your time, and guide you through a few steps to ensure your success.

What is user behavior analytics?

Basically, user behavior analytics consists of gathering and making sense of data that shows you how your users behave on or interact with your website or mobile app. There are multiple ways in which you can observe user behavior, from watching session recordings and analyzing heat maps to tracking events and funnels. Each of these methods will give you a different level of insight and granularity.

User behavior analytics helps you find the root causes for changes in your general behavioral metrics like user engagement, retention, and conversion rate. Instead of making guesses, you can rely on detailed and relevant information.

Even when you use various metrics like session duration or daily active users, they won’t provide you with essential information about why something has happened, how users interact with your products, or what challenges they may face. All those answers are hidden in the context, and you need behavior analytics to find them.

Why should you analyze user behavior?

Introducing new types of analytics can initially raise doubts, especially when they require additional effort from your team. They might question the business sense of observing real users’ behavior, especially if you have only worked on the basis of assumptions before.

The most important reason for implementing user behavior analytics is that you will learn what your users actually do and how they interact with your website or app. Without analyzing user behavior, you can only rely on what you think or what they say they do. Both of these options are far less reliable than actual analytics, and may lead you to draw erroneous conclusions.

The first crucial mistake is to assume that you perfectly understand your users without talking to them or analyzing their behavior. Sometimes this assumption might be made due to a lack of time or knowledge about how to learn more about your users. Other times, you might’ve performed one analysis and just continue to work on that old data indefinitely. Your audience evolves with your products and market trends, so you must try to stay up-to-date with their needs.

What’s more, you’ll notice differences between declarative behavior data – or what your users claim they do – and how they actually behave. When talking about various UX research methods, the Nielsen Norman Group recommends relying on behavioral data to assess the usability of a design. It can be striking to understand the extent of those differences, yet they are deeply rooted in human psychology and can only be figured out by observing real-life behavior.

Raise the conversion rate and MRR

Getting insights into your users’ behavior can dramatically increase your effectiveness and financial results. Let’s get deeper into this! McKinsey mentions a piece of Gallup research which states that companies who leverage customer behavior insights outperform their competitors by an astonishing 85% in sales growth and more than 25% in gross margins.

The numbers are so impressive that we could just end our article here, but let’s talk a bit more about how user behavior analytics can help you achieve similar results. A good starting point is your conversion rate. By studying user behavior analytics, you can spot where your users experience trouble and then adjust your conversion processes accordingly. This will result in an increased conversion rate and greater profit from the same volume of traffic.

Similarly, you might encounter some issues with your website or mobile app that essentially cause you to lose money. Whether they’re bugs or an overcomplicated website or mobile user experience, behavior analytics can point you in the right direction.

Understand your users’ needs

User behavior analytics provides you with insights into what your users actually want, need, and appreciate. Having those is a key requirement to each user-centered design process, and a customer-centric company as well.

Even if you’ve carried out research when starting out with your product, you should refresh it from time to time. Your users’ needs and expectations will change, no matter whether it’s because you reach out to new target groups or emerging trends in your industry begin to have an influence.

Understand your performance

Each action taken by your users indicates something about your website’s or app’s performance, and the same is true about a lack of action. For example, you can assess the performance of your search engine by using this information. If your users scroll deep down through the list of results yet can’t find what they’re looking for, you’ve just spotted an area for improvement.

Observing similar situations can show you the reasons why you don’t achieve your targets and indicate what should be done to fix the situation. What’s more, if you notice a change in your KPI results then you’ll be able to track down the factor that caused it.

Spot all the struggles

When you learn about a bug from a customer complaint or, worse, a storm on social media, the consequences are often serious. Some of your customers might have already decided to leave your product or service, and the problems can impact your reputation in the long term.

Having real-time user behavior analytics allows you to spot any error messages or problems your users face, and react in a timely manner. It can also point out all the places where the errors are so small that your users don’t complain, yet their experience is jeopardized somewhat.

There’s one more benefit: your support and technical teams can see exactly what happened, the context surrounding it. That will definitely help them with finding out what doesn’t work, why not, and how to fix it.

Evaluate your design and improve it

When a new design, feature, or functionality goes live, user behavior analytics helps you learn about the reception to your ideas. That’s a big moment! You can check how many of your users explore new options and how they’re eventually used.

Anything you learn will be useful for better understanding your users’ needs. For example, you might notice that some of them struggle with making the most out of your features. By tweaking the hints you write in the interface and checking the results, you can improve your design to best suit the requirements of your users.

What user behavior can you analyze?


Websites give you a lot of options to analyze user behavior, from how your users navigate your website to where they scroll, click, or leave your page. You can also observe how various elements of your design are displayed and check if you offer a consistent experience on various devices.

You can also check how returning users’ behavior differs from first-time visitors. This could be useful when evaluating your users’ engagement and retention rates.

E-commerce websites are a very particular example, as conversion rate optimization plays a huge role for them. From eliminating bottlenecks to choosing the best button color, copy, and placement, user behavior analytics gives you real-time feedback about any changes you implement. Are you looking for ways to optimize the conversion rate in your e-commerce store? We also have some tips to boost your e-commerce’s conversion rate.

Mobile apps

If you’ve a mobile app, you can also profit from learning how your users navigate it. For example, you might notice that there are a lot of misclicks. To improve such a situation, you can work on the placement or size of your buttons.

When looking for a specific tool for performing user behavior analytics, make sure it doesn’t slow down your app. Smartlook has an option to send user sessions only when they’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, saving their mobile data usage.

If you want to analyze user behavior during mobile onboarding, read our article.


User behavior analytics in games is a great way to work on the experience you provide. It lets you check how challenging your game is, the missions or different levels, and how people react to them. If you notice that advancing past one level is either too easy or too frustratingly hard, you can adjust it to find the sweet spot.

Also, your players may find some paths or dead ends you couldn’t predict or bugs you weren’t aware of. With screen recording and behavior analytics, you can not only figure out that something is wrong but also see the cause for yourself.

How to analyze user behavior?

Connect your analytics goals to your business goals

Before you leap straight into watching user sessions recording, stop and think about your business goals. What is your current priority? Do you aim to improve your conversion rate, or are you worried that even basic information about your business isn’t accessible to your visitors? Depending on your main challenges, you can start to look for other information and pay attention to different details.

Let’s assume your goal is to improve your website’s or app’s design. In this case, your goal for user behavior analysis is to find answers to the following questions:

  • What are your users’ main struggles?
  • Which areas of your design perform well?
  • After introducing changes, what impact have they had on your business performance?

Of course, you can tackle multiple issues at the same time and prepare various analytics goals for each challenge. Take into consideration, though, that you may spread yourself too thin and be less effective than working on one issue at a time.

The decisions you make about your business and analytics goals will heavily impact the choice of data you should collect. Lacking some crucial information will lead you to misunderstandings, yet tracking everything might be a waste of time. Invest some time in choosing what to track – this can save you a lot more time in the long run.

Prepare a map of the critical paths

Critical paths are a series of events that have to happen in order for your users to achieve their goals. They’re the crucial steps on the customer journey. For example, for a food delivery app the critical path may look like this:

-> register –> choose a restaurant and food –> confirm address -> payment -> receive or collect the order

Tracking those paths can help you understand where your users experience bottlenecks, and adjust the processes accordingly. You can find information that is necessary for working on your analytical and business goals here.

When you have defined the events you want to track, organize them into separate categories to make it easier to keep all the data in order. Instead of scrolling through the list of all your events, you’ll be able to look up a specific category and then the event you’re looking for.

Identify your users

Another important step to set up your user behavior analysis is to understand how your users are identified. After all, you need to assign sessions to corresponding users so that you can have an overview of a complete user journey.

You can also check if you need to connect your behavior analytics tool with a CRM or another database. This is especially useful when you want to use behavior analytics data to boost your customer service or to increase the effectiveness of your technical support. That’s how you can offer better support to your users.

Choose the platforms you need to analyze

Do you need to focus on your website? Or, maybe you have an app you want to optimize? The platforms you want to analyze will impact the right choice of tool. Look out for solutions that let you run the analytics in a similar way. This will allow you to get a complete picture of interactions on both of your platforms.

You may also change your mind in the future as you develop a mobile app or notice the need to work on your website. That’s why a universal user behavior tool might be a better choice.

Ensure your events are tracked properly

Before you jump straight into analyzing your data, first run a testing session to determine whether or not everything works properly. This will let you spot any weaknesses in your testing system and avoid any consequent pitfalls.

Nevertheless, you should look out for a solution that lets you track events backwards. At Smartlook, we decided to collect data about everything that happens so that anytime you need to know about a new type of event, you don’t have to wait for new data to be gathered but you can start your analysis immediately.

Drive actionable insights

This is the most exciting part of user behavior analytics – you can finally dive into the data and find out how users interact with your website or mobile app. As you go, make sure to catch all of the ideas for improvements that come to your mind. After that, you’ll be able to gain important insights and make them work.

If the amount of information is overwhelming, even though you set your priorities and measurements system, try to focus on the low-hanging fruits first. This can help you structure your analytics even better and identify the quick wins.

Adjust your measurements

Your user behavior analytics system isn’t set in stone. As you go, you should adjust your measurements to suit your (changing) needs. If you decide that you want to get more in-depth and add another level of granularity to your data or you notice that some events just don’t bring value, simply go ahead and make any changes.

Key points to remember

  • User behavior analytics shows how your users interact with your website or mobile app.
  • It can help you understand what affects metrics like time spent on your website or conversion rate and show you where there’s room for improvements.
  • If you’re just starting out, don’t deep dive into analyzing everything at once – it’s better to adjust and deepen your measurements over time.

Good luck with analyzing your users’ behavior!

author Smartlook Team

Your guidance in the world of analytics

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