In our work, we get to research a lot of different analytics tools which means that I tend to see the same features over and over again, done in slightly different ways. However, when it comes to Amplitude, they have been able to create a product that is quite unique especially when compared to the competition.
In this guide, I want to give you a complete education on the Amplitude Analytics product and how to use it. I’ll also help you understand how this product compares to popular competitors and similar tools.
If this is your first time on our site, welcome! My name is Ruben and I founded Practico Analytics to help growing companies use analytics data to make better decisions. We work primarily with software companies and help them improve their acquisition, onboarding, and retention. This guide will reflect that we work that we have done over the past 3 years and 45+ projects.
I recommend that you go through the entire guide but if you don’t have the time, then you can download our Amplitude Quickstart Checklist which will provide you with the most critical steps that you need to take to start using this tool.
Finally, you can find a table of contents below that will help you navigate this post.
Amplitude as a company was officially launched in 2014 after two years of testing and research and being part of the Y Combinator program. In 2015 they raised a 9M Series A and have seen raise over $45M in further rounds.
From our perspective, Amplitude started popping up in our radar in early 2017. We typically hear about “new” products from sale prospects who asked our opinion these tools. This tends to be a good gauge in terms of how popular or mainstream a product is.
Let’s dive into the product and how it is organized. As of 2018, Amplitude currently has two distinct products:
Amplitude then offers several add-ons which are available in certain plans (mostly enterprise plans):
Let’s now go deeper into the product itself by starting with the Behavioral Platform.
This is where you will find the bulk of the Amplitude reports and functionality. I’ll go over the major reports and how they work. I’ll even include videos whenever relevant.
Segmentation is a fundamental report available in all versions of Amplitude and one of the first reports you should learn how to use. You will be able to segment and filter your event data to create lots of different charts.
Funnels is our second fundamental report that will help you understand where users are dropping inside your product. A common use case would be to understand the performance of your onboarding flow.
Retention is our third fundamental report and one of the most critical ones for any product. This report will help you understand if your users are being retained or if you’re dealing with a leaky bucket.
User Composition will allow you to easily see how your users breakdown by their user attributes or properties. Common properties include things like region, country, and platform (iOS, Android, Web, etc) but you can also define your own user properties.
User Sessions lets you dive deeper into “Sessions” as a metric. This is a metric that Amplitude tracks by default and can be helpful to understand product usage. If you’re coming from the Google Analytics world, you’ll be quite familiar with the concept of sessions.
Personas is our first report that utilizes machine learning to help you analyze your data. In this report, you’ll be able to organize your users into groups (or clusters) with distinct user behavioral attributes. Once you have your clusters, you can convert to cohorts for personalized marketing or further analysis. You can learn more about the algorithm behind this report.
Pathfinder will let you take an event (action) and see the different paths users took to get there. A common example here would be to understand the different steps a user took before becoming a making a purchase. This is one of the most popular report requests that we see with our clients. You can view paths in terms of event or user count.
Stickiness will help you see how often users are repeating the same event within a specific timeframe. This report starts to get deeper into the specific actions that your best users are taking and that you can emphasize within your product.
Compass is our second report that utilizes machine learning to help you analyze your data. This report will help you understand what events tend to correlate with a specific goal (retention, conversion, etc). This kind of report was popularized by a story shared by Facebook when they realized that users needed to add “7 friends in 10 days” to have a higher chance of being retained. You can learn more about the statistics behind this report.
Lifecycle breaks down your user into distinct categories like new, active and resurrected. Some of these categories are unique to Amplitude and you should read their Retention Playbook to understand how to use them. If you commit to these labels, these report can be a quick way to understand how your user base is changing over time.
Revenue LTV will give you a few different ways to track common revenue metrics like ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and ARPPU (Average Revenue Per Paying Users). Note that tracking revenue within Amplitude requires following specific technical implementation notes.
Impact Analysis is a report that is trying to make it easier to understand the impact of a user performing an event. For example, imagine that you have a consumer app where you show ads to users. If a user watches too many ads, does that impact the likelihood that they will become a paying subscriber?
Cohorts is a way to group your users by the actions they took or by their attributes (region, country, platform, etc). Once you have your cohorts, you can take them to segment any report or export into another tool like an email marketing tool.
Behind all the Amplitude data, you have individuals who are firing these events. This report lets you find a specific user (by id, name, etc) and go through their profile. You’ll be able to see their user attributes and find any specific event that they have fired. This can be helpful for debugging purposes or for sales/customer success teams.
Dashboards will let you take any report created within Amplitude and organize it under a single location. You have quite a bit of flexibility in terms of layout and the widgets that you use. You can also set up automatic email reports or share dashboards publicly.
Notebook will let you share insights discovered through Amplitude and organize them into a more formal report where you can add headings, notes, etc. This saves you from creating external documents or presentations.
Amplitude has invested quite a bit into their integrations making it easier to connect to the most popular tools that a company might be using. Here you will see integrations to mobile attribution platforms (Branch, Appsflyer), A/B testing (Optimizely) and others.
Portfolio is geared for those companies that have multiple products but may share the same users. You can easily compare the performance of the entire product or see how users are moving in between products.
Accounts gives you the ability to track your users by the organization and then see the performance of those accounts. This can be quite helpful for B2B companies who aren’t just interested in individual users.
Insights will allow you to set up alerts whenever a metric (or report) changes by a significant amount (anomalies). A common use case would be to set up alerts if product error spike. You would receive the alert within a few hours instead of discovering the error weeks or months later.
Query & Snowflake will load all of your Amplitude data into a Snowflake data (similar to Amazon Redshift or Google BigQuery). From there, you will get a simplified interface to run SQL queries against your data.
Taxonomy will allow you to maintain the integrity of your data. You can rename data (events, properties, etc), hide, combine multiple events into a single one, etc. This can be one of the most helpful add-ons especially if you’re constantly running into data issues because of simple problems like naming convention.
Properly implementing Amplitude is crucial to being able to access all the reports and insights that we have seen so far. I recorded a short video to go over the main concepts that should be aware of.
Track: this is how you will track events.
Identify: this is how you keep track of individual users.
Groups: this is how you organize your users into groups or organizations.
One of the critical steps that you should take is to create a tracking plan of all the data that you want to implement. Here is a short video on how tracking plans work.
In this video, I’ll compare Mixpanel and Amplitude, two tools that offer similar products and functionality.
Another comparison that comes up quite a bit is against Google Analytics. I’ll help you understand why these tools are complementary to each other and not competitors.
Our third comparison will look at how Segment.com compares against Amplitude. Just like Google Analytics, these two tools aren’t competitors and quite complementary to each other.
Now that we understand how Amplitude can help you, we can look at how their pricing works. Amplitude uses a freemium model that is quite helpful for companies that are just starting with analytics but are interested in growing into more advanced reports.
At Practico Analytics, we specialize in helping companies properly set up tools like Amplitude. Improper implementations can be quite costly in terms of resources and time wasted. Learn more about typical client results, past case studies or get in touch with us.