Analytics for Desktop and SaaS Software Products that want to be lean

I’ve been thinking a lot about what are important things to measure for a desktop software products and SaaS projects and here are my thoughts:

You can gather operational metrics and leading indicators that can impact your decisions as a product team. I think there is value in collecting both. Its important to think about what are the key metrics you want to focus on and if there are any key leading indicators that can predict changes in these metrics. For example: Reduce active use is a leading indicator for reduced revenue in the future. Lack of customer acquisition is a leading indicator of reduced trial downloads and eventually trial conversions, etc.

Generally it helps to have uninterrupted time  and a piece of paper to jot down what’s important to your business. For example: Is your goal to grow revenue? If yes, here are the hypothesis that you might want to test:

  • Marketing is not effective – not enough new customers coming in?
  • Customers are coming in but existing customers are leaving faster?

So, I’ve tried to categorise metrics that I try to gather for any software project I work on:

Customer acquisition Funnel
  • This is different for every channel through which you sell your product. The Direct Channel is simplest to understand and the metrics are listed below
  • Visits to the landing page – say “”
  • Landing page to trial download or “sign up” conversion
  • Trial to full product conversion
These to me are the most important metrics that  drive business goals and metrics. Everything else is making sure you provide sustained value to keep people once you’ve got them. Keeping existing customers is always easier than getting new ones. If these numbers are healthy and the business is tanking then you start focussing on customer retention.
Customer Retention Metrics
  • Active use: Usage by version (number of app launches by version per day)
  • Active use: Files saved in each app launch
  • Cohort analysis for subscribers
    • I’m looking for a simple spreadsheet which looks like this
    • | customerID (or GUID) | Subscription date | Subscription Type | Cancellation Date |
    • Such a spreadsheet can also answer my Customer acquisition requirements.

Customer Profile Metrics

  • Platform – Mac/Win/iOS
  • A Questionnaire during app install that can ask the user to share more about themselves

Feature usage metrics

    • Most used features – be careful about when this event is logged and how its logged 
    • Are new features being used, and how will you agree that a feature is being used a lot?
      • Look at new feature usage/session or /day post release
    • Is the addition of new features impacting customer retention or customer acquisition metrics?
      • This is really important – especially for established products. You may find that nothing you do impacts the business metrics. If you do then why develop features. Work on a new product, service or something else.

While any experienced developer can instrument your app so that you can log usage data on your servers its important to get the user to opt into usage tracking. Here are some companies that make it easy to instrument app usage and help startups get a better understanding of their customer

  • Omniture from
  • Google Analytics since its free
  • You can also try to implement a custom logging solution built by your engineering team


More when I get time.