It only takes one unexpected event to derail this synchronous routine — an influx of passengers, an unforeseen road closure, or a technical glitch in the train schedule. It’s why we double-check Google Maps before leaving our homes to commute to important events. Without real-time data, you won’t know there’s a 20-minute delay in the train schedule.
Although it often goes unnoticed, real-time analytics shapes our everyday lives. We rely on products equipped with real-time data to provide us with relevant information, anticipate our needs, and respond to issues promptly.
So when it comes to user experience (UX), real-time analytics isn’t an option — it’s the only way to meet your audience’s ever-evolving expectations.
Throughout this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to successfully implement and use real-time data analytics to create a seamless UX for your website and app users.
Particularly speaking about:
- What is real-time analytics?
- 6 Applications of real-time analytics
- How to implement real-time analytics to improve UX by use case
- Best real-time data analytics solutions
What is real-time analytics?
Real-time analytics involves capturing, processing, and analyzing data as it occurs without delay. It gives you immediate access to the data you’re tracking, allowing you to make informed decisions promptly or, better yet, set up automated workflows based on real-time data.
Real-time data analytics vs historical analytics
Historical analytics focus on analyzing data from the past, identifying trends, and understanding long-term performance. It involves generating periodic reports and summarizing data over specific time intervals. It’s useful for decision-making and long-term planning based on historical patterns.
Real-time data analytics or historical analytics? You don’t have to choose between the two. While real-time data analysis provides immediate insight for prompt decision-making, historical analytics enables you to anticipate and plan for the future.
It’s important that your real-time analytics system includes a significant data retention period, as real-time data is not enough to build a sustainable long-term strategy.
Real-time insights are valuable, but exercise caution for significant business decisions.
Don’t miss out on leveraging the full potential of data and analytics in your marketing strategies.”
For instance, real-time data may inform a product team of a sudden increase in app load times. Instead of waiting for feedback from frustrated users, the team can promptly initiate an investigation and optimize app performance.
At the same time, historical data will uncover patterns affecting your product growth in the long run, such as low usage of particular features. Based on long-term performance insights, the product team can develop a better feature adoption plan or make adjustments to product functionality.
Historical data also fuels predictive analytics. Only by analyzing large amounts of data regarding past trends, patterns, and behaviors can AI-powered solutions forecast future scenarios with precision.
6 Applications of real-time analytics
The benefits of real-time analytics go far beyond just having enough data to make quick decisions. Real-time data allows businesses to:
- Enable more personalized customer experiences
- Improve internal operations
- Validate ideas
- Proactively respond to changing behaviors and emerging trends
- Create a seamless UX
But to fully understand the benefits of real-time insights, it’s best to observe their practical applications. Let’s explore six use cases that vividly demonstrate the importance of real-time analytics in your daily operations.
Customer experience personalization
Real-time analytics are behind every dynamic personalization strategy. For instance, a marketing automation tool collects data on a user’s recent engagement to dynamically move them to a different email list, trigger a targeted website pop-up, or send them a personalized offer.
In a SaaS environment, real-time data helps tailor the user experience within your product, streamlining user flows and maximizing customer satisfaction. Take Spotify or YouTube Music — both platforms capture data regarding the music you listen to and recommend similar content in real-time (by the way, historical data also plays a significant role in creating custom playlists).
Customer relationship management (CRM)
Many CRM software providers are powered by instant insights, enabling sales and marketing teams to keep their pipelines up-to-date. You can view lead movements, deal progress, and customer engagement as it unfolds, allowing you to seize every opportunity to create a more personalized customer experience.
Also, by combining real-time visibility with pipeline activities, teams can allocate resources more efficiently.
For product teams, real-time data is a source of valuable UX insights. You can track how users interact with new features and design changes and drive immediate conclusions about the UX.
Note: Don’t confuse A/B testing with usability testing. Usability testing involves watching users navigate your product, while A/B testing is a product experimentation method (we’ll cover it a little later). Additionally, usability testing focuses on analyzing qualitative insights, and A/B testing gives you quantitative data.
That said, an emerging real-time analytics use case in usability testing is AI-powered sentiment analysis. The idea behind it is to bring positive and negative emotions to the surface, making it easier to detect friction points. This function is included with usability testing tools like UserTesting and Userlytics.
As you already know, product experimentation is different from usability testing, yet these two share a common feature — they employ real-time analytics.
A core application of real-time data in product experimentation is real-time A/B testing. This involves simultaneously presenting different variations (A and B) of a feature, design, or piece of content to equal user segments. Real-time analytics measure user interactions and responses to each variation, providing immediate insight into which performs better.
Aren’t product experimentation results more reliable when you have plenty of historical data? Yes. But experiments often involve changes in product design or functionality, meaning that things can go completely wrong when you don’t expect it. Real-time data will help you make sure you don’t waste two weeks (or whatever timeframe you’ve set) with the “A” variation of your product being down or not performing as expected.
For those working in e-commerce, real-time data is a life-saver. It helps online retailers maintain optimal stock levels, prevent stockouts, and efficiently manage their supply chain.
New series, TikTok trends, or influencer opinions may create a surge in demand for a particular product without you being ready for it. To avoid running out of stock, e-commerce platforms monitor stock levels and demand in real time and enable retailers to set up alerts based on predefined thresholds for timely restocks.
Real-time performance monitoring enables product teams to detect anomalies, address issues, and optimize products for an excellent user experience. Digital analytics tools like Smartlook use real-time analytics to:
- Detect anomalies in user behavior
- Create heatmaps for any user session
- Alert you regarding crashes and errors
Let’s examine how you can implement real-time data analytics with Smartlook to create a seamless website and app UX.
How to implement real-time analytics to improve UX by use case
You don’t need to do complex manipulations to collect real-time data. All you need is product analytics software with real-time data monitoring capabilities. If you entrust UX monitoring and data processing to Smartlook, you’ll get instant insight on two levels:
- User behavior
- Product performance
When combined, these insights give you everything you need to create an excellent UX. Here’s how.
1. Real-time user behavior monitoring
How do your users interact with your website or app? Do they get what they want? Smartlook’s user behavior data answers these questions in real-time.
Events are any actions users take within your product. Tracking events keeps you informed regarding how users engage with your app and whether they take the actions you want them to.
Smartlook allows you to set up custom events to track specific user interactions in real time. You just need to define the event category (e.g. button click, visited URL, etc.) and specify the event details.
Use case: You release a new feature and create events, but the real-time data uncovers that people hardly interact with it at all — it looks like your marketing campaign has failed to attract user attention. It’s time to revisit your communication strategy to get traction for the new feature.
A heatmap is a data visualization method that reveals how users interact with a website or application. It uses color gradients to represent the intensity of mouse movements or clicks on a page.
Smartlook’s new Page analytics feature creates heatmaps from session recordings in real time. You can create a heatmap directly in the player to identify the most clicked elements.
Wait, what are session recordings? These are actual recordings of users interacting with your app or website. As you watch a recording, you may wonder what a heatmap for a particular page looks like — just click the Page analytics button, and Smartlook will give you the answer in seconds.
Real-time page analytics in Smartlook
Use case: An e-commerce retailer designed landing pages specifically for Black Friday, which means they hadn’t tested them against a real audience before. Click data from Smartlook’s heatmap revealed that the “Shop Now” button, a crucial call-to-action (CTA), wasn’t receiving as many clicks as anticipated. In response, the retailer quickly adjusted the button placement to a more prominent location, ensuring it was immediately visible upon landing.
Anomaly detection and alerts
Smartlook’s real-time anomaly detection and alert system sends immediate notifications when unusual user behavior patterns occur. An anomalous behavior may be a sudden spike or drop in user engagement within an event or an entire funnel.
To enable anomaly detection, you need to choose an event or funnel you want to track and click Anomalies monitoring. You can configure what kinds of anomalies you want to be alerted of (surges, drops, or both) and how you should be notified.
Anomaly monitoring in Smartlook
Use case: You’re releasing a major UI update, which can affect user engagement. Setting up anomaly monitoring will keep you informed of shifts in user behavior. Choose key events that reflect user engagement on your platform and configure anomaly detection settings to monitor engagement drops in selected events. Sudden drops will indicate that users don’t understand how to use features in the updated interface.
2. Real-time product health monitoring
These insights will help you uncover serious problems with your product experience (PX). Spot and address technical issues or confusing UI instantly without waiting for frustrated users to churn.
Smartlook’s crash reports feature informs you about technical performance issues in real time and displays recordings of sessions where a particular crash occurred.
This unique functionality allows product teams to reproduce any crash by simply watching a session replay — no need to collect user feedback or retrace logs.
Crash reporting in Smartlook
Use case: A social media management company was spending hours reproducing crashes before the implementation of crash reporting. The problem was that the customer support team had to collect feedback from users on every crash before they could attempt to retrace the events that preceded a problem. User feedback was hardly ever accurate, which only made matters worse. Crash reporting, combined with session recordings, has allowed the customer support and product teams to resolve issues faster and increase customer satisfaction.
Rage clicks are events indicating user confusion. They occur when a user keeps clicking on a page element, but it doesn’t respond. Such events might indicate broken links or confusing UI (so confusing that users try to click elements that are unclickable).
In Smartlook, you can find data on rage clicks in the Events tab. Here you can see statistics on rage clicks and play recordings of each session connected to these events.
Rage clicks in Smartlook
Use case: Your pricing page attracts a lot of visitors, but very few click the Contact Us button. After investigating, you discover that users have been trying to interact with the plain text (that you underlined for design purposes), not noticing the CTA button at the top of the page.
Best real-time data analytics solutions
These are five business intelligence solutions with real-time data monitoring capabilities that serve different use cases but share one ultimate goal — to help you create an excellent customer experience.
Smartlook: real-time UX analytics
Smartlook provides both real-time and historical UX data on web and mobile apps. It combines user behavior monitoring (i.e. session recordings, heatmaps, etc.) and product health tracking (i.e. crash reporting) features.
- Event tracking: monitor every user interaction in real-time
- Heatmaps: visualize user engagement patterns on web and app screens
- Anomaly detection: receive immediate alerts on unusual user behavior
- Crash reporting: detect and diagnose crashes occurring within your web or mobile app
Sentry: real-time product health monitoring
Sentry gives you insight into critical real-time product performance metrics like failure rate, request time, event duration, and release health data. The latter allows you to stay on top of releases by tracking user adoption, error count, crashed user rate, and more.
- Real-time error tracking: remain aware of all errors that occur in your application
- Release tracking: monitor individual release health to make it easier to connect errors and UX issues to specific releases
- Performance monitoring: quickly catch performance degradations like slow load times
Optimizely: real-time experimentation
Optimizely is your product experimentation assistant, allowing you to run and monitor low-code product tests. It tracks metrics like conversion rates, demo requests, revenue per visitor, and other conversion KPIs to evaluate the outcomes of your experiments.
- A/B testing: present different variations of features, designs, and content for actionable insight into the performance of each variation
- Feature flagging: roll out new functionalities gradually and monitor their impact on user experience and engagement
- Advanced targeting: create audience segments that refresh every 90 seconds and adapt to customer behavior in real-time
OptiMonk: real-time e-commerce personalization
OptiMonk enables e-commerce personalization using real-time data analytics capabilities to enhance the overall shopping experience and drive conversions.
The platform also uncovers critical campaign performance metrics in retrospect — analyze average order per value (AOV), conversion rates, and other metrics.
- Website personalization: let OptiMonk tailor your web content to individual users dynamically
- Campaign analytics: track and analyze the effectiveness of your marketing efforts (historical data only)
- AI-powered conversion optimization: personalize all of your content automatically with OptiMonk’s AI algorithms
Zoho: real-time inventory management
Zoho Inventory helps e-commerce companies keep optimal stock levels by providing up-to-the-minute data on inventory levels for all products. Its dashboards uncover metrics like the number of active items and products to be delivered, sales returns, etc.
- Real-time inventory management: always stay on top of your inventory levels and prevent stockouts
- Real-time shipment data: keep customers informed about the status of their orders
- Multi-channel sales: aggregate sales data from multiple data sources and manage all online sales through a single platform
Keep track of your user experience with Smartlook’s Instant Insights
Implementing real-time analytics is critical to ensure a seamless UX. To meet the demands of today’s consumers, you need to be able to respond quickly to unexpected events — be it an app crash or a surge in orders for a particular item.
With features like event tracking, heatmaps, anomaly detection, and crash reporting, Smartlook’s analytics platform is a comprehensive toolkit for monitoring and optimizing web and mobile UX on the fly.