Tracking First-Time Users

This article describes how to track the first time a user visits your website or app so you can derive metrics for new versus existing users.

First-time users arrive at your website or app for the first visit. It is important to distinguish first time versus returning users so you can answer questions, such as:

  • How do first-time users convert through sign up?
  • What is first-time versus returning user retention?
  • What traffic source do my first-time users come from?

The answers to such questions provide valuable product insight not readily available when analyzing all users simultaneously. Measuring first-time users gives you a granular view of what your users are doing when they have never used your website or app before.

You may find user experience insights that you cannot discover without analyzing these users.

For example, you might discover that most of your users do not sign up the first time they visit your site. This insight could mean your home page is too cluttered or your sign up process is not being emphasized enough, allowing you to make the necessary user interface tweaks to test the new layout for future first-time users.

Tracking First-Time Users

To track a first-time user in Mixpanel, specify an event and property combination that designates a first time user. To do this, attach a property to an event or set of events when first-time users perform them. In Mixpanel, super properties allow you to assign a property value to a user which accompanies all of the events they perform.

External Database

You can track first-time users directly using a list of all first-time users in a database.

The list is a record of each distinct_id that accesses your website on a separate database. Whenever you encounter a user, you can check if the distinct_id exists in the list of users who’ve appeared previously. This approach lets you check if the user is new or returning. It then assigns a property value to their “Home Page” or “App Open” or equivalent event.

Mixpanel

To track first-time users with only Mixpanel, assign all new users a super property when they arrive at your site. Instead of checking if a user has or has not been to the site, you would assume all users are brand new. Then, when a user arrives, you would assign a super property value to indicate if the user is returning.

Using this code, you can quickly and easily track any new first-time user.

mixpanel.track("Home Page Viewed");
mixpanel.register({"First Time": "FALSE"});

First-time Landing Page

Instead of setting a property value based on the user’s visit to a general page, which every user visits, you could direct new users to a specific page.

For example, from a welcome page you can send an event to track a first-time user. Mixpanel recommends you use this same event name as your normal first screen event so you can compare the metrics for first-time and recurring users more easily later on.

mixpanel.track("Home Page Viewed", {"First Time": "TRUE"});

Callbacks

The implementations in this article assume you will set a super property after sending an event.

In some instances, the time the page takes to load can cause the super property to set before the event is sent, even if it is located later in the code.

As a solution, register the super property in the callback for the event.

mixpanel.track("Home Page Viewed", {"First Time": "TRUE"}, function() 
{
setTimeout(mixpanel.register({"First Time": "FALSE"}), 500);
});

Measuring First-Time Users

In Funnels, you can view how first-time users convert through a specified set of actions on your site or app.

It could be as simple as viewing sign ups through the process, or as complicated as tracking a purchase from San Francisco within 30 days of a first-time event.

Sorting your first-time users in funnels allows you to view the distinct conversion rates of first-time users versus returning users.

You might find that returning users are more likely to perform certain events than a first-time user. As a result, you might want to tweak your site or app design to better highlight the goal you want your new customers to complete.

This funnel report shows that return users are more likely to complete the conversion process and sign up than first-time users.

Using Retention, you can directly measure how first-time users are retained when compared to returning users.

This analysis allows you to view how new users return to your site to perform a specific event as compared to your already existing users.

You can then find out what events drive users back to your website, as compared to what events first-time users perform. If these are not in sync, you could update your website or app to properly introduce first-time users to the features you want them to be using regularly.

This retention report compares new users against existing ones, showing that first-time users having higher retention rates over the course of 12 days.

Depending on your implementation library and use case, one of the above methods for tracking first-time users could be more applicable to your needs.

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