Around the world with behavioral data – Part I

At the end of last year, deep in the middle of our WHAT Conference planning, we were trying to decide what we could present at the conference that would really embody the spirit of the event – going from raw data to useful insights. We needed a case study that would demonstrate the power of behavioral data.

With that in the back of our minds, we started planning our biggest, most ambitious case study yet – tracking 500 people each in 8 different countries, only using Wakoopa's passive metering technology. We wanted to create a truly global study that would cover a range of different markets to demonstrate that our technology can be applied anywhere in the world.

Together with some of our global panel partners (GapFish, Respondi, GMO Research, SoapBoxSample, TEG Rewards, and Netquest) we created 'Around the world with behavioral data.' Enjoy!

This study was first presented at WHAT Conference by Pavel Vilensky.

The anatomy of behavioral data

Before we can dive into the study, we think it's important to explain what exactly we mean when we say we use our software to collect passively metered 'behavioral data'. What we really collect is URLs, which contain all the information we need to analyze where users went, when they went there, and how they got there. While sometimes a URL can seem like one long string of letters and words, when we break it down, it becomes our guide to everything we need to know about the users' behavior.

Each participant is given a unique ID – this is what we can use to identify patterns of behavior from one user without having to use any personal information. Next comes the main part of the URL – the sub domain, top domain, and extension. After this, we can also see the 'path', namely which part of the website the user visited. If there was a referrer, we would also see where they came from in the path. If the URL contains a search query, this is also where we would find it. Finally, we collect the timestamp of each visit, so we can keep track of information such as how much time was spent on each visit, or what was the most active part of the day for our users. For app visits, this remains largely the same, except that the URL is replaced by an app ID.

Enriching the data

Using our collected behavioral data, we can then apply other information we already have in order to turn this raw data into useful consumer insight.

By using the information we have gathered from pre-tracking surveys (such as their age, gender, and location) we can start to segment our findings into different categories. Using pre-defined metrics, we can mix and match these various information points to extract the knowledge we want to have.

Research objective

Our research objective was to uncover the differences and/or similarities in cross-device online behavior across countries. For this objective, we chose to study (in order from left to right, top row first) Japan, France, Germany, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and the UK. (Do you recognize all the countries' symbols? Keep them in mind, because they will appear again later on in this post!)

We wanted to see what we could understand about their culture, device preferences, search behaviors, media consumption and general online behavior by using passive metering.

Research design

We tracked the users over 21 days, from February 20 to March 21, 2017. In each country, we had 500 desktop participants, of which 250 were also cross-device. We kept a fairly even split between male and female respondents, and tried to represent as many generations as we could in our study. In total, the time we tracked of all the participants together equal to 17 years on desktop, and an additional 11 years on mobile.

This volume of data was almost overwhelming, and it was a monster task to pick out the most exciting, interesting, and useful findings. What we will show here are some of the highlights of our discoveries, to demonstrate what we can observe from user behavior just with passive metering – without having to ask any questions at all.

Research results

Let's start with some easy insights to get the ball rolling – the top sites based on pageviews, aggregated across all participants. Using our own categorization, we can quickly find the most visited websites per category as well.

Top websites

No surprise in the most used site overall - Google is used by participants across the board in every country. Facebook makes a strong case for most popular social media platform, showing up in the top five most visited websites for every age category except <16 year olds. YouTube is the most used website for video streaming and online content consumption. We also noticed that amongst younger people (<16), it showed up very high on their top five list of websites. The older the age category, the lower YouTube showed up in their ranking, disappearing entirely in the top five of anyone over 45.
When we examined shopping and travel, we started to notice our first cultural differences. Amazon had a very high pageviews in European countries (France, Germany and the UK) and, naturally, in the US. However, in Mexico and Brazil, the website that was used by most people for shopping was mercadolibre.com.mx/mercadolivre.com.br, which is technically the same website, just in Spanish for Mexico, and Portuguese for Brazil.

We can see Amazon has not made a huge impact on the Australian market yet, where eBay is still more popular. This is due to the fact that Amazon in Australia is very limited, selling only Kindles and various eBooks. It does not have the same range of items and services as it does in other English-speaking countries, which accounts for the discrepancy.

As we will see more often in this study, Japan is an exception in terms of international websites and apps, primarily using their native platforms rather than multi-national ones. Here, they used the Japanese eCommerce giant Rakuten most often for online shopping.

For travel, the top two contenders were Tripadvisor and Booking.com, coming out on top in six out of eight of our countries. Shermantravels.com offers exclusive deals on travel, and Jalan is again a native Japanese site, used only in their market.

Top five domains by gender

This was one of the insights which surprised us – on the surface, the top 5 for men and women were almost exactly the same, except for one domain. The order of the top five did also differ slightly - men visited YouTube more often and had it ranked at their number three, while women visited live.com more than YouTube. However, the difference in the amount of pageviews is also noteworthy. While both genders have Facebook as their number one, women visited Facebook roughly 50% more than their number two, Google.com, while men only visited Facebook on average around 15% more than Google.com.

Unique apps and domains per country

By measuring the average amount of unique apps and domains each country visited, we created the following graph. These numbers do not reflect the domains and apps available to each country, but shows their actual recorded usage.

Germans are clearly aware of the range of apps available to them, even though their web domain usage is not very diversified. In the US, people are aware that they have more choice in their online browsing, and subsequently they are less loyal to specific websites.

Desktop vs. mobile sessions per country

We collated the average session[1] data we collected for desktop and for mobile activity and compared them per country.

The main insight we can take away here is that mobile dominates all markets by a large margin, the biggest difference between the two device types being in Japan. The fact that Germany had the most mobile sessions on average is concurrent with their status as the country with the most diversified unique app usage.

App vs. web on mobile per country

Using our passive metering technology, we can also track the two types of mobile behavior – apps and browsers.

Japan continues its trend of being an outlier by having a relatively low app to total mobile time percentage, hovering around 71% while the rest reaches between 86%-94%.

Time spent on mobile vs. desktop per day per country

By adding the data from cross-device users on mobile and desktop (on average) together we can see whether weekends (shaded area), different days of the week, or events such as holidays have an impact on which devices they use. For example, we can see here that Australia's mobile usage increased during the last recorded weekend, which was a long weekend due to various national holidays.

Most popular hour to be online per country

Another interesting insight we derived from the data is this time-based metric – when people are most active on their desktop device.

Australians are the only ones with a desktop usage peak at around noon, and once again Japan is the exception, clocking in at a late 9PM. The Latin American countries (Brazil and Mexico) have their most active period in the afternoon. The rest of the countries are most active from 5 to 7PM, which is usually the post-school or work period.

Coming up

In the next part, we look deeper into specific apps and online content consumption of the different countries.


[1] We define a session as any activity from one participant that occurs without a pause longer than 30 minutes - for example, someone might be searching something on their laptop, close it, and grab their phone to continue their online browsing 25 minutes later. This is counted as one session.