Google Analytics and Mixpanel are two kings of data analytics. However, they differ and are suitable for (almost) entirely separate use cases. So, there will be no clear winner in Google Analytics VS Mixpanel matchup.
The most important difference is:
Google Analytics is excellent for tracking how visitors arrive at your site, while Mixpanel is great for understanding how users behave and interact with your website and, more importantly, your product.
I analyzed the advantages and shortcomings of both tools, and then, based on the analysis, we stated specific use cases for each product.
Important note: The article’s primary focus is how these two tools help SaaS and ecommerce businesses. However, this analysis can be helpful even if your business belongs to an entirely different niche.
Google Analytics advantages
Besides being a gold standard for marketing attribution, the tool also has so many additional benefits.
Important note: Standard Universal Analytics will be discontinued from 1st July 2023, and only GA4 will be available. It’s critical to mention this because it’s essential to start migrating on time. Some of the most significant improvements GA4 will have are related to:
- Tracking IDs
- Event tracking setup and automation
- Ecommerce tracking
- Engagement metrics
- Advanced analysis report
However, I will still mostly stick to Universal Analytics during this analysis, as this is the most common version of Google Analytics currently in use.
1. First and foremost – it is free (for small and mid-sized businesses)
The standard version of Google Analytics offers various functionalities and features that companies can utilize with no charge. This is especially important for early-stage SaaS companies.
So, this one is pretty simple – if Google gives you something for free – you just take it.
However, there is a chance that, as a large company, you might endlessly scale. In that case, you’ll eventually need advanced features of Google Analytics 360 that cost six figures.
But let’s be clear. First of all, most businesses won’t ever need an advanced version. And second, if you manage to scale that much, you just won’t care about that additional cost, even though it is expensive.
2. Marketing attribution
As we already stated, there is no better tool to help you understand where users are coming from to your website. The tool gives an overview of your traffic and splits it into categories – from highest source to lowest.
This is an ecommerce example, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is you get precise results of:
- Which channels drive the most traffic to your site
- How long is the average session duration, and what is the bounce rate for each channel
- Which traffic sources are converting the best
Every stat is essential because it shows you which channels are working well and where to put more effort.
Besides the acquisition, the dashboard also offers you a deep analysis of your real-time traffic, thorough audience dissection, behavior overview, and much more.
3. Multi-channel funnels
Multi-channel funnels are another fantastic feature of Google Analytics. It basically tells you which other channels or which path the user took before becoming a conversion.
In which cases is this feature so beneficial?
It’s super important if you’re running multiple ad campaigns. Multi-channel funnels will help you track the longer path users took before converting.
Long story short, if you want to see the whole journey of your conversions, you don’t want to miss this feature.
4. Ecommerce integration
Do you have an ecommerce website? This one could be a game-changer for your business.
Although the ecommerce integration that Google Analytics offers is not event-based (the fundamental difference with Mixpanel), it still gives you a lot of value. Two main things are:
- Ecommerce conversion rate
- Revenue transactions
To access this feature, click on Conversions, then Ecommerce, and finally Overview.
5. Easy setup
You don’t have to be a technical expert to set up a Google Analytics account in a few minutes. Basic integration requires just adding a tag to your HTML.
Still, if you feel you need help with the setup, just ask your developer to help – it’s a piece of cake for them.
Google Analytics shortcomings
Although it’s one of the best free tools out there, GA is not suitable for every single use case.
I’ll now list a few downsides so you can better understand why it’s still not an all-in-one tool for your SaaS or ecommerce business.
1. Limited event tracking
We need nothing more here than basic math.
In GA, you can track only four properties: category, action, label, and value.
And for a more advanced setup, you can configure up to 20 custom dimensions.
On the other hand, in Mixpanel, you can track up to 2000 event properties. Sure, you won’t need 2000 of these, but you still need more than four.
So, if you want to know where your users go and how long they stay on each page, then GA is excellent.
But if you want to see how users use your site or product, you’ll need an additional tool like Mixpanel (we will explain it in detail in the next part of the article).
Important note: GA4 has a much better event tracking setup. In other words, it’ll be more flexible than Universal Analytics’ category-label-action-value schema.
2. Limited product analytics
Since GA is built for websites and not products or apps, you’ll need another tool for advanced product analytics. But don’t get us wrong – if your product is web-based, you can use GA for product analytics. It’s just not the best.
As a SaaS company, you’ll definitely need Mixpanel to connect users’ actions on both your site and your product.
Although GA has more shortcomings, they’re not especially relevant in this comparison.
Now let’s move to Mixpanel.
Opposite to GA, Mixpanel is a master tool for event tracking and advanced product analytics.
You’ll have a clear view of how users interact with your product and website and ultimate insight into each account’s health.
Let’s go through some of its most impressive features.
1. A complete view of users’ journey – product + website
Tracking user behavior for both your product and website is a crucial Mixpanel advantage.
You’ll have all your data in one place without any gaps. Therefore, it will be easier for you to analyze how each user group interacts with your product/site and what you can do to increase customer retention and drive product engagement.
2. Funnel reporting
Mixpanel’s funnel analysis is way better than in GA for two reasons:
- It’s much more thorough
- It’s easier to set up
In Mixpanel, you can have user interaction for the past 90 days even if you haven’t implemented your funnel yet. On the contrary, GA “punishes” by losing tons of data if you don’t start tracking on time.
There’s also an option to segment your reports based on your audience (again – no such feature in GA).
3. User ID
For tracking long-term user trends, it’s essential to identify users by name or email. You can do that in Mixpanel.
To be more precise, you can see exactly what a particular user did on your product app or site, including conversions and interactions.
On top of that, you can track traits such as geographic location, language, or browser, which is beneficial to your marketing efforts.
4. Retention analysis
As a SaaS owner, you have to know which users have more potential to become a part of your loyal customer base.
In Mixpanel, you can get this data through specific cohort analysis.
Once you identify which users have a high retention rate and what their actions are, you’ll figure out which target audience has more conversion potential.
5. Testing your hypotheses (for mobile apps)
Finally, once you have all the Mixpanel data you need, it’s time to make changes and test them.
First, you can personalize your product to different user segments to achieve much-needed improvement. Then comes product experiments, tweak messaging, and many other sweet features Mixpanel offers.
Even though it covers multiple features and benefits GA doesn’t offer, Mixpanel still has a few downsides.
For early-stage SaaS startups, Mixpanel’s free plan could be enough. It allows you to track up to 1000 monthly users.
But, once you start scaling, you’ll have to start paying, and the tool is not cheap.
As you can see in the example below, I chose 10K MTUs, and the annual price is $1599. The monthly fee, in this case, is $190, which is obviously more expensive in the long run (this is the case with so many tools out there).
All in all, Mixpanel will eventually cost you, but it’s just worth it.
It’s not particularly easy to use
Many Mixpanel users reported they needed more time to get used to the tool and its features. On the other hand, GA is much easier to use and requires less time to understand basic functionalities.
If you’re not already analytics-savvy, you’ll probably need to devote a couple of hours each day to master Mixpanel.
Like GA, Mixpanel also has some other cons, but it’s not very relevant in this comparison.
We can now move to use cases.
As stated in the introduction, I’ll focus on SaaS and ecommerce businesses. Still, you’ll be able to draw conclusions even if you run a different business.
Google Analytics VS Mixpanel – SaaS use cases
It’s clear that GA and Mixpanel have different purposes, and therefore, using both tools is a no-brainer if you have enough money. However, it’s not always the case. That’s why I decided to go for the use case approach related to the stage of your business.
Also, it’s essential to understand that GA is more beneficial for marketers, while product builders and managers can get the most out of Mixpanel.
The situation with early-stage SaaS startups is pretty straightforward. GA is free anyways, and Mixpanel’s free plan is enough for a start.
So, there’s no need to think at all. Integrate both tools, learn them, and start getting the free data juice.
You have already started scaling in this stage, and therefore, you need more data. GA is still free, but Mixpanel will eventually cost you.
I value event tracking very high for SaaS, and I firmly recommend combining both tools, even in this stage.
It does cost, but it’s worth it. There’s no other way around.
Costs for both tools in this use case are very high.
GA might not be free for you anymore. You’ll probably need GA 360, which costs a lot (check the pricing above).
Also, Mixpanel’s price rises as you need more MTUs. Not to mention the enterprise plan you might need depending on how big your business is.
Still, I recommend you to go for both tools. At this point, you’re scaling massively, and your MRR or ARR is big enough.
So, it makes sense to invest the money you have in tools that help you scale even more.
Google Analytics VS Mixpanel – ecommerce use cases
Another no-brainer – similar to early-stage SaaS.
Both are free, but keep in mind that Mixpanel starts charging once you go over 1000 visitors. It happens much faster for ecommerce than SaaS.
Here lies the most significant difference between SaaS and ecommerce use cases. And it’s related to Mixpanel (GA is still free to use).
One of the advantages of Mixpanel is the product or app analysis. Sure, you can have your own ecommerce app, but it’s not the same thing as with SaaS.
Still, you do need more data to better understand how users behave and interact with your website.
So, what’s the conclusion?
In this stage of ecommerce, I recommend you to go for both tools. But keep in mind that Mixpanel is not as essential as it is for SaaS products.
In this use case, it really depends on how big your ecommerce business is.
You’ll definitely need GA 360 once you become a big-time player since marketing attribution is critical for your continuous success.
Mixpanel is also expensive and it’s not nearly as crucial as GA for an ecommerce company.
But, I still suggest using both tools, but it’s understandable if you want to cut Mixpanel costs.
As you can see throughout use cases analysis, there is no winner between the two tools.
Both are extremely useful – GA for marketing attribution and Mixpanel for product analytics.
So, let’s sum it up:
1. For SaaS businesses, we believe it’s mandatory to use both tools at every stage because the value of advanced event tracking is priceless.
2. For ecommerce businesses, you can consider skipping Mixpanel, although I recommend using both tools.