Average time between (in the Graphs module) and first-time retention (in the retention module) are the two ways to measure the time between two actions in Heap. Though either of these tools will allow you to measure how long it takes for a user to complete an action, it’s important to understand the differences in how time is calculated in these cases, and when to use each method.
We recommend reviewing our articles on average time between and retention before diving into the details of their differences.
Average Time Between
Average time between calculates the average time between two events, which are represented as an AB pair. This means that each time a user performs event 1, and then event 2 within the level of granularity specified in your graph (1 hr, 24 hr, 7 day, or 30 day period), that sequence of A to B will be included in the average duration of the event.
For example, when User A views a product page (also known as PDP), then adds the product to the cart, then repeats the sequence, we will calculate the duration between the first product view and the action of adding it to the cart as one AB sequence, and the second product view and second add to cart action as a second AB pair, respectively.
Taking this into consideration, we can understand the average time between calculation as follows:
First Time Retention
Heap calculates first-time retention using only the first instance of the return event within the date range selected. Using the example above, Heap measures the duration between the start event (view product page) and the first instance of the return event (add to cart).
When we set up and run this retention query, you can see that 14.66% of visitors added a product to their cart for the first time on the same day that they view a product page for the first time. There’s also a very small percentage of users that add to the cart for the first time on subsequent days after first visiting the marketing page.
A breakdown of this user activity would be as follows:
To ensure you are getting the most accurate results when you calculate the first time retention event, our recommendation is to include a filter for ‘date first seen is’ after the first date in your date range, or to extend the date range to cover a longer period of time.
When should I use average time between vs. first time retention?
Average time between is great for calculating the average time it takes for a user to complete a flow, or the time it takes to complete a pattern that only occurs once, like time to signup. The ‘add product to cart’ example is a flow that occurs frequently. Another example of this is the time it takes from login to performing a KPI, such as adding new teammates.
First time retention is best used to capture the first time a particular pattern occurs. For example, if you want to know the time it takes for a user to sign in for the first time after viewing a specific landing page, or the time it takes for a user to upload a file for the first time after signing up, you would use first time retention