In this article we’ll compare Mixpanel with GA4, the new, long-awaited version of GA.
Features they include
The pros and cons of each
PLUS an alternative to both you should consider
It’s important to know which platform is best for your team before investing.
Mixpanel and Google Analytics, at a glance:
Both are analytics tools that can help you better understand your users.
Google Analytics’ strengths lie in tracking acquisition-related activity
Mixpanel shows how users engage with your website, mobile app, and SaaS products.
Each have free versions—with significant limitations
There’s a saying among car enthusiasts: “Nothing is more expensive than a cheap Mercedes.” The same lesson applies to “free” analytics software—when calculating costs, do not overlook the time, effort and energy you’ll need to put into setup and administration!
Mixpanel is an analytics platform designed to help organizations understand more about how their users interact with their website, mobile app, and products. It can provide granular data on user activity as long as your team is willing to invest engineering resources to fully implement it. Mixpanel is an affordable option for companies that want to examine the results of large campaigns with many small events or microtransactions.
See which features are most popular
Learn where the user experience may be suffering
Good for teams that need decent product analytics
Integrates with popular tools
It's not the best for enterprises concerned with security and compliance standards.
Advanced access and data policy configurations are only in the enterprise pricing tier.
Setting up Mixpanel still requires manual event tracking
Tracking user behavior in detail requires substantial engineering efforts.
Mixpanel: Feature overview
Product analytics reporting
Produce interactive reports about how users are engaging with your products.
Get insights into user segments
Build cohorts to see how each of those segments engage with your products.
Offers decent reporting options
Lacks a good way to get a complete view of all customer behaviors
Mixpanel offers more detail than GA on funnels, segmentation, user paths, and product impact.
Unlimited segmentation capabilities
Create many cohorts to determine how different characteristics impact behaviors
Helps relate behaviors to engagement, conversion, and churn.
Can’t collect all behavioral events from your site
Segments may be missing key pieces of data.
Learn about Behavioral Segmentation in our complete guide!
Track users in groups, e.g., on a company-by-company basis.
Identify the best upselling opportunities, as well as accounts most likely to churn.
It’s hard to know if you’ve set up the correct events
You need to decide ahead which factors are most likely to indicate churn, then track them from the beginning.
Learn how to use cohort analysis to reduce churn in our full guide.
With analytics, outputs are only as good as the data being ingested. Mixpanel requires an upgrade to enterprise pricing for their add-on data governance tool in order to do the following:
Enable teams to merge duplicate data into the same record
Get rid of inaccurate and irrelevant data
Define data terms to make sure everyone’s on the same page
Enrich incomplete records
Implement controls to make sure only authorized individuals can access data
Mixpanel: The downsides
High cost for full features
Free tier is useful for small teams and startups, but enterprise-grade features cost you
Less scalable than platforms like Heap that automatically capture all behavioral data
As you grow, you may end up buying multiple analytics solutions to get what you need
Features come and they go
Mixpanel has a history of launching multiple snazzy-looking features—then deprecating them.
This indicates they either struggle with product development, or don't have a sound customer roadmap backed by their own usage data.
Will the Mixpanel features you’re paying for today be the same a year from now?
Hard to configure
Not a plug-and-play solution
Your engineering team will have to configure the tool and set things up
Time consuming to decide which user events are most important (clicks, sign ups, transactions, etc.)
Make the right choices, or go back to the drawing board and reconfigure your instance.
Your historical data will be siloed from whatever data your new configuration collects.
Governance is not built for scale
While Mixpanel claims to have data governance, the company still relies on schema planning as the single source of truth. This can create challenges as your org scales.
Learning curve and suboptimal user experience
Mixpanel is one of the older solutions on the market
Not known for best user experiences—particularly at scale.
Users often struggle to figure out how to use the platform effectively
Users report having a hard time figuring out features
Mixpanel is best for smaller companies who don’t plan to grow.
Mixpanel: Pros and cons
Feature-rich platform, with powerful segmentation capabilities
Robust visualizations for accelerated decision-making
Customizability, enabling you to build the “right tool for the job”
Can get expensive depending on how many users you want to track
Customizability takes time and resources, and also opens the door to human error
Lack of automation
May take teams longer to get fully productive on the platform
Inability to fully integrate data from every segment, event, and time period.
Let's meet the new Google Analytics
GA4 is here! Learn how GA4 compares with Heap in our complete guide.
Google Analytics traces its roots all the way back to 1998, when the web was just static pages built with HTML and CSS. We’ve always felt GA was helpful to see where users come from, and how they found your website, but it fell short at analyzing user behavior beyond that.
Apparently even Google agreed! So now we have the all-new GA4.
Event-based versus session-based
Now auto-captures some standard events
Pricing is cost per event versus standard tiered pricing
Out of the box reports for engagement, monetization, retention, demographics and tech.
Advertising OOTB reports show acquisition and attribution
Offers a fairly generous free tier
Google Analytics: Feature overview
Some of the main features you’ll find when you start using Google Analytics:
Detailed web acquisition metrics
Where your audience is coming from and how they found you
Time users spend on pages, how quickly they leave (your bounce rate)
Number of sessions your website or app generates during a specific time period.
Dashboards and reporting
Audience—your active users and their user lifetime value;
Advertising—how your Google Ads campaigns are performing;
Acquisition—how your campaigns impact website performance.
Create dashboards with widgets to analyze the metrics most important to you.
Measure things like traffic growth and most effective channels
Visualizations aren’t as flexible as Mixpanel, which can visualize conversion, funnels, cohorts, product impact, segment trends, and more.
Real-time user data
See how your users are interacting with your site in the current moment.
Determine macro trends and see the bigger picture
So what’s NEW over at Google?
Let’s take a brief look at some of the new features you’ll find when you start using GA4.
The good thing about any codeless tracking is, you won’t need the help of engineers.
Teams still need to choose in advance which custom events they want to track, and then actively choose to track them.
GA4 has a list of what it tracks automatically
“Enhanced measurement” events must be manually configured up front, but once enabled, they behave like additional auto-captured events.
These events include when users see ads, interact with embedded videos, or click links that take them out of your site or app.
This is a big improvement over needing an engineer to make a code change for every event.
Predictive analytics powered by AI
This claim is dubious. All predictive analytics are based on changes over time.
GA4’s analytics will notify you on changes and trends occurring in event parameters, but only ones that you have to set up ahead of time.
Insights you receive on things like user interactions and churn may be automated, but they are inherently limited and inflexible.
Google Analytics: The downsides
Here’s where Google’s solution leaves much to be desired.
Free costs more than it used to
Basic GA4 service is free, but setup requires integration with BigQuery, Google’s data warehouse.
Some BigQuery integration is included, but you will have to pay for data use above 10 GB of storage and 1 TB of query data processing per month.
Be sure to factor these data costs into your switchover calculations!
Implementation will be painful
GA4 is not an upgrade, it’s entirely new architecture
Cross-platform implementation for enterprise and ecommerce business is likely to be very costly and time consuming. Admins and teams will need to set up dual tracking with both GA3 and GA4 running in parallel, living in two different applications until GA3 is discontinued.
This means spending (lots of) time on:
Figuring out which events are important
Developing a strategy for organizing them
Re-tagging everything on the site.
Preserving historic data because access to it will disappear along with GA3.
Several large institutions have quoted anywhere between one to three YEARS for replicating what they’ve built in GA3 in order to migrate to GA4!
Codeless tracking is still a lot of work
GA4 has no retroactive data capability, which means:
Teams need to custom events they want to track in advance
Data stream is only available from the moment they start tracking an event
You can’t see what’s happened in events you haven’t yet chosen to look at.
It takes a long time to get meaningful data
Without a complete dataset, analytics can never deliver true insight
Codeless tracking in GA4 requires two tools: GA4 and Google Tag Manager. This means redundant steps and a learning curve that make the user experience too complex for most business users to be able to self-serve insights.
Insights show you the things your competition isn’t seeing. This is what you really want out of tracking.
Automatic tracking is limited
Actions don’t have any historical data available until you manually configure them.
Events not automatically captured DO NOT include clicks on links or specific elements in your site, such as clicking an “add to cart” button or a link to view a testimonial.
You still need to wait several weeks to collect data once you configure the event.
Heap’s autocapture makes the same actions available in seconds, not months!
Google’s “AI” isn’t really AI
GA4’s analytics will only notify you on changes and trends occurring in event parameters that you set up ahead of time.
Google claims this is AI, but it’s not. You have to create the conditions that detect changes that you deem important or critical.
With GA4, there is no machine learning analysis being done on specific hidden behaviors.
New system, old governance
Although GA4 is a new system, it doesn’t offer innovative governance.
No automatic alerts when an event goes ‘inactive’
No dedicated workflows for repairing events
No enforcement of naming conventions, which can lead to a giant mess of overlapping events.
If a gap in data collection occurs, the downtime to debug it in GA4 will cost you the data.
With an autocapture-driven system like Heap, data is never lost. You can recover and fix data gaps instantly when you discover them.
Google only integrates with Google
Users will always have to interact with middleware. While a free connection to BiqQuery will be included, you still have to pay for the data you use. Systems like Heap give you a library of integrations with direct access.
Google is notorious for lackluster support
We presume they are sticking with GA4 for the long haul, but hey you never know!
Google Analytics: Pros and cons
Good at measuring where traffic comes from
Identifies trends that occur over time
Performs more tasks automatically than it used to
Integrates well with advertising data to determine effectiveness of ad attribution, revenue etc.
It's predominantly for tracking high level web KPIs.
Transition and Implementation will be very time-consuming
Bad at measuring behavior on websites and apps
Doesn’t give detailed insights about individual users
Doesn't let you do ad hoc behavioral analysis
Teams are still tied to their own biased view about what events are important.
Good for marketing, bad for product.
Heap: A Better Alternative to Mixpanel and Google Analytics
Mixpanel and Google Analytics leave much to be desired when it comes to becoming a truly data-driven product team. This is why more and more companies are relying on Heap’s Digital Insights Platform for product analytics.
All the user data, all of the time
Heap automatically captures 100% of the data on user activity from the outset
Your engineering team does not need to configure events.
Most product analytics solutions claiming advanced behavioral data require you manually choose events to track, even if you’re not yet sure which ones correlate with better engagement and retention.
Easily analyze all user behavior
Visual Labeling lets anyone find, name, and manage a complete set of user events, without touching your codebase.
Dig into customer behaviors and understand the root cause of what's driving them.
Discover why they adopt features, why they churn, and why they stick around
Understand the customer journey on the deepest level
Get real-time answers when you need them
“The dashboards are my main go-to for information. A single quick chart can instantly show me…how product usage has changed and how it’s currently trending.”
—Sarah Koo, Head of Product, Gem. Read their story
Data science reveals insights before you even look for them
Heap’s Illuminate layer is built to sift through ALL events, not just the ones teams have defined and decided to track. This lets you:
Surface previously unimagined opportunities for improvement.
Discover hotspots, logjams, and red flags in the user flow.
Ask more insightful questions
See the invisible steps between the steps users take
Make decisions with real information for maximum gains
For example, you can create an event for ‘click all products with NEW promo’ and the individual event data for each of those products, then combine those events dynamically.
GA4’s codeless tracking will get the data, but won’t let you link events together.
“Heap is the only tool I’ve encountered that lets everyone instantly answer business questions.”
—Alan D’Souza, Director of Product Analytics, Lending Club. Read their story
Journey Maps show you the real customer journey
When you’re able to analyze and compare the parallel journeys customers actually take, you’ll uncover hidden opportunities and optimize faster.
Identify the most significant friction and opportunities
Take quick, meaningful action, knowing you’re not missing important steps
Compare impacts on conversion when customers skip steps in the funnel
Get a clear picture of how each user path is performing.
“You discover a lot of little things, specific patterns in user behavior signaling that people may not fully understand the product’s capabilities.”
—Alexandra Mack, Director of Marketing, Crunchbase. Read their story
See through the eyes of your customers
Unlike Mixpanel and GA4, Heap features Integrated Session Replays so there’s no waste of time going back and forth between different tools. Now your quantitative data and qualitative data support each other
Identify and reproduce any situation where users encounter friction.
Know whether users are finding your highest-value features easily
See where people are getting stuck, and understand why.
Add rich visual context to traditional product analytics metrics
“If there’s high drop-off in a funnel, Heap’s session replay just shows you exactly why without any additional analysis.”
— Krzysztof Rusnarczyk, VP Of Research And Design, SanityDesk
Better yet, sign up for a free trial of Heap and try it today.
Interested in a demo of Heap’s Product Analytics platform? We’d love to chat with you!