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Explaining funnel reset behavior

Patrick Love

Funnels have always been one of the most popular features of Interana, but in the early days sometimes users would ask us about funnel data that seemed counterintuitive due to the way the results were calculated. In order to meet the specific goals of some of our earliest users, funnels employed a singular paradigm for calculating results, but we have since added a setting known as "funnel reset" that allows any user to specify which of two possible ways will be used to tabulate the results. This guide aims to explain the difference between the two methodologies and empower any user to achieve funnel data that is most appropriate for his or her use case.

Funnel reset example

Let's consider four event types of user activity you are tracking in your new mobile side-scrolling game:

  1. User begins a new stage
  2. User fails to make it to the end of the stage before his character is killed
  3. User is prompted to make an in-app purchase to make life easier
  4. User makes a purchase

Now imagine what a log of data of one user who played your game one afternoon might look like: A-B-C-A-B-A-B-D. 

In other words, this user played a little bit (A), died (B) but hit some trigger which caused the game to suggest an in-app purchase (C), tried again (A), failed again (B), tried once more (A), still couldn't quite topple level 1 of your awesome game (B), got frustrated (N/A), and then of his own accord went to the in-app purchases menu and made a purchase (D).

If your funnel was set up to track sequences of A-B-C-D, do you think this user's experience would qualify?

When I first started working at Interana my answer was "yes"...but at that time I was mistaken. I now understand why sometimes in the past I saw less results than I expected, and the answer lies with the "funnel reset" option. 

In the dialog to create/edit a funnel, under "Funnel Settings" you will see the following checkbox: Reset funnel if event matches Step 1.  

What it means for a funnel to reset it that our user's sequence above (A-B-C-A-B-A-B-D) would not qualify as reaching the terminal state of the funnel because each time an "A" event occurs, the funnel's progress towards its terminal state (in this case, "D") resets to that first step of the funnel. In other words, when he eventually hits "D" and makes his purchase, the funnel evaluates his sequence as simply A-B-D by considering the initiation of his journey to be that third and final instance of the "A" event.

As mentioned in the "Goal" section of this How-To, this was the accepted behavior of funnels in the early days of Interana. Due to the confusion this created for some new users as our customer base grew (and to be fair, my constant whining about this being counterintuitive), we eventually implemented this "funnel reset" option and decided to leave it unchecked by default. 

So, if I were to create this funnel for the first time today (and left the "funnel reset" checkbox unchecked), our user's A-B-C-A-B-A-B-D sequence would qualify as completing the A-B-C-D flow. But it's nice to have options and this new flexibility gives you the power to determine which way of processing funnel data best suits your use case.

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