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Cover image for SQL queries I wish I'd known when I started in data. Part 1: the event funnel.

SQL queries I wish I'd known when I started in data. Part 1: the event funnel.

turinglovesdeathmetal profile image Katie Hindson ・7 min read

SQL worth remembering.

Hey! I'm Katie, a product data scientist here at Hubble 👩🏼‍💻

Something I've noticed since joining Hubble a little less than two months ago is how much SQL I have stuck in my head. These are queries that I find myself reusing over and over again at every place I work and once I used them once, I couldn't forget them.

So, I thought it might be worth sharing these queries in case it's useful for others 🤗 And that's exactly what I'm going to do in this series of blog posts.

I'm going to go through some of the most common SQL queries that I whip up when digging into a product's performance. I'll also talk a bit about how you can use this data to help you make better product decisions.

So expect to get some insight into building:

  • event funnels
  • gapless date grids
  • tables that let you do time-series analyses on your users

Once you've built these common queries, you can use Beacon to save them so all of your team can access them without ever having to write the SQL. You can also use Beacon to share the results from your shiny, new queries right in Slack! You can check out Beacon here.

Being a "data driven" company can feel like a pipe dream at times, but hopefully these blog posts can help your team make it a reality 💪.

Use event funnels to track a series of events that users can take - and to improve the journey!

One of the most useful bits of data I dig up when first launching a product comes from an event funnel.

An event funnel is a tool that lets you measure the completion rate of a series of steps (events). For example, you might create a funnel of the steps you need to go through to create an account, and then track the completion rate of each step.

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With these funnels, you're able to see which steps are the biggest drop-off points in the user journey. This information is really useful, because:

  1. You can make data-informed decisions about what parts of the product you need to change to increase completion of an action (instead of relying only on your intuition).
  2. You're able to estimate the impact that your change made on the completion rate because you can compare the funnel before + after the change.

How we used event funnels to drive higher engagement with Beacon.

We built a product, Beacon, that lets you write, run and share your SQL in Slack (you can add it to your workspace here!)

Once we launched it, we wanted to understand how users were engaging with the product. Specifically, we wanted to figure out why people weren't running a query with Beacon after installing it.

So, we have an action ("execute a query") that we're trying to optimize the completion rate for, and we know the steps leading up to that action. Enter...the event funnel.

I built an event funnel for users starting at "I installed the app" and going to "I executed a query". I used our awesome tool, Beacon, to run the query and share the results directly with the team in Slack:

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...

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This event funnel makes it really clear that the biggest drop off point is between steps 3 and 4: seeing the connect modal (i.e. the screen giving instructions about how to connect to a database) and successfully getting a database connected.

So, we reached out to some of the users who got stuck at this step and brainstormed some improvements that we could make to help reduce the friction in getting a database connected. Basically, the event funnel showed us what part of the product we should be looking to change if we wanted to drive the highest increase in user engagement.

The event funnel is one of the SQL queries I have imprinted in my brain.

To be able to build a funnel, you need to generate a table with one row per step in your funnel, and then a count of the number of users who made it to that step.

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These step_name values are analytics events that we're tracking in our app (you can use a tool like Segment or Rudderstack to set up event tracking if you haven't already!)

Once you've figured out the steps that you want in your funnel and the order that you want them in, you can use this SQL template below to build your event funnel. Our team loves seeing these funnels now, it drives a lot of our work. We use Beacon to share the latest event funnel data in our team Slack every morning before stand up.

I tapped out at 3 events, but you can follow the pattern in this template and add more events as additional sub-queries (these are actually called "CTEs") to fulfil your funnel needs!

So here it is, in all its glory: The event funnel.

To run a query using this event funnel, you'll need to make sure you've got a few thing sorted:

Step 1: Plug the right variables into the query below.

  1. The user_id field needs to be the identifier for your users (or the unit that you're counting in the funnel - e.g. team_id if you want to know the rate of conversion for teams doing something)
  2. The event field should be the name of the step that you're referencing in each sub-query (CTE).
  3. The timestamp field should represent the time when the event occurred.
  4. You'll need to change the FROM project_name.dataset_name.event_name_1 to reference the table where your event data is stored for each given step.
  5. I've commented out some code at the bottom which lets you specify a range of dates for the funnel (see: IF YOU WANT TO SPECIFY A RANGE OF DATES, YOU CAN DO THAT HERE). You can add it in if you need it, but it's not required for the query to work! 🙂

    WITH event_1 AS (
        SELECT
        user_id, -- identifier of the thing you're counting in your funnel
        'get_in_rocket' AS event, -- name of the step in your funnel
        MIN(timestamp) AS timestamp_first -- timestamp of when the event occurred
    
        FROM `project_name.dataset_name.event_name_1` -- table where your event data is stored for step 1
    
        GROUP BY 1, 2
    ),
    
    event_2 AS (
        SELECT
        s2.user_id,
        'push_button' AS event,
        MIN(timestamp) AS timestamp_first
    
        FROM `project_name.dataset_name.event_name_2` AS s2
    
        INNER JOIN event_1 s1 ON s1.user_id = s2.user_id
    
        WHERE s2.timestamp >= s1.timestamp_first
    
        GROUP BY 1,2
    ),
    
    event_3 AS (
        SELECT
        s3.user_id,
        'blastoff' AS event,
        MIN(timestamp) AS timestamp_first
    
        FROM `project_name.dataset_name.event_name_3` AS s3
    
        INNER JOIN event_2 s2 ON s2.user_id = s3.user_id
    
        WHERE s3.timestamp >= s2.timestamp_first
    
        GROUP BY 1,2
    ),
    
    all_events AS (
        SELECT CONCAT('01: "', event, '"') as step_name, user_id, timestamp_first FROM event_1
        UNION ALL
        SELECT CONCAT('02: "', event, '"') as step_name, user_id, timestamp_first FROM event_2
        UNION ALL
        SELECT CONCAT('03: "', event, '"') as step_name, user_id, timestamp_first FROM event_3
    )
    
    SELECT
    step_name,
    COUNT(user_id) AS num_users_making_it_to_step,
    ROUND(COUNT(user_id) * 100 / (MAX(COUNT(user_id)) OVER(PARTITION BY NULL)), 2) AS percent_of_users_making_it_to_step
    
    FROM all_events
    LEFT JOIN event_1 USING(user_id)
    
    -- IF YOU WANT TO SPECIFY A RANGE OF DATES, YOU CAN DO THAT HERE
    -- This is the "From" date:
    -- WHERE event_1.timestamp_first >= '2020-12-01'
    
    -- This is the "To" date:
    -- AND event_1.timestamp_first <= '2020-12-03'
    
    GROUP BY 1
    ORDER BY 1 ASC
    

Step 2: Use Beacon to share the funnel in your favourite Slack channel!

Once you've installed Beacon into your Slack workspace and you've connected to your database, just type /run-query, then your SQL query and hit enter.

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Step 3: Save your query so that the rest of your team can use it!

Once your query is posted in Slack, you can hit Save Query to make the SQL query for your event funnel available to everyone else in your team!

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And that's it!

Feel free to shoot me a message at katie@gethubble.io if you have any questions or feedback, and go check out Beacon so you can share your nifty new event funnel with your team, directly in Slack 😊

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