If you shop online, chances are this has happened to you: You’re on your smartphone, scrolling through a social media feed, and see an advertisement for a product that interests you. You click on the ad tile and visit the product’s website, only to have your shopping session interrupted.
A couple of days later, you’re reading an email on your tablet computer and receive a promotional message with a special discount on the same product. You click through the email campaign to claim the deal, but don’t have your payment information handy. So, you save the email and make a note to return later.
The next time you have your credit card handy, you can’t find the email with the special offer. So, you do a Google search on your laptop, find the product website, enter your payment information, and complete your purchase.
Businesses in today’s omnichannel commerce environment know it often takes multiple pitches—and devices—to transform a sales lead into a conversion. Under those circumstances, the traditional challenge has been assigning proportional value to each marketing touchpoint that influenced a transaction, not to mention tracking users across different digital platforms, such as websites and related web applications.
In the online shopping example detailed above, which marketing tactic should get credit for the sale? Digital advertising, an email campaign, or search engine optimization?
That attribution challenge is becoming easier to navigate with the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). The new, cross-platform analytics tool allows sales and marketing teams to see unified user journeys across websites and digital applications and use event-based measurement to track users through the purchase funnel. Additionally, GA4 offers new ways to analyze and predict customer behaviors— capabilities powered by Google’s machine learning technology—along with enhanced data privacy controls.
The sheer number of additional features offered by GA4 is impressive, and the new-and-improved measurement and analytics tools offer website and application owners countless ways to unearth, interpret, and leverage data insights to improve their customers’ digital experiences.
Here’s a look at the basics of GA4 and why it’s time to make the switch.
When Should We Upgrade to GA4?
If your website launched prior to October 2020—and you haven’t already upgraded to GA4—you’re likely using Google’s original Universal Analytics (UA) or 360 Universal Analytics (360 UA) property. Google will sunset both services in 2023; Universal Analytics will stop collecting tracking data—or processing “hits”—effective July 1, 2023, with 360 Universal Analytics (a newer, enterprise version of the Google Analytics property) sunsetting on Oct.1, 2023.
Clients using both services will continue to see current data and will be able to generate reports through UA and 360 UA until their respective sunset deadlines. However, it’s important to make the switch to GA4 before both services terminate. That’s because upgrading to GA4 will initiate new measurement data streams for websites and/or digital applications using the GA4 property, and it’s recommended that website and application owners “double up” on their data streams while UA and 360 UA are still active to ensure data overlaps. Bottom line, you don’t want to stop or start cold turkey!
IMPORTANT: As part of the transition to GA4, it is important to note that website and web application owners cannot transfer data from existing UA and 360 UA accounts into new GA4 accounts.
So, you will want to extract and archive any historical data and/or reports from legacy UA and 360 UA accounts before they sunset in 2023. Google expects to make data from legacy UA accounts available for approximately six (6) months following the sunset deadlines, giving Google Analytics users time to retrieve and archive historical data.
Why Replace Universal Analytics?
If you’re familiar with UA, its dashboards, and reporting tools and use them regularly, you may wonder why this change is necessary. Universal Analytics was created prior to the emergence of digital applications, when online measurement came from independent, desktop web sessions that could be tracked with data from cookies. This approach has become obsolete as technologies advanced and users experimented with new e-commerce tools on a variety of devices. Additionally, new user privacy concerns at home and abroad have intensified the need for businesses to become more careful and sophisticated in the way they collect and store user data.
GA4 addresses these needed changes, while providing more granular analysis of the efficacy of digital marketing activities and purchase funnels. Some examples:
- Understand the way customers enter and navigate your purchase funnel.
GA4 allows you to track user journeys through your digital properties, using an event-based measurement model—rather than a session-based one—so you can illuminate purchase paths, see which paths are most successful, and identify places where customers are getting stuck or dropping out completely. GA4 also gives you the freedom to create trackable “events” that are meaningful to your business strategy and/or sales process and customize what you consider to be a “conversion” or measure of success (e.g., product purchase, reservation, app download, page scroll, video view, page click, etc.).
- Use data-driven attribution to evaluate your marketing expenditures and ROI.
Rather than crediting a user’s “last click” as the ultimate source of a conversion, GA4 allows you to analyze the impact of your digital and content marketing activities (e.g., digital ads, email, organic and paid SEO, blogging, website videos, social media posts) across the customer journey so you don’t overvalue or undervalue any single marketing activity or channel. Additionally, GA4 allows you to connect that analysis to your Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform tools, so you can optimize your marketing campaigns, drive more conversions for less cost, and increase your return on investment.
- Uncover customers likely to convert and predict when they’ll act.
GA4 features machine learning tools to help you surface predictive insights on users, how they behave, and when they are likely to engage based on that intelligence. How long before a first-time website visitor makes a purchase? Which customers are most apt to churn out of your business? As GA4 collects user information, it analyzes large quantities of historical data, identifying correlations and trends. GA4 offers modeling tools to help you become better at identifying the customers most apt to convert, while understanding what prompts them to act.
What Happens Next?
If your internal marketing and/or web development team has the capability to upgrade your websites and applications from UA to GA4, Google has made the do-it-yourself process easy. Below, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you, including online and video tutorials and implementation guidelines, with more information about GA4, its capabilities, and how to set up a GA4 account and connect it to your existing websites and web applications.
If you’d like help installing or upgrading to GA4, contact the Culture Foundry team for support. We’re here to help!
Google Analytics 4 – Additional Resources:
GA4 Overview – Google Skillshop Course: Discover the Next Generation of Google Analytics (45 minutes)
GA4 for Beginners – Loves Data Video Tutorial (1 hour)
GA4 Demo Account – Test drive Google’s GA4 demo account for its online store
Note: Follow the prompts to access the Google Merchandise Store demo account.
Add GA4 to a Web/App Property with UA Installed – Google Instructions
Set Up GA4 for a NEW Website or Web Application – Google Instructions
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