Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest update to Google Analytics that will bring the platform up to speed with how consumers behave online in 2022. GA4 was built from the ground up and is focused on analysing multiple touchpoints that Universal Analytics simply could not connect.
The average consumer journey now involves between 20 to over 500 touchpoints. This can differ depending on what the product or service is, but the fact of the matter is that when it comes to tracking consumer activity online, Universal Analytics does not accurately show the correct data with how consumers are converting. GA4 gives the ability to track all of these touchpoints through a single interface.
In addition to this, GA4 was developed to replace and improve the privacy controls of Universal Analytics. What this means is that GA4 supports easier compliance with data privacy laws, whether that be GDPR or CCPA. It is doing this through anonymising IP by default, consent mode and data retention.
To read more about GA4’s interface, click here.
Misconceptions around switching over to GA4
Those who are aware of the deadline think they have until the end of June 2023 to switch over
Most companies have been using Universal Analytics for so long and most platforms support this as well. However, many companies are underestimating the complexity of setting up GA4 successfully. GA4 adds a whole new layer of difficulty because there is so much more flexibility in the data you collect. This takes a significant amount of extra planning, work on tagging and tracking and potentially takes developers a lot of planning as well. Because of this, it requires an entire project plan.
Historically Universal Analytics used last-click attribution, but because of GA4 being designed around the user focusing on these multiple touchpoints, this is no longer up to date. GA4 uses data-driven attribution by default. Data-driven attribution looks back 90 days before the consumer converts and credits those touchpoints that led to that decision, analyzing which are more important than others. Because of this, companies would require 90 days’ worth of data to make use of GA4’s functionality when Universal Analytics ceases. Therefore, June 2023 is simply too late.
Lastly, the year-on-year comparison data is different from GA4. For some companies, this may not be as important. However, for eCommerce companies leading into peak sales season with sales such as Black Friday, it is recommended to use GA4 as soon as possible so you can get a firm grasp on comparable data once the transition takes place.
Those who think Google will allow people to stick with Universal Analytics
I have heard this misconception floating around quite a bit, and to keep it simple, this is just not an option. Universal Analytics will simply stop collecting data and the data will be deleted. This is due to Google’s need to keep only one version in active development, but the legislation around privacy laws is driving the aggressive timeline.
Consultants recommending alternatives over GA4
Although the alternatives will suffice for the reporting side, it is only suitable for certain kinds of companies. If the company just cares about the simple reports or were happy with the type of reports that Universal Analytics provided, then the alternatives will do fine albeit at a cost. However, GA4 links very closely to Google. If companies use Google Ads, GA4 is becoming a core part of this through audience building for Google Ads.
Benefits of GA4
A model built around the user
GA4 is user and event-based, tracking multiple touchpoints along the way using the data-driven attribution model. Having this attribution model that focuses on this, companies can gain value and a deeper insight into what initially made the consumers aware of the product, service, or company.
Our client, luxury lingerie brand La Perla recognised that their customers were often finding the brand through their online prospecting through social media and only making a purchase via a different channel much later. They wanted to understand how purchase behaviour differed depending on the first acquisition platform or creative and GA4 gave them the tools to do this.
Ability to customise it to your business
There is a massive difference between a lead gen business and an eCommerce business. There is also a difference between a luxury eCommerce business and an affordable eCommerce business. Because of this, companies need to be able to customize their analytics platform to the type of business that they operate.
Through GA4’s interface, customisation can work in diverse ways. It is much more versatile as a company can customise the conversions that are important to the nature of the business and can also tailor the sales funnel and track customers going through it in a manner that suits their business.
Working with courier service Pallet2Ship, we set up the conversion events to be staged as that was more relevant to their business. Whereas, with Needle & Thread we set up the conversion events to be a standard eCommerce implementation with tracking product list and detail views, adding to cart, and events all the way to which products were purchased. This additional functionality is incredibly valuable but businesses will need to establish which approach is right for them.
GA4 is a more effective way of linking sessions to users by assigning characteristics to certain users. Using client JOSEPH as an example, when we implemented GA4, we characterised their customers into separate sections. People shopping in women’s were characterised as ‘women’s shoppers. For people shopping in men’s, they were characterised as ‘men’s shoppers’. Finally, those looking in sales were characterised as ‘sales shoppers’. We were able to use these sections to cross characterise and analyse what type of customers shop where and see the overlap. Going deeper, we were able to look at the reports and refine them by a certain group. So instead of looking at the whole, we could look at one specific element.
The one thing to note here is that all of this is anonymous due to the updated privacy laws placed in GA4. But by characterising certain customers into sections, your business can see how customers behave that have certain characteristics and get a deeper understanding of which elements of your business perform better than others.
Better audience building
By default, GA4 provides a purchaser’s audience. This is seeing how purchasers behave and those who don’t behave as well. Although this is the default, your company can build custom audiences. You can map out different audiences based on their properties and see how they behave. This can lead to figuring out how to move them from one audience cohort to the next.
Using a B2B business as an example, the company can use this to think of ways that they can move a customer from a lead to an engaged lead to getting a call booked. If you are a large retailer, GA4 can even use machine learning to predict the type of audience who will be most likely to convert in the next seven days. This can become incredibly valuable in the context of your Google Ads campaigns.
Why now is the best time to switch over to GA4
From July 2023 Universal Analytics (UA) will no longer be processing data, leaving any business that has not switched over to GA4 or who has switched but not gotten a grasp of it at a serious disadvantage. It is highly recommended to start planning to make the switch now if you have not already to give you more of an advantage when it comes to comparing data, audience building and so much more.
Have you been grappling with the decision to implement GA4? Are you holding off as you do not know where the responsibility lies within your team? Then why not get in touch with our team of specialized experts today to discuss where you are on this journey and how we can support you in navigating this period of change to be most suited to your business?