Google Analytics 4

Transitioning to GA4: The AI-powered, cross-platform future of analytics

On Wednesday 14th October 2020, Google launched the latest iteration of its analytics platform – Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Here we take a look at what it is, its key features, the benefits of using it and what you need to do next.

So, why now?

User behaviour has changed significantly since the release of Universal Analytics (UA) in 2012. Today we’re seeing the increased use of mobile apps. And while these clearly provide a better user experience, they require alternative measurement technologies. It’s essential to look beyond cookie-based approaches.

The strength of UA was always in measuring activity on web properties, but its tracking architecture was never designed to track users that span both mobile apps and websites. In our ever-growing consumer-centric environment, tracking cross-channel and cross-device is essential.

Google did address this challenge to an extent with the launch of Firebase. Here we saw comprehensive measurement in-app, but it still remained siloed from web data. Until now.

At the same time, we’ve also seen growing privacy restrictions in user tracking with cookies. Most web browsers now apply controls on how cookies are used, which combined with an increasingly tough regulatory stance, means that there are expanding gaps in data collected from UA.

GA4 is a firm response from Google to address these challenges.

 

GA4 key features

GA4 delivers comprehensive collection and analysis capabilities across platforms, as well as access to machine learning, and a deeper understanding of how customers interact with organisations. Crucially it will also work with or without cookies or identifiers.

Key features include:

  • Machine Learning powered insights: GA4 builds in Google’s machine learning and algorithms to give the benefits of modelling, for example, identifying segments most likely to convert.  
  • Cross-platform: GA4 is architected to deliver integrated insights across both web and mobile apps so you can holistically view the customer journey across devices.
  • Privacy: GA4 is privacy centric and built to address the needs of a cookie-less future.

 

The benefits of GA4

  • Cross platform roll-up: the capability to unify all data to construct a clearer view of user behaviour. This is particularly important for high volumes of app conversions.
  • Analysis Hub and BigQuery integration: this was previously only available to
    Analytics 360 users.
  • Propensity and churn audiences: predictive modelling is used to determine which users will purchase or churn within seven days, utilising first party Analytics data.
  • Cross-platform attribution: web and app journeys can be tied together meaning a better understanding of cross-channel performance.
  • Enhanced measurement: engagements which were once difficult to track (scroll tracking, video plays and exit link clicks for example) are now built into the platform. This makes installation quicker and easier for analysts and developers.

 

It’s crucial to act now

Migration to GA4 will become increasingly essential. This process begins now with setting up GA4 properties in parallel with existing UA and/or Firebase properties.

GA4 is now also the default when Analytics users set up a new property. More importantly, Google will make it the focus of all their future investment into Analytics. This means all new features will be developed and launched within GA4, causing UA to become rapidly obsolete.

So, what does this mean for Google Analytics 360 users?

While there isn’t initially a standalone 360 version of GA4, it’s important to note that data collection with GA4 properties will not impact user hit limits at all. This means that Google Analytics 360 users are similarly advised to lay the foundations for GA4 with dual tracking implementation.

 

How to ensure a successful transition to GA4

For a successful transition to using GA4 and its exciting features, you must consider the following three pillars.

  • Auditing: effective reviews of core analytics architecture including GA4
  • Strategy: Devising action plans to fully migrate insight, analysis and
    activation to GA4
  • Implementation: full end to end set-up of GA4 tagging

 

At iProspect, we continue to assist our clients with navigating this period of significant change. We’ve been in close collaboration with Google as a key partner during the launch of GA4 and the preceding App + Web beta.

Please get in touch with phil.tolliday@iprospect.com to discuss how we can support with your GA4 migration plan.