It is no surprise that Google Analytics (GA) is the world's most used website analytics tool. Even better, it's FREE.
Now that every commercial business, and seemingly their aunt and their neighbour's dog has moved (or expanded) their business online, marketing analytics has become more critical than ever to your business success.
Due to the many recent global events, there has been a significant shift in the way businesses and customers interact online. The current 'sessions' approach to web analytics is quickly becoming outdated.
In the wake of new legislation and the change in customers' online behaviour, Google Analytics is responding and introducing some major updates.
No more Cookies
Google has recently announced that as of July 1st 2023, they will no longer be using (3rd party) Cookies as part of GA. 'Cookies' are on nearly all websites and are an essential part of how websites work. As you can imagine, Google's statement came as a shock to the marketing and web development sector.
'Cookies' are data files that effectively act as a short-term memory. These data files store small bits of information from the sites you have visited. Traditionally, web analytics sites use this information to build a picture of you by collecting data to remember your preferences and habits. All in a bid to better target and specify websites and adverts for you.
In recent years the safety and use/storage of the data gathered by cookies have become a concern to many customers and corporations. In 2011 amendments to the EU ePrivacy Directive came into enforcement across the EU (and the UK). The amendments give users the right to know when and how cookies are being used and the right to refuse them. (In the UK the update is in the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.)
As of 2021, Apple blocked all 3rd party cookies across its products in its iOS 14.5 updates. Dubbed the 'cookie crack down', these corporations' move away from 3rd party cookies will change how developers and marketers interact with customers.
SO, what's new?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) revolves around 4 new core features. These features collect information on users and events, not sessions as before.
- Smarter insights
Google has added new AI insights that use their machine learning. Machine learning is where AI technology learns from examples rather than being explicitly programmed. GA4 can go as far as to detect changes such as trends (within your product range) and surges in demand. This feature is being advertised as proactive marketing to help decision-makers anticipate customers' actions to take steps to reflect the insights.
- Deeper integration
GA4 now integrates with Google marketing platforms, including on your apps. Now you can view your website and app data side by side. This feature lets you see the impact of your digital marketing efforts as a whole. A new reporting model means that multiple interactions such as YouTube, paid and organic search, social and email can be viewed and compared together. All giving you a much richer experience when it comes to marketing analytics.
- Customer-centric data
As mentioned before, GA4 revolves around users and events, not sessions. This feature is described as 'future proof' as it gives marketers a more comprehensive view of how customers interact with their business. For example, you discover a brand on an app and then look at the brand later on your laptop. The next day you make a purchase from the same brand on a browser on your tablet. The data you have left behind when jumping from different devices and platforms becomes too fragmented and untraceable. If Google hadn’t updated to GA4 they would be using the existing session tracking approach and ultimately, would view your journey as 3 separate sessions, rather than 1 customer journey.
As GA4 uses Users-IDs, Google Signals and Device-IDs, it identifies you (the user) across multiple platforms and devices. Following the customer interactions long term; with the premiss that marketers will gain more information about their customers' lifecycle makes perfect sense. You will be able to see your customers' journey from discovery to conversion to retention.
- More granular data controls
As more data becomes available, it is important not to be overwhelmed. GA4 comes with new data controls to regulate what data is collected and when.
This feature also allows users greater control over their data including future updates that limit cookies and identifiers. You might be resistant to change but in our marketing opinion, this is a bold and useful move from Google. They have also helpfully developed this conversion model to help fill in the gaps in your customers' journeys.
For more information about GA4 or how to implement it into your current web analysation, please contact a member of the Livewire team today.